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Unai Emery Eyes £49 Million Rated Serie A Duo To Bolster Arsenal’s Lousy Defense

Joachim Andersen, Dennis Praet, Sampdoria

According to reports from Italian outlet SampNews24, Arsenal have offered £44m for Sampdoria duo Joachim Andersen and Dennis Praet.

Arsenal’s initial £37m offer was rejected by Sampdoria, and now the Gunners have come back with an improved offer. According to SampNews24, which was the first to report on Lucas Torreira’s Arsenal move, Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero is ready to accept the Gunner’s bid.

This move shows Unai Emery’s intent to improve his side’s defensive capabilities ahead of the upcoming Premier League campaign. The two players have been identified by Emery because of Arsenal’s defensive vulnerabilities, and limited budget. However, Arsenal aren’t short of competition, with Tottenham also interested in Andersen, and Praet attracting attention from AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla.

25-year-old central midfielder Praet is no stranger to Arsenal, having trialed for them when he was 16. However, the Belgian decided to continue his development in his home country rather than move to London.

Now, the 5’9” midfielder is handed another chance to move to the Emirates. Praet has been a standout performer for Sampdoria this season, scoring two goals and providing three assists in 37 appearances across all competitions while playing as a defensive midfielder.

Emery has targeted Praet as a replacement for the outgoing Aaron Ramsey – someone who can play the role of a box-to-box midfielder alongside Lucas Torreira or Granit Xhaka. Torreira, in particular, enjoyed a brilliant partnership with Praet for two consecutive seasons in the heart of the Sampdoria midfield.

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A tidy defensive midfielder, Praet leads the Sampdoria squad this season for chances created (39) and dribbles completed (37). He has been scrutinized for his low goal scoring record, with only 4 goals in 106 appearances for Sampdoria. However, that is mainly due to Marco Giampaolo’s restrictive 4-3-1-2 formation that prevented Praet from moving forward, and is likely to change under Emery’s freeflowing style of playing football.

Speaking to Het Laatste Nieuws, Praet said,

“I want to move to a top club in one of the four top leagues. I don’t have a release clause, but Sampdoria have verbally agreed to grant me a move if an interesting offer arrives.”

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Praet’s teammate Joachim Andersen is also being targeted by the Gunners. The former Denmark under-21 international has cemented his position as one of the leading young centre-backs with his performances for Sampdoria this season.

Arsenal have been haunted by terrible defending for some years now, and their present scenario offers no sign of hope. Question marks hang over the futures of the ageing Laurent Koscielny and the inconsistent Shkodran Mustafi. In this scenario, signing the 6’4” centre-back looks like an ideal option for the Gunners.

Andersen is likely to adept fast with Unai Emery’s style of playing out from the back. Andersen is known in the Serie A for helping Sampdoria build attacking moves from their own defensive third, making 34 appearances in all competitions.

His long range passing was a trademark in his team’s playing, and only Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic completed more long passes than Andersen. When combined with his 88% pass success rate, it makes him a perfect weapon for Emery to unleash from the back.

Both of the players are not finished materials by far. Praet will need to improve his attacking returns if he is to ever properly replace Ramsey. Similarly, Andersen will need to improve his defensive positioning and attitude. He was booked 7 times in the previous league campaign, and that is not good enough for a team of the stature of Arsenal. Standing at 6’4”, his recording of wining just 53% of aerial duels is also not good enough.

However, both of these players are relatively young, and will only improve when given exposure in a tougher league like the Premier League. All in all, they represent affordable options for Arsenal to fix the problems in the squad, and Emery will be hoping to complete the deals as soon as possible.

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Sushruta Bhattacharjee
Part-time writer and full-time procrastinator.

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