A ball-winning midfielder with personality, presence and steel is surely an absolute must for Wenger - if Arsenal are ever to realise their undoubted potential again under his management.
A ball-winning midfielder with personality, presence and steel is surely an absolute must for Wenger – if Arsenal are ever to realise their undoubted potential again under his management.
Step forward French international Rio Mavuba.
A former teammate of Gervinho at Lille – they won a French League and Cup double together last season. Mavuba is the Captain of a team that has grown organically into a stunning success story under the management of Rudi Garcia. No big egos, no lavish spending, this is a team that’s actually won things by developing and improving players – just as Wenger has tried to do at Arsenal.
The likes of Chedjou, Rami, Hazard, Sow, Debuchy and Cabaye cost little or nothing but were key components in a side that overhauled the likes of Marseille, PSG, and Lyon last season. Repeating the feat will be even more difficult for Lille though – particularly after seeing Gervinho, Rami and Cabaye leave this summer and heavy spending by PSG.
So you have to wonder whether Mavuba could be persuaded to jump ship and sign for a club he was first linked with at the age of 21 while at Bordeaux in 2005? He’d provide bags of energy and valuable protection for Arsenal’s sometimes vulnerable back four – not to mention reliability and consistency after starting every single one of Lille’s Ligue 1 games last season – in fact, Mavuba has missed just five league games in the last three seasons combined.
You’d expect that sort of durability though from a man who’s often conquered adversity in his life. Mavuba’s mother died when he was two, and his father when he was just 14 years old. Of Angolan descent – he was born on board a boat in international waters, off the coast of West Africa, during the period of the civil war.
He’d provide bags of energy and valuable protection for Arsenal’s sometimes vulnerable back four – not to mention reliability and consistency after starting every single one of Lille’s Ligue 1 games last season
His passport doesn’t actually have a nationality on it – it just reads “born at sea”, however, as he grew up in France he apparently considers himself French. Even from a footballing point of view he could easily have lost heart – when a move to Spanish side Villarreal from Bordeaux failed to work out (2007/08).
But after making only five appearances in La Liga he went to Lille – initially on loan – and has never looked back since. Three full seasons later and at the age of 27 this is a player with plenty of game time who’ll surely have learnt a lot from his first experience abroad. If leaving France did prove a problem to Mavuba – he surely couldn’t have a better manager than Wenger – who’s ensured a smooth transition from Ligue 1 to the Premier League for many other players.
Critics will also point to Mavuba’s inability to fully establish himself within the French national side. Despite earning his first international cap in 2004 – Mavuba is yet to reach double figures in appearances for Les Bleus and failed to make Raymond Domenech’s squad for the 2010 World Cup.
Another potential stumbling block to the often frugal Arsene Wenger might be the sort of transfer fee Lille would demand for their Captain – who only signed a contract extension in February – that runs until 2015.
In short though, Arsenal are a team in real need of winners and leaders and Rio Mavuba is undoubtedly both.
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