Nabil Fekir, if not Odegaard: Mikel Arteta knows the kind of player he wants this summer

Varun Pai
By Varun Pai
7 Min Read

Mikel Arteta has been at the Emirates for 15 months and while a complete re-build may not have taken place by now, there is a foundation there. Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Magalhaes, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey will form the core group of this Arsenal side for the upcoming years and Arteta is trying to recruit a starting playmaker to this group and subsequently to form a strong starting XI next season.


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Martin Odegaard has been the creative attacker at Arsenal since he arrived on loan move two months ago, and Mikel Arteta has been impressed. Odegaard is completing 2 to 3 dribbles per 90 minutes while he is also finding all the right passes which has helped French striker, Alexandre Lacazette rekindle his Lyon days.

However, Odegaard is rated at €51 million and Arsenal have no option-to-buy him in the summer. Arsenal have discussed an option to buy him with the player’s parent club, Real Madrid, but given how badly Arsenal want the Norwegian.

In such situations, Real Madrid will not give him away on cheap and Arsenal may be forced to look beyond Odegaard. One name that has been thrown into the hat, is Nabil Fekir.

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Nabil Fekir was courted by Arsenal for the past 3-4 years and were really interested in the Frenchman when he decided to leave Lyon in 2019, only to join Real Betis for just £17.7 million. Nabil Fekir’s wonder season in 2017/18 is what caught the eye of most clubs around the world, as the winger scored 23 goals and provided 9 assists including brilliant performances in the Champions League.

However, since his move to Betis, the winger has not scored more than 10 goals in the league but this could also be down to playing in a team which does not have any prospects of finishing in the Top 4, let alone winning the La Liga.

Lack of ambition of a club de-motivates players and they stop showcasing their talents after a while. There is no saying the ceiling Fekir could touch if he played in a Top 6 Premier League club where he would have plenty expectations on him week in and week out.

Now, when it comes down to making a choice, Odegaard and Fekir are similar, yet different. While both are creative hubs for their sides, their style of play differs.

Martin Odegaard is very skilled at playing in between the lines while also finding passes when he plays as No.8 behind the striker. It is the Norwegian’s ability to find spaces in and around the box to knit the midfield which has helped Arsenal quite a bit in the past 2 months.

Nabil Fekir, on the other hand, is a high press intensity winger, who is very adept on the counter-attack while he can also create chances out of nothing. The pace at which Fekir plays is what makes him a more attractive proposition for Mikel Arteta. While Arsenal already have a plethora of wingers, Fekir could play behind the striker while he can also operate as false nine.

It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have‘. Nabil Fekir can provide Arteta the option to set-up in different formations and approach the game with more than one dimension. Fekir is fan of long shots, a kind of player Arsenal haven’t had for a long time now. However, Fekir’s most reliable quality is his dribbling and Arsenal need someone who can run through defences and create chances for himself.

When you look at the way Mikel Arteta wants his playmaker to function, Nabil Fekir suits the style. Playing balls round the corner; running the ball till the touchline; making 1-2 passes in tight spaces; running at opponents with the ball- Nabil Fekir is silky, aggressive and runs till the end of the 90th minute. Moreover, the Premier League is played at a much higher intensity and pace than La Liga and Fekir would be attracted to this facet.

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While Fekir may not be showing these qualities this season, it is up to Mikel Arteta to unlock that side of the Frenchman if he were to add Fekir to Arsenal’s ranks. Nabil Fekir’s contract runs down in July 2023 and his release clause is €77 million, however, Real Betis do not expect anybody to pay such an exorbitant amount for somebody who has only had 8 goal involvements this year.

Moreover, Arsenal will not pay this amount and if reports from Goal are to be believed, Real Betis are in need of urgent cash and are ready to offload some players this summer. Nabil Fekir could be available for an amount of €26 million and at that price, it should ultimately be a no brainer for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta to bring Fekir to the Emirates.

Mikel Arteta needs a playmaker and he is going to buy one this summer. However, financial aspects are a part and parcel of this game and when you take all factors into account, Nabil Fekir will be certainly not be a lost cause and could just about form an important member of Arteta’s existing core-group.

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