The final part of Arsenal's summer redesign is due to be completed today with the arrival of Nuri Sahin on loan from Real Madrid.
The 23-year-old midfielder – a Turkey international born in Germany who made his name with home-town club Borussia Dortmund – has struggled to impose himself at the Bernabeu since arriving last summer. But as he makes the opposite journey from Alex Song, exchanging Spain for England, Arsenal will endure no loss of class.
Replacing the Cameroon midfielder with Sahin should mean a more stylish Arsenal side this season. Song was only nominally a defensive midfielder, able to push opponents off the ball with a shrug of his broad shoulders, but not always astute enough to stay close to them. Some of his best contributions at Arsenal were moments of quick flashes of inspiration.
But Sahin is different. He is an orchestrator, stitching the patterns of play from the heart of the midfield. He is much more authoritative than Song, happier to show for the ball and take responsibility for starting attacks. His passing, over long and short distances, is exceptional. He knows when to retain possession and when to risk it in pursuit of goals. Sahin's approach might be best described as Spanish. He is not dissimilar from his new team-mates Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta.
Although Sahin, below, plays for Turkey due to his parents' heritage, he is German by birth, and has his football roots in the Bundesliga. Born in Lüdenscheid, he came through the ranks at Dortmund and became the youngest player ever to play in the German top flight before his 17th birthday in 2005.
He soon became a regular in midfield, before announcing himself as one of Europe's finest emerging talents in 2010/11 as Dortmund won their first title in nine years. Sahin contributed six goals and eight assists, and was rewarded with the German player of the season awards by both Kicker magazine and the German players' union. That was good enough to earn a move to Real Madrid on a six-year deal last summer, leaving Dortmund wondering how to replace him.
At Madrid, Sahin's route has been blocked by many assured midfielders – not least Mesut Ozil, of similar approach, heritage and age.
Real manager Jose Mourinho admits competition for places was driving Sahin out. "He's a young boy, he wants to play every match," said recently. "In Real Madrid, the situation is not easy. When you don't start well, it is difficult to do it."Reuse content