Just six months ago, the arrival of Monaco attacker Thomas Lemar appeared to be a formality, as Arsenal finally sanctioned Sanchez’s transfer to Manchester City and accelerated their pursuit of a replacement. Arsenal would ultimately fail in their pursuit of the Frenchman and Sanchez would stay for the remainder of 2017, with Lemar’s preference for Champions League football and desire to stay with Monaco for at least one more year widely considered to be the deciding factor.
Liverpool subsequently emerged as favourites for the highly-rated Ligue 1 star, who enjoyed a breakout year for a free-scoring Monaco side that would conquer Man City, Dortmund and Tottenham (twice), on their way to the semi-finals. As well as carrying the principality to the last four in Europe, Lemar would bag 9 goals and 11 assists, as his side ended the four-year reign of rivals PSG at the summit of Ligue 1.
Various outlets, including The Independent, reported that Anfield was the preferred destination for the talent, who had attracted a stream of admirers across Europe – including Barcelona. Klopp has long been in the hunt for attacking reinforcements and now has a further £142m to reinvest, following Coutinho’s January passage to Barca. Klopp is believed to be huge admirer of the Frenchman, whose pace and guile could provide a formidable supplement to an already explosive frontline including Salah and Mane.
As mentioned in The Mirror last month, Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim recently addressed rumours of a transfer,sending a clear message to potential suitors.
“In the last two transfer windows, last summer and this winter, the numbers have gone up enormously. I still want to keep Lemar.
“If I stay here for 10 years I want Lemar to stay with me for 10 years. He is young, he can still play for 10 years. He has a lot of qualities, I like him a lot.”
Monaco are determined to keep the star who has become their most valuable asset, since fellow wonderkid Kylian Mbappe departed for PSG in the summer. This has potentially discouraged Liverpool and an alternative may have been found in speedster Leon Bailey, who has netted 10 times in 22 games for Leverkusen. Like Lemar, the Jamaican is a skillful, left-footed winger, whose electric pace and ability to cut in from the right, has drawn comparisons with Bundesliga legend Arjen Robben. Sources in Germany believe Leverkusen will demand as much as £100m for the twenty-year-old rookie but this figure has seemingly not deterred the Merseyside outfit despite it being lower than Lemar’s £58.50m valuation. According to a number of publications, such as The Mirror, Liverpool have now ended their interest in Lemar and will turn to flyer Bailey.
Arsenal have also been linked to Bailey in recent times, who now have few genuine wingers following the departures of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Alexis and Joel Campbell (loan).The previously favoured 3-4-2-1 system could not utilise out-and-out wide men, but Wenger’s transition back to a defensive four could see this change. Arsenal seemingly have a plethora of attacking options at their disposal but Lacazette, Ozil, Welbeck, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang, all prefer to operate centrally. Not only is there a need to consider the attacking threat in wide areas, should he sacrifice a centre-half, Wenger will be conscious of the protection his fullbacks are afforded in this system.
Several players operated out-of-position with the change in formation which you would hope changes with a back four. Danny Welbeck has performed admirably out wide but has fallen further down the pecking order and could become the latest squad player to be cut. The remaining attackers can all play the position but none look at their most comfortable. Wenger is thought to have maintained his interest in Lemar, who rejected a new contract from Monaco in January. The explosive Frenchman would undoubtedly add goals but has impressed many in France with his work rate and pressing off the ball. His arrival would particularly please Hector Bellerin who has often been left exposed down Arsenal’s right flank and with Liverpool now set to turn their attention to Bailey, Arsenal could reignite their interest. Lemar has indicated a preference to join Spanish heavyweights Barcelona but having shelling out nearly £300m for compatriot Dembele and Coutiho, may resist making a move. This would clear the way for Wenger to test the resolve of his former club and potentially craft a frontline boasting Lacazette, Aubameyang, Lemar, Ozil and Mkhitaryan.