The new Petit? How Yves Bissouma would fit in at Arsenal
Looking ahead to the summer transfer window has the potential to provide genuine excitement for Arsenal fans this year, with deadwood having been effectively shifted in January and some shrewd recruitment in the form of Mat Ryan and Martin Odegaard. the departures of high earners Mesut Ozil, Sokratis and Sead Kolasinac have served to freshen up the Arsenal squad. Better still, yet more is expected to follow in the summer. FootballLDN revealed earlier in the year that Arsenal have a concrete interest in Brighton Midfielder Yves Bissouma ahead of the summer window. But who is Bissouma, how does he play, and where would the Mali international fit into Mikel Arteta’s side?
Who is Yves Bissouma?
Bissouma began his career at AS Real Bakamo, playing in the first division in Mali, before joining Ligue 1 side Lille in 2016, where he made 23 appearances in his first season. Following this up with 24 Ligue 1 appearances the following season, he was acquired by Brighton for £15 million. With sixty-seven league appearances for the south-coast club, he has become a key part of Graeme Potter’s high energy outfit and a player that Brighton have resigned themselves to lose, the 24-year-old having so far drawn interest from Liverpool as well as the Gunners.
A traditional no.6?
Watching Yves Bissouma for just a few games, it becomes clear just how valuable the 24 year old midfielder is to Graeme Potter’s Brighton side. Often deployed as a central midfielder in a 343, Bissouma is chiefly charged with breaking up opposition attacks, a role in which he excels. Comfortable going shoulder to shoulder or going to ground to win the ball back, Bissouma averages 3.8 tackles and interceptions per 90 in the Premier League so far this season (according to Whoscored). In fact, his 49 tackles so far this season rank him sixth across all Premier League midfielders, just behind N’golo Kante, and is almost double Dani Ceballos, Arsenal’s highest option, with just 26. Whilst these numbers must be taken with a hefty pinch of salt, they clearly demonstrate that Bissouma provides something which Arsenal are chronically lacking at present. Of course, such qualities are a far cry from the creative option that the Gunners are known to have been targeting in previous windows, such as Lyon’s Houssem Aouar and RB Liepzig’s new signing Dominik Szoboszlai, yet this need appears to have been temporarily reduced through the loan of young Norwegian Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid. The bigger question, of course, is how Bissouma might fit into this young Arsenal side.
The perfect Thomas Partey partner?
Much was made of Thomas Partey’s deadline day signing from Atletico Madrid, and despite an injury hampered first half of the season, the Ghanaian has already shown himself to be a cut above the midfielders currently at the club. His ability to move the ball quickly with one and two touch passes allow Arsenal to transition far faster, which has significantly improved as a result. Equally, his press-resistance, as demonstrated in the two games against Southampton, was invaluable to starting Arsenal attacks.
The addition of Bissouma alongside Partey in a double pivot at the base of Arsenal’s current 4-2-3-1 system could allow the latter to stray further forward, whilst safe in the knowledge that a reliable ball-winner was operating behind him. As a result, Partey could take more risks and provide more of a goal threat to a Gunners side that has seriously lacked goals from midfield since Aaron Ramsey’s departure.
The base of a midfield three?
Alternatively, Mikel Arteta could return to the 4-3-3 system that he appears to favour, in which case Yves Bissouma would likely operate at the base, as a traditional number six. This would likely be the best use of his exceptional reading of the game, strong tackling and good range of passing, whilst it would also offer Arsenal far more solidity in transitions, allowing the Gunners to commit more men forward during attacking build up. Moreover, were the Martin Odegaard loan deal to be made permanent in the summer, a trio of Bissouma, Partey and the young Norwegian would certainly pique the interest of Arsenal fans who have, in recent years, been starved of the midfield creativity they became accustomed to under Arsene Wenger.
What would it mean for Granit Xhaka?
In either scenario, Granit Xhaka is the player most at risk of being displaced in the side. The Swiss international has endured a mixed Arsenal career, but has been performing exceptionally since his return from suspension after a red card against Burnley. It is certainly possible that, in more tricky games, he would be employed alongside Partey and Bissouma, yet against lower-table sides it is difficult to see how the trio offer enough stylistic diversity between them.
Signing Bissouma would represent something of an odd move for Arsenal, having targeted creative options for the previous two windows. Equally, whilst Xhaka is frustratingly inconsistent, at his best he is a fantastic option to play alongside Partey. However, it is possible that with the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe, Arteta has decided that world class midfield creativity is not as crucial as it was previously, and this is a move that would undoubtedly increase the strength of Arsenal’s spine as well as offering a fantastic midfield platform from which they could build attacks. For the £25-30 million fee being suggested, signing a 24 year old with significant Premier League experience could prove to be yet more shrewd business from Edu and Mikel Arteta.