As the brickbats across North London after yet another acrimonious North London derby, both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have been linked with French striking sensation M'Baye Niang. While Arsenal fans may baulk at the thought of signing yet another prodigy, his talent and potential show that the club would be unwise to let Tottenham Hotspur get to him first...
M'Baye Niang is the latest prodigious French teen sensation linked with Arsenal and inevitably the press are already comparing him to Thierry Henry. No pressure there then. At sixteen he’s so raw he’s a crudités yet there’s undeniable promise in the Caen striker who has so far only played seven professional games in Ligue 1 (four starts) yet notched up three goals. He has a physique and composure far beyond his years and is equally adept at drifting in from wide positions or utilising his pace on the shoulder of the last man. The youngster is highly regarded in France – by individuals whose regard matters - and Niang has already represented his country at both Under-16 and Under-17 level. Yet worryingly he appears to be a little headstrong after turning down his ‘ancestral land’ in favour of playing for Senegal after declaring, rather extraordinarily, that ‘France never really gave me a chance’. Considering he only broke through to any sort of prominence at the tail-end of last season, and he is younger than Justin Bieber’s haircut, you have to question just how many opportunities his homeland could possibly have offered him so far. It also raises concerns about his compliance to be gradually blooded in the Premier League and suggests he might throw the occasional teenage strop unless he is immediately thrown into the spotlight. Theo Walcott this is not.
The battle to secure this exciting youth’s signature may yet prove to be a ferocious late drama.
What makes Wenger’s pursuit of Niang so fascinating is that arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur are also heavily in the chase, as too are Liverpool. Arsenal hold most of the cards – most notably Champions League football and the Mad Professor’s peerless pedigree in bringing through Gallic talent – but Redknapp is reportedly seriously keen and could be in pole position now that Tottenham Hotspur have a better squad than Arsenal.
In what has thus far been a relatively tranquil transfer window the battle to secure this exciting youth’s signature may yet prove to be a ferocious late drama.
What they will be investing in of course is immense potential. It is rare, almost unheard of, for a lad so callow to explode into the national consciousness with such immediate aplomb. Remember Tyldesley screeching out his rehearsed soundbite at Goodison Park, as a schoolboy Rooney curled in a beauty against Arsenal? With Niang there has already been four such astonished ‘sacre bleu’ exhalations from his French counterparts behind the mic.
Wenger looked on aghast that day as everything he believed in – youthful adventure and exuberance – cruelly, briefly, turned on him. If he is successful in luring Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton, and beats his rivals to Niang, then he can look forward to revelling in plenty of fledgling brilliance in a front-line that would also include the searing pace of Walcott and Van Persie the veteran at just twenty-seven.
Arsenal desperately needs experience, grit and muscle across the back and bolstering the middle of the park. I know that. You know that. Eddie Kidd probably knows that. But up front the wily monsieur can indulge himself in his cherished philosophy of putting such faith in unseasoned promise.
Is Niang the next Henry? It is far, far too early to tell. But should he aspire to be so then the Emirates could well be the best place to fulfil such a destiny.
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