Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will give a trial to Nigerian central defender Godfrey Oboabona, according to a report in The Sun. It shows Wenger remains committed to scouting African talent and finding bargains on the transfer market, despite increased fan pressure.
If Wenger is left suitably impressed, he will conclude a deal worth £1 million for Oboabona. However, news that the manager is on another bargain hunt is unlikely to please many Arsenal fans.
The club has experienced serious struggles this season, resulting in some embarrassing lows. Cup exits to lower-league opposition, signaled for many, the time for Wenger to change his ways in the transfer market.
Disgruntled supporters have been given hope by reports of a £70 million summer budget. There have also been links to players like Stevan Jovetic, indicating Wenger might finally be ready to spend big.
However, offering Oboabona a trial and trying to unearth another gem on the cheap, looks a lot like the same pattern Wenger has always followed.
That's a pattern based on select scouting and careful spending. In fairness to Wenger, his record of acquiring potential stars from Africa is exemplary.
At AS Monaco he discovered George Weah and helped develop him into the World Player of the Year in 1995. The Frenchman will hope Oboabona can follow a similar path to one of his biggest success stories at Arsenal.
The last time Wenger found a quality centre-back from Africa was in 2002. That was the year he gave a trial to Kolo Toure.
The youngster made the grade and Wenger paid a mere £150,000 to regional Ivory Coast side ASEC Mimosas to sign Toure permanently.
After a switch from midfield to centre-back, Toure became a vital part of a powerful Arsenal team. He captured the English Premier League title, the FA Cup and appeared in a UEFA Champions League final.
That would certainly be a high benchmark for Oboabona to aim for. However, the 22-year-old already has a decent track record.
He was at the heart of the defence that propelled Nigeria to win this year's Africa Cup of Nations. Wenger was certainly impressed by that Nigeria squad.
According to voice-online.co.uk, citing an interview with Arsenal magazine, Wenger was quick to applaud Nigeria's Nations triumph:
“it’s a country of huge football passion… and they have suffered for a very long time with disorganised football.
“Their manager Stephen Keshi – who played in France and I know, did a remarkable job.”
That could be the catalyst for his interest in Oboabona. The Gunners certainly need reinforcements in the middle of their back four, even if it's just greater strength in depth.
If Oboabona can help, Wenger eye for Africa's best talent will have once again served Arsenal well. That might even be enough to restore faith in the Arsenal manager's knack for finding a bargain.