Just who is…Arsenal and Liverpool target Cheikhou Kouyate?
Title-chasing Premier League pair Arsenal and Liverpool have tossed their sizeable, red hats into the ring concerning the transfer of Anderlecht’s Cheikhou Kouyate.
Aged 24, the Senegalese centre half isn’t exactly a household name outside of Belgium, so what would they be getting for their money?
Standing at 6’ 4’, Kouyate is quite the imposing figure, establishing himself as Anderlecht’s elite centre back in the 2011/12 campaign, which coincided with the club winning back the Belgian title. They then retained the crown the following season.
In addition to the vital title-winning experience the player boasts, he’s also sampled Champions League football, as well as plied his trade at international level, winning five caps for Senegal and playing four games at the 2012 Olympics.
It was following these performances that he first came to Arsene Wenger’s attention, but the north Londoners were unable to secure a work permit for the player at the time. That issue no longer exists with Kouyate now in possession of a Belgian passport.
In stature, the player is very similar to Christopher Samba, a player who Arsenal were repeatedly linked with during the player’s time at Blackburn, and increasing the physicality of their backline is an area the Gunners should address.
With a pass completion rate north of 90 per cent in Europe’s elite competition, it seems he has the technical prowess to match his brute force, an aspect absent from Samba’s game and one that will certainly endear him to Wenger.
Despite his size, though, Kouyate is surprisingly not much of a set-piece threat, or so his scoring record suggests.
In 134 appearances across five seasons for the Belgian champions, three goals are all he’s plundered.
Liverpool’s central defensive ranks are stocked to capacity following their late trolley dash in the summer transfer window, Arsenal’s however, are not, with Thomas Vermaelen their only senior cover in the heart of the back four.
It’s an area of the pitch they should bolster if they are to realise their 4/1-rated title ambitions.
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