Who is Besiktas' Tolgay Arslan, being touted as a replacement for Arsenal's Alex Chamberlain?
The Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain transfer saga has drawn the interest of football supporters both inside and outside of the Arsenal contingency.
It seemed for all the world that the former Southampton youngster was bound for Chelsea, following the Blues’ £40 million agreement on a deal with the Gunners, only for the player himself to turn down the chance of a move across the capital, with Liverpool the preferred destination, as reported by BBC Sport.
Negotiations as far as this deal is concerned are likely to rumble on into deadline day, but with it still hanging over the head of Arsene Wenger, as well as the future of Alexis Sanchez still coming no closer to a resolution, the Frenchman is being linked with Besiktas midfield man Tolgay Arslan by Turkish outlet Fanatik, as he looks to strengthen his hand before the transfer window closes.
Wenger missed out on bringing the 27-year-old German to North London back in 2015, with Arslan instead opting to sign for Besiktas over the Gunners whilst still playing at Bundesliga club, Hamburg. He recently signed a new five-year contract with the Istanbul outfit, but with Besiktas slapping a measly £9.5 million price-tag on the player, that has done little to quell speculation over a move across Europe.
The Gunners will face competition from Italian giants Inter Milan if they are to secure his signature, according to the source, but despite Arslan struggling for game-time at Besiktas with the likes of Atiba Hutchinson, Gary Medel, and Oguzhan Ozyakup all ahead of him in the pecking order, could the German offer something tangible to Arsenal at this point in time, particularly with the ineffective Oxlade-Chamberlain nearing an exit?
Oxlade-Chamberlain is far from prolific, and Arslan judging on his record wouldn’t be the type of player brought in to score goals either.
The winger, dubbed ‘The Ox’, has netted 20 goals and registered 32 assists in 198 appearances in the past six years, whilst Arslan has netted 10 career goals and clocked up 12 assists in 203 career appearances for Hamburg and Besiktas, as well as during a loan spell in Germany with Alemannia Aachen.
One of these goals will render him somewhat familiar to English football fans though: Arslan netted a vital goal on 26 February 2015 in Besiktas’ eventual penalty shootout win over Liverpool in the last 32 Second Leg of the Europa League, whilst current West Ham boss Slaven Bilic was in charge of the side.
Arslan has also been capped at Under-19 through to Under-21 level for both Turkey and Germany, although he is yet to make an appearance for the senior side of either national team. He does, however, have two Turkish Super Lig title medals to his name with Besiktas.
Last season he made a total of 30 appearances, the second best tally of his career (the first being 32 appearances for Hamburg in 2013/14), and has already featured in three matches for Besiktas this campaign, with two of those coming from the bench. 12 of his 18 appearances in the league alone last year were also from the bench.
With Arslan, therefore, seeming to have had less of a chance to start games compared with Oxlade-Chamberlain, it seems justified that the German should be given a fairer crack of the whip elsewhere, especially given he is already 27.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain having age on his side, however, the knives are still out in the sense that he has not improved anywhere near as much as was anticipated after he first broke into the Arsenal team in 2011, and it may just be time for a change.
Although Arslan may be equally unconvincing in front of goal judging on statistics, his strengths lie in something else Oxlade-Chamberlain enjoys: dribbling. Arslan is a direct player who always looks to break forward, but he is also renowned for his passing ability and tendency to retain possession, something which would very much suit Arsenal’s style of play under Wenger.
Despite Oxlade-Chamberlain possessing many similar attributes, when venturing inside he opts to play a short pass rather than look for goal, whereas Arslan- whilst always looking to build-up play- also likes to take a snapshot at goal, and Arsenal are currently lacking in personnel who play with such directness, which could add a more unexpected and dangerous element to their game, and one they are alarmingly lacking.
Despite shading possession at 51.4% during their 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, they had only eight shots on goal compared to Liverpool’s 18, with none on target. A player with no fear to let fly, and he certainly doesn’t given the quality of his goal against Liverpool two years ago, would at least be a start.
With Arslan there also comes the added bonus that he is sure of his best position. Though a centre-midfielder by trade, Arslan comes with the versatility of playing the box-to-box role and running the channels when required.
Winger, wing-back or centre-midfielder, Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t particularly excelled in either position, and after six years it is still a headache for Wenger on where to deploy him, an issue that the Arsenal boss wouldn’t have with Arslan.
With Arsenal also lacking in the defensive-midfield area, the German may slip into the side nicely, given that Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, and Aaron Ramsey are all notably more attack-minded, and Francis Coquelin struggling to re-establish himself after injury problems.
The only downside to Arslan is that, as of yet, he is relatively untested in the wing-back role which Oxlade-Chamberlain played well in during the season opener against Leicester, although arguably Wenger already has a player ready to slot into that position in the shape of Sead Kolasinac.
Injuries is another issue that is well avoided in Arslan’s case. His lack of appearances have mainly come from him starting as a substitute, whilst Wenger has had to deal with injury woes throughout the squad in recent years. None more so than with Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has missed a total of 82 matches with injury problems.
That considered, if Arsene Wenger can ship out the capped England international for anything near the £35 million Chelsea initially offered, he’ll have pulled off a shrewd piece of business, particularly with Arslan available for a fraction of that.
Time will tell if Wenger will make an approach with the deadline fast approaching, but with Arslan at a good age, knowing his best position and showing some promise despite limited minutes on the pitch, the Gunners could seemingly do far worse.