The France Under-21s star has been likened to the Lyon legend as a result of his prowess from dead-ball situations but Arsene Wenger believes that he is more akin to Samir Nasri
By Robin Bairner
After limping into the top four of the Premier League on the final day of the season, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has wasted no time in scouting for players to increase his talent pool next season.
Auxerre striker Yaya Sanogo is already set to arrive in the coming days and the Gunners boss has confessed that he has his eye on another young Frenchman in the form of Lyon playmaker Clement Grenier.
At 22 years old, Grenier, who has been with OL for half his life, is a far more established figure in France than Sanogo, to the extent that he has been touted for a call up to the national team after featuring as a starting player for the Rhone side throughout the campaign.
Indeed, on May 18 he proved his status as a game-changer for his club by scoring what may prove to be their most important goal of the season. With Lyon embroiled in a tussle for third spot in Ligue 1, which signifies qualification for the Champions League, they were trailing 1-0 in a vital match against Nice and were down to 10 men. Having been awarded a free kick 30 yards out, Grenier smacked the ball into the top corner of the net.
Such was the quality of the strike, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas describe Grenier as being “the little brother” of club legend Juninho to local paper Le Progres after the fixture.
Certainly the quality of his set-pieces are pushing towards that of the former Brazil international, whose accuracy from dead balls became world-renowned when playing with the Stade Gerland club.
Wenger, though, chose instead to compare Grenier with former Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri to Telefoot.
Like the Manchester City man, the France Under-21s international has all the attributes of a top-level attacking player. Technically he is incredibly accomplished on the ball and has proven himself so mature in possession that he has filled a deep-lying playmaker role for Lyon at times this season.
No doubt, though, that the Ardeche-born youngster is presently better suited to a more advanced role, where he is given more freedom to let his imagination dictate his actions. Around the box his passing is astute and accurate, while his dribbling ability wins him time on the ball that others may not command.
He is also prepared to make dashing raids into the channels, another attribute he shares with Nasri, and has scored six times in the league this term, which is the same number totalled by the former Marseille man in his final season in France.
It is telling that he has already risen above Yoann Gourcuff, whose phenomenal natural talent has not been enough to establish himself at the top of the game, in Lyon’s pecking order.
Grenier carries himself in the same graceful manner as Gourcuff, a player whose exceptional spells of form throughout his career have not been enough to overcome the mental demons that he possesses. His protege, though, is still young enough to show no signs of fear and is seemingly more emotionally mature than Gourcuff was when he departed Rennes for AC Milan as a 19-year-old.
Wrestling for a start position at Arsenal would not be a daunting task for someone who has already had a fight to establish himself in France over the course of four seasons since he first debuted in Ligue 1.
Grenier is one of several great hopes presently breaking into the starting XI of Remi Garde’s side, who, like Arsenal did, requie a last-day victory to secure their place amongst Europe’s finest next season.
Although a player unlikely to instantly revive the fortunes of the Emirates Stadium outfit, he is certainly a young man who can continue to ensure that Arsenal are a top-four side for years to come.
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