This has already been one of the most exciting transfer windows for Arsenal in recent memory. The club have acted with unusual efficiency to snare a number of exciting signings -- adding Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers to an already strong squad. However, the recruitment drive shows few signs of slowing. With nearly a full month of the transfer window to go, rumours are beginning to circulate about the possible signing of Portuguese international William Carvalho.
In signing Debuchy, Arsenal have adequately replaced Bacary Sagna. The acquisition of Sanchez gives the squad the pace and dribbling ability it lacked in the wake of Theo Walcott's ligament problem. However, there is still an enduring concern about the team's engine room. Carvalho could be the missing piece in the puzzle.
Arsenal's midfield is reliant on having a disciplined holding player shoring things up. Aaron Ramsey is inclined to bomb forward at every opportunity, so Arsene Wenger needs to pair him with someone who offers balance and security. In recent seasons, that man has been Mikel Arteta, who has made an impressive transition from playmaker to pivot.
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However, Arteta will turn 33 this year. In the latter part of last season, he looked increasingly creaky. The modern Premier League midfield is dominated by young, athletic warriors. For all his intelligence and technical ability, Arteta struggles to compete against the likes of Nemanja Matic and Fernandinho.
Carvalho would have no such problems. For a start, he's a decade younger than Arteta. While the Spaniard begins a steady decline, Carvalho is just entering his prime. He's also an awesome physical specimen, capable of dominating even the most competitive midfield battles. His height is complemented by huge reserves of upper-body strength. Arteta can occasionally be outmuscled by his opposite number. Carvalho, by contrast, shares Patrick Vieira's gift of being able to hold off two markers before spinning away in to space.
That combination of power and technique initially made Carvalho a promising No. 10. At youth level he resembled a young Yaya Toure, making lung-bursting runs into the box to do damage in the final third.
However, he has already undergone a significant evolution in his development. For the past few seasons, Carvalho has played almost exclusively as a defensive midfielder. Since switching roles, his progress has accelerated significantly. He is now revered as one of the most exciting prospects in European football.
His strength and skill are one thing, but what really makes him stand out is his preternatural football intelligence. There aren't many 22-year-olds who share Carvalho's instinctive ability to sense danger. He never allows himself to be carried away, focusing dutifully on his defensive responsibilities. In that respective, he is reminiscent of Gilberto Silva, whose immaculate displays for Arsenal and Brazil earned him the nickname "The Invisible Wall."
All of that makes him an ideal foil for Ramsey. The Welshman must be allowed to express his blossoming talent fully. Installing Carvalho alongside him would offer the team a sturdy platform from which Ramsey could wreak havoc.
He wouldn't come cheap. Carvalho's buyout clause with Sporting Lisbon reportedly stands at 37 million pounds. Arsenal are unlikely to be willing to go that high, but could probably extend to something around 25 million. At that price, Sporting could be tempted to sell. It's a reasonable fee for a player of Carvalho's standing.
In the long run, Arsenal could come to see that as a bargain. It might seem like a significant outlay now, but Carvalho has the talent required to anchor Arsenal's midfield for a decade. The puzzle is almost complete. Sign Carvalho, and Arsenal will have assembled something approaching the complete team.