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Andre Onana to Arsenal - A Signing Which Makes Too Much Sense

By Rob Worthington (Deputy Editor)

In recent transfer windows, it has often felt Arsenal have chased the ‘big name’ instead of the right name. The signing of Nicolas Pépé is one which typically springs to mind. The Ivorian finally looks to have found his feet at Arsenal, but the £72 million used to purchase Pépé’s services definitely could have been spent more wisely by the Arsenal recruitment team.

Again, I stress, Pépé is not a bad footballer. However, for a club who don’t enjoy the privilege of receiving investment from their ownership, it is important to be shrewd in the market. Nicolas Pépé certainly wasn’t a shrewd signing. He was a ‘big name’ signing.

Ajax goalkeeper André Onana doesn’t fall in to that category. Yes, he’s established himself as one of European football’s better goalkeepers, but he isn’t a household name just yet. And this is why the signing of Onana would be representative of a signing which makes arguably too much sense.

Available for less than £10 million, Onana possesses the exact profile Arsenal should be looking for in all their signings this Summer. A player who has proven his quality over the years, but not a player who is going to cost the club an arm and a leg. A very un-Arsenal-like signing.

Of course, the issue of Onana’s doping ban can’t be left unmentioned. As things stand, if Onana signs for the Gunners, the Cameroonian won’t be able to make his Arsenal debut until early 2022 unless he is successful in his appeal to half his 12-month ban. It has been suggested that UEFA are unwavering in their belief that Onana should see out the duration of his suspension, but CAS (The Court of Arbitration for Sport) do have the power to overturn it.

Nonetheless, Arsenal are said to be interested in purchasing the player this Summer regardless of the verdict which follows his appeal. Again, this appears unusually wise from an Arsenal perspective. If Onana were to stay at Ajax and reclaim his spot as their no.1 in 2022 his stock would doubtlessly rise. It seems Arsenal are determined to sign the 25-year-old while he continues to be available on the cheap.

Arsenal aren’t a club who can afford to throw around large sacks of cash this Summer so to sign a player who could potentially nail down a spot in the team for the next decade for less than £10 million would be a major coup. And Onana has the quality to do just that.

For Mikel Arteta, Onana’s most attractive attribute will be his coolness on the ball. Not to discredit Bernd Leno, who has been an excellent servant to the club since his 2018 arrival, but his inability to pick a pass from the back is a clear deficiency in his game. This is understandable too, Leno made his name in Germany before coaches recognised just how helpful it was to have a goalkeeper who could play line-splitting passes.

Onana, on the other hand, loves to have the ball at his feet. He isn’t afraid to play the sort of pass which leads to his fans taking a huge inhalation of breath. However, with Onana, that mass inhalation heard within stadiums is usually followed by a sigh of relief. A sigh of relief which is frequently followed by applause. Fans are slowly starting to realise just how important it is to have a ‘keeper who can play something of a killer pass to spark attacks.

After a Granit Xhaka blunder which was caused in part by a dodgy pass from Leno against Burnley which led to a Chris Wood equaliser for the Clarets, Mikel Arteta insisted ‘I demand that we play the way we do [out from the back].’ The signing of Onana will decrease the regularity of such blunders caused by building up from deep, with his extensive passing range often able to get his team out of trouble in such circumstances.

The Cameroonian is also a strong shotstopper, as evidenced by his impressive 13 goals conceded during Ajax’s memorable UCL run during the 18/19 season despite xG suggesting he should’ve conceded 17.6 goals. Should Leno leave Arsenal, it’s important that he’s replaced by someone who is at least almost as good as the German at shotstopping, an aspect of Leno’s game which is very strong. Onana would indeed be a sufficient replacement in that regard.

Thus, as a goalkeeper with strong European pedigree, good reflexes and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Onana is a player Arsenal shouldn’t even have to think twice about signing at a cut-price. He is the perfect man for the job. His suspension poses potential problems over who will occupy the no.1 shirt for the first half of next season, but his surprisingly low price tag means Arsenal would be foolish not to bring him in this Summer regardless of whether his ban is overturned.

Andre Onana, Arsenal’s No. 1. Sounds good, right?

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