Could Ismaila Sarr be the next link in the chain for Arsenal?

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The Rennes star could be the player to offer the improving Gunners another dimension in attack

COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter
 

While the glow of a euphoric North London derby victory over rivals Tottenham lingers, both the past and the future offer an even more urgent lesson for Arsenal

It is that, in moving forward under head coach Unai Emery, the Gunners cannot afford to stand still and pat themselves on the back. For one thing, there is the immediate challenge of a trip to Old Trafford, a ground on which Arsenal have not won in the Premier League for over a decade. 

For all that there is an air of rank discontent in the red half of Manchester, there is certainly no overconfidence for Wednesday's visitors. Jose Mourinho, all sulk and scowl, is a master at dampening the prevailing mood. 

More pertinent, however, is the stagnation of the previous dispensation at the Emirates, and how Emery will set about ensuring that does not become true of his own tenure. The key to remaining in the ascendancy is the hunger for continuous improvement, with the bones of a coherent framework laid down. 

Unai Emery Arsenal 2018-19

That already seems to be coming along nicely: finally, some backbone to Arsenal in big games, as well as a no-frills, professional approach to the lesser teams. The consensus is that, while the Spanish manager inherited an unbalanced squad, he is pulling off a masterstroke by making do with it anyway. 

Those gaps in the squad will, of course, need addressing with time. While there are clear areas where the squad can be upgraded – the heart of the defence and left-back, to name just two – there is an outright deficiency of direct, pacy wide players. 

There had been whispers of a possible loan deal for Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele, but the French international continues to be decisive at Camp Nou despite his disciplinary infractions. In any case, the high price paid to acquire him would almost certainly preclude such a deal, as Arsenal simply do not have the financial muscle to play in such territory. 

Instead, it would be worth looking to snag a younger, more pliable version of the player, before he gets his big break. It may be too much on the nose, but how about the player who effectively replaced Dembele at Rennes, and who has caught the eye for the last two seasons?

Enter: Ismaila Sarr. 

Ismaila Sarr Casimir Ninga Caen Rennes Ligue 1 03112018

While North London was burning with a red flame on Sunday evening, the Senegal international was firing home a cracking effort from distance, even as Rennes were hammered at home by Strasbourg

Lightning quick and capable of playing on either flank, Sarr has developed quite the penchant for long-range spectacular strikes. A tremendous finish in the Europa League against Jablonec in September, where he finished off a one-two with a volley, was the stuff of dreams, and he showcased different, but no less impressive technique to curl home a fantastic winner against Angers earlier in the season.  

Ismaila Sarr | 2018-19 stats

Already this season, he has equalled his league total for last season with five strikes, and is attracting interest already across Europe, with the likes of Fiorentina and Internazionale linked to his signature. 

However, there have long been reports of interest from Arsenal for the winger, and he could well offer an extra dimension to the Gunners' attacking play. Capable of going on the outside on the right and whipping in crosses, or cutting in from the left to lash shots goalward, he offers the fantasy element lacking in the wide areas at the Emirates. 

Abdoulaye Toure Ismaila Sarr Rennes Nantes Ligue 1 11112018

Although he will need to improve in the physical stakes in order to get to grips with the Premier League, he is winning 57 per cent of his duels, which suggests he is no shrinking violet. This is crucial, as he would be required to fit in with Emery's robust, energetic side.  

The failure to sign a winger was considered by many to be the glaring dereliction in Arsenal's summer transfer policy, and while Emery seems to be getting along just fine without it, it's a valuable weapon to have in unlocking stubborn opposition.

The superior fitness regime in effect at London Colney has given the squad the ability to effectively outwork their opponents late in games, but what happens when that marginal gain becomes neutralized? 

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With the onus on the side to continue improving, and the club unable to fund major transfer coups, moving for Sarr could offer Arsenal the opportunity to steal a march on their rivals in the transfer market.

Crucially also, it would be in keeping with the regeneration of a slightly ageing squad.  

 

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