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Arsenal’s ageing midfield to get youth injection with PSG’s Pirlo

| 08.04.2014

He may have had his failings over the recent past at Arsenal, but one thing that can’t be levelled at the Frenchman is his reluctance to give youth a chance in north London.

Whether brought in through the transfer market or cultivated at the club’s academy, Wenger hasn’t been shy in thrusting tomorrow’s stars into the spotlight today with Serge Gnabry and Yaya Sanogo both examples of the boss’ trust in youngsters.

One area where a distinct lack of freshness is apparent for the 4/9 FA Cup favourites though is in deep-lying midfield, where Wenger moved to bring back 30-year-old Mathieu Flamini as an alternative to 32-year-old Spaniard Mikel Arteta last summer.

So it’s not really a surprise to see the club linked with a bright young prospect in that position, with Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian sensation Marco Verratti linked to a £17m switch to the Emirates.

While Flamini and Arteta have both enjoyed credible campaigns for the former Highbury dwellers, neither represents a long-term option in central midfield and with no youngster contesting their duopoly on the position, Wenger is moving to solve the problem.

Verratti, who at 21 already has 127 senior appearances to his name and four Italy caps, is a well-known pass master that would fit perfectly into the Arsenal manager’s philosophies.

Playing in the role compatriot Andrea Pirlo has made famous in his homeland, Verratti has been attempting 81.3 passes per game in Ligue 1 for PSG this term, completing an astonishing 91.6 per cent of them on average.

Those pass attempt figures comfortably better both of the elder central midfield statesmen in north London, as well as any other player among the Arsenal ranks.

Although contracted to the runaway Ligue 1 leaders until 2018, it’s thought a bid of £17m would be enough to force manager Laurent Blanc to cash in on the player and his arrival would be seen as a serious feather in Wenger’s cap.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.