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Arsenal transfer news: Ivory Coast hero should be a January target after flying AFCON start

Robin Bairner
Seko Fofana, Arsenal
© ProShots

Seko Fofana marked the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations in style by striking expertly before four minutes of Ivory Coast’s encounter against Guinea Bissau had been played.

The 28-year-old midfielder was one of Ligue 1’s outstanding players last season as he led his Lens side to within a point of PSG at the top of the standings and replicated that form as the host nation got the AFCON underway in spectacular fashion.

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Fofana had appeared primed for a move to the Premier League or another major European club last summer but was one of the players drawn to the Saudi Pro League, where Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr signed him for €25 million in what was a cut-price deal.

It is not a transfer that has worked out. Fofana has struggled to recapture his best form in Saudi Arabia, where the intense heat counts against the phenomenal intensity that he puts into his performances.

Indeed, he is one of a number of stars, along with Jordan Henderson, already pushing to leave the Saudi Pro League.

His poor form was not evident, though, as he led Ivory Coast to victory on Saturday in a performance that illustrated why he could – and perhaps should – have moved to England last summer given the style of his play.

Fofana on the market

Arsenal are a particularly interesting destination for Fofana as a midfield alternative to Thomas Partey.

Partey was linked with a summer departure from the Emirates Stadium and has played only five times in all competitions for Mikel Arteta’s side this season and his future is very much under threat.

Fofana may not boast entirely the profile the Spanish manager likes – he does not have Premier League experience and is older than the typical Arsenal signing, for example – but there is an argument to sign him on loan, which is how Al-Nassr want to offload him.

Data analytics company SciSports indicates that at the end of last term Fofana was playing to a higher standard than Partey when he was signed by the Gunners. And while the Ivoirian is a more overtly attacking player, the experts’ algorithm shows that there are sufficient similarities in their play to allow the Saudi-based star to step in.

The price, too, could be a good one for an Arsenal side having to watch its finances. Al-Nassr are ready to loan the midfielder out and pay 50% of his wages.

Arteta certainly has bigger priorities this January, but Fofana is an interesting option who should not be readily dismissed.

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