Arsenal director Edu is expected to pursue the summer signing of at least one central midfielder ahead of next season, with Mikel Arteta’s side in desperate need of reinforcements. The Gunners have failed to escape the mediocrity of mid-table and look set to endure their first campaign without European football next season, unless they can mount an unlikely last-gasp surge.
A number of Arsenal’s problems as of late have stemmed from their shortcomings in the middle of the park.
Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos have failed to live up to expectations, while Mohamed Elneny has been unable to stake a convincing claim for a regular starting spot.
With Ceballos and his Los Blancos team-mate Martin Odegaard set to return to the Spanish capital at the end of the campaign, Arsenal will need to find suitable replacements in order to stand any chance of an improved season next time around.
Although the Gunners are believed to be keen on launching a permanent approach for Odegaard, their options to fill the void left by Ceballos could vary.
One potential replacement could come in the form of Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who has been linked with a return to the Emirates Stadium after failing to hold down a place in Andrea Pirlo’s side.
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The Welshman has reportedly been made available for transfer ahead of the summer months, but Arsenal could reap the rewards if they decide against pursuing a move for their former player.
Ramsey’s arrival would undoubtedly be a crowd-pleaser given his favourable reputation, with the 30-year-old making 371 appearances for the club during an eight-and-a-half-year spell in north London.
However, the Gunners could see a greater on-pitch benefit by avoiding the Juventus man in favour of Sheffield United’s Sander Berge.
The Norway international’s campaign has been disrupted by injuries, but he has shown flashes of brilliance when called upon despite his side’s misfortunes.
Berge’s defensive attributes are far stronger than those of Ramsey, with his awareness and formidable physical presence able to provide some much-needed solidity in the middle of the pitch.
His range of movement is also hugely impressive for a player standing at six feet and four inches tall, with the midfielder boasting all of the athletic credentials required to thrive at a top Premier League club.
Berge’s passing game could probably do with some additional tweaking, but at 23 years of age, the Blades man has time on his side and has every chance of realising his lofty potential under Arsenal’s top-class coaching setup.
With his current employers preparing for their impending return to the Championship, Berge is almost certain to move on this summer and it has been suggested that he would be more than happy to join the Gunners.
He is understood to have a release clause of £35million, recently reduced by £10m as a result of Sheffield United’s relegation.
Although this is likely to be a higher fee than Juventus would demand for Ramsey, Arsenal would be getting a shrewd operator with plenty of growing room as opposed to a struggling bit-part player who has passed his prime.
Berge’s capture could also aid the club’s pursuit of Odegaard, with the Norwegian pair sharing an international dressing room.
It remains to be seen whether Arsenal will act on their reported interest in Berge or chase one of their other targets.
Brighton and Hove Albion’s Yves Bissouma has also been tipped to sign for the Gunners, but is expected to command a fee of around £40m with the Seagulls under no pressure to sell their prized asset.
If Edu decides to pursue another long-term, exciting midfield option in Berge and save an extra £5m, it could prove to be a stroke of genius in seasons to come.