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Dayot Upamecano & Arsenal: Why he's ideal for Arteta (& Man Utd should be kicking themselves)

COMMENT: It's been a real show of intent. Mikel Arteta's first market forays as Arsenal manager. A real laying down of a marker...

There was no fancy No10. Nor a glitzy No9. Arteta's thoughts on what he'd inherited from Unai Emery were made crystal clear with his first signings as Gunners manager. A centre-half and a fullback. Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares. One one-loan from Flamengo. The other from Southampton. Temporary deals. Deals for the here and now. But also ones the manager could rip up and try again come June (or whenever this season decides it will finish).

But it's significant Arteta has decided to build from the back. To get those defensive foundations right - before working on positions further upfield. A serious approach from a serious, young manager. After over three months in the job, Arteta's personality is beginning to be seen across various levels of the club. From the first team, to the front office. It's an approach that is serious, considered. And exemplified by his first actions during the winter transfer window.

Indeed, you can throw a third defender into the mix for January. A player again in the spotlight today: Dayot Upamecano. The RB Leipzig defender is again in the news this week, generating headlines. After three years in Germany and with just over a year to run on his existing deal, Upamecano feels ready for a new challenge. And he's made his thoughts clear to the club's hierarchy.

Bayern Munich are being mentioned in the local press. As are Tottenham and even PSG. But just on the margins, monitoring it all, is Arsenal. They'll be in for him once the summer market opens. Just as they were last summer - and also in January.

Third time lucky? You wouldn't bet against it. It hasn't been Upamecano who's been turning them down. In August, under Emery, Arsenal slapped in a €60m offer. After Laurent Koscielny's strop and eventual departure, they had to move quickly. Upamecano was identified and the bid tabled. But RBL refused to do business, referring the Gunners to the player's €80m buyout clause. Instead, amid another show of deadline day chaos, Emery managed to bring David Luiz across from Chelsea.

Then in January, this time on Arteta's approval, Arsenal tried again. But still were told it would take the full €80m mark to break Upamecano's contract. Subsequently, for a second time, Arsenal were forced to turn to an alternative. And as just as Emery went with his former PSG defender in Luiz, Arteta called on his Manchester City links to bring Mari back to England.

But now, as we said, it could be third time lucky. Courtesy of a clause in his contract, Upamecano can be signed this summer for the same €60m Arsenal offered last year. And what's more, the 21 year-old Frenchman is prepared to demand a transfer should RBL begin to mess him around.

So will Arsenal try again? 100 per cent. Arteta, along with football directors Edu and Raul Sanllehi, are in unison. Upamecano is the bedrock to build a new playing system upon. A player to grow with Arsenal's young manager. And at €60m one with a price-tag the board has already agreed is well worth the outlay.

Olivier Bijotat, who had Upamecano at Valenciennes' academy as a junior, offers an insight into why those at Arsenal have been so aggressive in their pursuit.

"In everyday life, he is someone very, very, discreet," says Bijotat. "In fact, he simply has another personality when he enters the field. It is his number one mode of expression, where he seeks to transcend himself. 

"He has a colossal taste for play. He talks football all the time ... In training, he's always hungry, he's the opposite of the kind of player who waits for matches to give himself thoroughly..."

But Arsenal won't get a clear run. Bayern Munich are already making sure of that. Their surrogates in the media are turning on the charm, making it clear to Upamecano that he belongs at the Allianz.

"Upamecano is a great player, physically very strong, incredibly fast, which is what we want today. And he can do a lot more," declared former Bayern defender Thomas Helmer. "He would fit in at Bayern."

Thomas Letsch, who coached Upamecano at RB Salzburg, has also just stated: "There are no limits for Upamecano. He can make the leap to an absolute top club like FC Bayern easily."

You get the picture. But as flattered as Upamecano will be, he'll also know it's been Arsenal, more than anyother club, which have been trying for him this past year. And encouraging Arteta and co is the feedback their intermediaries are getting from the player. As much as he's enjoyed his time in Germany, Upamecano has let it be known that the Premier League "is my dream destination".

A centre-half. A young centre-half. And one of the most coveted across Europe. Arteta couldn't make a better show of intent by clinching a deal for Dayot Upamecano this summer.


MAN UTD SHOULD BE KICKING THEMSELVES

Dayot Upamecano and Arsenal? Arsene Wenger has - again - been getting it in the neck this week. Claims have emerged of the Frenchman turning down Upamecano for £1m before he left Valenciennes' academy for RB Salzburg.

But if there is a Premier League club who should be kicking themselves today, it has to be Manchester United. They, more than any English club, had Upamecano within their grasp as a teen - but let him slip through their fingers.

Upamecano, himself, recently lifted the lid on why he turned down United.

"I went to visit the Manchester United facilities. It did not please me too much.

"I did not want to be in a host family, I would have preferred to be in a training centre. In Salzburg there were foreigners and prospects for sports development. In Manchester, it was less easy for me to progress.

"I think that the German clubs of today have the right approach towards young players. They show confidence, they really bet on them. Just look: Ousmane Dembélé in Dortmund, Kingsley Coman at Bayern Munich. I spoke to Ousmane Dembélé before joining Leipzig for example, and he said to me: 'Here, they are going to make you play'."


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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