The January Transfer Window has got off to a flying start with deals being finalized left, right & centre. Teams, especially those who are locked in relegation scraps at the lower end of the table are in dire need of reinforcements. The likes of Newcastle & Watford are rigorously working their socks off to get deals over the line & salvage their campaigns. The Upper half of the League Table has also seen a number of teams bring in reinforcements as they look to secure European Football for next season. A team worth mentioning is Aston Villa who are having an unbelievable window having brought in Coutinho & Digne. With almost half of the window still left, it seems like a frantic second half of the Transfer window is looming in the background.
The teams we’re going to focus on today are Leeds, Newcastle & Burnley who are locked in battle for the signature of a talented Ivorian midfielder. All of the aforementioned teams are struggling for form & have lost key players to injuries in the first half of the season. With a huge struggle for survival coming up in the 2nd half of the season, there is surely a lot of work that needs to be done for all of them. New signings will be the key for each of these teams & let us look at how a certain midfielder can help one of them.
Who is Seko Fofana?
Born in Paris, the 26 year old Ivory Coast International currently plays for Lens in Ligue 1. Seko started his playing career at the age of 9 when he joined the French 2nd division outfit Paris FC. After rising through the ranks at Paris, Fofana moved to Lorient before joining Manchester City in 2013 . He became a regular starter in the Under 18 side but failed to earn promotion to the first team. In search of regular first team football, Seko joined Championship side Fulham on loan for the 2014-15 season. He made 25 appearances for the club but injuries prevented him from cementing a place in the first 11. After returning to City, the player was again loaned out in the 2015-16 season to Ligue 1 outfit Bastia.
He made 32 appearances for Bastia & became an indispensable figure at the club. Bastia wanted to sign the player on a permanent deal but lost out to Udinese in Italy. His move to Italy worked wonders for him as he went on to make a 112 appearances for the club during his 4 seasons in Italy. He became an instant fan favorite at the club, cementing his position as the club’s talisman. In the summer of 2020, Lens offered a 4 year contract to the player but Udinese were reluctant to sell. Ultimately the player’s desire to return to his homeland pushed the deal over the line.
Seko Fofana can be best described as a versatile box to box midfielder who is a beast on both attack & defense. Fofana started out as a Number 10 during his initial days but during his time with the Manchester City Under 18s he was deployed as a deep lying playmaker. This move has immensely benefitted the player’s development as he has now developed into a brute midfield force. Fofana’s brilliance on the ball is unparalleled as he is able to weave his way out of tight situations with relative ease. His quick footwork coupled with amazing dribbling skills helps him create chances for his team. On the defensive side, Fofana’s presence in the middle of the park acta as a reassurance for the Back 4. He has the knack of putting in a tackle when needed & breaking the oppositions build up play. He can also break the opposition’s press & carry the ball forwards.
Fofana has earned laurels at Lens & now looks set to depart with 3 Premier League Clubs locked in negotiations for his signature. Let us now delve into the intricacies & figure out the best possible destination for the player.
Is he the real deal for Bielsa & Leeds?
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds are lingering in the Premier League. Having managed only 4 victories, the mood around Ellan Road is filled with disappointment & anguish. Bielsa has not been helped by serious injuries to senior players in the squad with the likes of Cooper, Philips, Rodrigo & Bamford to name a few. Leeds have failed to build on the highs of last season & seem destined for a relegation scrap if they fail to reinforce their ranks in this window. Having already secured the signing of young forward Mateo Joseph Fernandez from Espanyol, Leeds are in the race to sign Seko Fofana.
In Bielsa’s expansive 3-4-3 formation, the only sensible position for Fofana to paly will be in the Midfield pivot besides Philips or Klick. Kalvin Philips is expected to be out for another 6-8 weeks at least, so Fofana may find himself in the starting 11 as soon as he arrives. But with Bielsa, he always likes to integrate new arrivals into his team over a period of time. Even if Fofana arrives, his prospects as a regular starter don’t look great. Fofana athleticism, endurance & ball playing ability will complement Bielsa’s style of play without a shadow of a doubt but he will need reassurances over his playing time. It remains to be seen whether a player of his calibre, at the age of 26 will be eager to take up an uncertain role at a club like Leeds with no guaranteed playing time once the big hitters return.
How will he possibly fit in at Turf Moor?
Burnley have endured a rough beginning to their Premier League campaign this season. Sean Dyche’s men find themselves in the relegation zone at the halfway mark of the season & are in desperate need of reinforcements in January. Having lost their talisman Chris Wood to relegation rivals Newcastle, Burnley are looking for a source of inspiration to salvage their season.
Fofana is a player who can tremendously benefit & complement Burnley’s style of play. Sean Dyche sets up his team in a compact 4-4-2 formation & Fofana can blend into this formation as a box to box central midfielder. Dyche prefers highly aggressive players in his team & Fofana will be an instant upgrade on either Cork or Westwood in the middle of the park. Further, his aerial ability will also add a different dynamic to Burnley’s set piece situations. Burnley are a team who have lacked creativity in the middle of the park, something which the signing of Fofana promises to address. It will be interesting to see whether Fofana will fancy his prospects at Turf Moor & make the switch during the January transfer window.
Will Fofana fit in at St. James’ Park?
Newcastle are working actively in the transfer window to salvage their campaign. The new Saudi ownership at St. James’ Park have already addressed 2 of their major problems in defense & attack with the signings of Kieran Trippier & Chris Wood respectively. They are also locked in negotiations with numerous targets to sign a centreback & a central midfielder. Seko Fofana is highly admired by the Newcastle board & he can prove to be a major asset in their bid to survive in the top flight.
Seko Fofana will ideally line up in the middle of the park alongside the likes of Jonjo Shelvey or Joelinton as the primary Number 8. He will be an instant upgrade on the likes of Hayden & Longstaff & add a creative dynamic to the Toons’ midfield. His ability to carry the ball forwards will allow Newcastle to build out from the back & play through the opposition press. Further, his tenacity in the middle of the park can help the Magpies playing more aggressively & pressing the opposition ball carrier. His aerial ability will help the team on set pieces & his ability to distribute the ball in all directions can enhance Newcastle’s prospects of survival.
A player of Fofana’s stature will always attract many suitors looking to secure his signature. After analyzing all the teams who are looking to bring him into their squad, it seems that the player will be best suited to a team like Newcastle. Leeds will certainly not offer him a starting role & Burnley as a project doesn’t seem that attractive for Fofana. Newcastle’s quest for resurgence in the League seems to be a more promising project for the player who can certainly cement a position for himself in the starting 11. He certainly fits the bill for the player that Eddie Howe desperately needs, a ball playing controller in the midfield. If he manages to act as a midfield catalyst and propels Newcastle to Premier League survival then he might find himself as an indispensable figure in the new era at St. James’ Park.