Arsene Wenger clearly has a thing for graduates from the Southampton Youth Academy. In 2006 he nabbed a young winger called Theo Walcott – what happened to him? Then in 2011 he paid a reported £15 million to land Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Now Wenger apparently has another Saint on his radar.
The Daily Mail is reporting that Arsenal are now favourites to sign the 17 year old left back Luke Shaw. Since his graduation from the youth team Shaw has been a revelation at St Mary’s. The Saints’ defence is nowhere near as leaky as it was earlier in the season and Shaw’s speed, direct approach and ability to take on and beat men have all been noted.
In many ways he sounds like a classic Wenger signing – but do Arsenal really need him? At the moment Arsenal have three left backs – Kieran Gibbs, Andre Santos and Jernade Meade. Gibbs is clearly the number one choice and recently signed a long term contract with the club. Gibbs is quick, good going forward and not afraid of getting in shooting positions and having a pop. He had a mixed game against Newcastle yesterday. He was partially responsible for one of the Newcastle goals but then his dogged resilience and quick feet created several chances at the other end.
He might have been injury-prone in the past, but this season that iffy metatarsal doesn’t appear to be troubling him. If Wenger does sign Shaw he will be Gibbs’ under study at least in the short term.
Left back two is Andre Santos who many fans consider to be a full on liability. Wenger is almost certain to off load him in the window.
The big question about whether Wenger signs Shaw is what kind of future does he predict for Jernade Meade? The youngster looked good in the Capital One Cup and also against Olympiakos in away leg of the Champions league and maybe he can play an important role as a squad player. He was originally a left winger, but has become the regular left back for the Under 21s. In some ways he is almost an analogue of Gibbs, tough, quick and not afraid to get forward. However an injury to Gibbs and a sale for Santos could propel him into an extended run in the team and maybe Arsene thinks that he just isn’t ready for that responsibility. It will be a shame for Meade if Shaw does arrive, but it will give Arsenal three of the best young left backs in the country.