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  • By Alessandro Schiavone in Lens

Arsenal target Seko Fofana scores screamer as Lens edge past Clermont in thriller



By Alessandro Schiavone at Stade Bollaert-Delelis


RC Lens 2-1 Clermont Foot


Arsenal are reportedly keeping tabs on Racing Club de Lens talisman Seko Fofana.


Valued at £35 million by his club, Fofana is by many regarded as one of Ligue 1’s best players outside of Paris Saint-Germain. And a result of his scintillating displays on a consistent basis, the Ivorian is being tracked by a host of Premier League sides, with Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal at the front of the queue to make a move in January.


And it’s not difficult to see why. He’s the main man of the Northern French side who have gone from strength to strength since their return to France’s top-flight in 2020. And if Franck Haize’s men are PSG’s closest antagonists in second place, a big chunk of that success is down to the former Fulham midfielder’s influence.


Yet like so often, success pulls ordinary clubs and their rising stars apart. Yet, make no mistake now. To claim that Fofana has outgrown Lens is a bullish overstatement.


After all les Sang et Or won the Ligue 1 title in 1998 and regularly took part in the Champions League at the end of the 90s and early 2000s. Fofana owes his rising reputation to his club and vice-versa. Plus grands ensemble. Together we’re better.


Yet if the burgeoning club remain a long way off holding their own in the Champions League, despite good chances of qualification this term, there’s a feeling that Fofana can make a difference in Europe’s premier competition right away. And he may be forgiven by his own supporters, who have fallen head over heels for him due to his strong of belonging, application and dedication if he was to swap Stade Bollaert-Delelis for London’s Emirates Stadium.


At Arsenal, he’d be the perfect partner for Granit Xhaka in a three-man midfield alongside Martin Odegaard and the Swiss international himself. For that though he’d have to dislodge Thomas Partey, who has impressed in Arsenal’s staggering start to the campaign. Having come such a long way since his difficult beginnings, that would be a challenge Seko would relish though.


Lending an air of verve and unpredictability to his team’s attacks, there is a big difference when he’s playing and when not. It’s fair to say that he’s as important to Lens as Kylian Mbappe to PSG’s fortunes. There’s also a reason why Lens have lost only one game all season, just like the club that wants to seal a deal for him: Arsenal.


If the Gunners do get him in January, chances of finishing the season at the top, to end a 19-year drought for a Premier League title, would surely increase twofold.


A man mountain of a player, he was outstanding against Clermont Foot on Saturday as Lens won 2-1 thanks to a spectacular goal by the man himself. Picked out in the middle of the penalty area, he took the ball away from his marker before nutmegging the advancing goalkeeper and send the supporters into a state of ecstasy.


Living in defenders’ heads rent-free, Fofana has what it takes to make his mark in any club in the world, including his youth club Man City where he’d give Rodri a fair run for his money to start.


Fofana is a devastating ball carrier who breaks the lines thanks to his explosiveness, bursts of acceleration and strength. And has the silk to go with the steel. He’s the leader of this high-flying Lens side that are now two points adrift of PSG in the standings with the Parisians entertaining Auxerre on Sunday afternoon. Take Fofana away and be assured of the fact that Lens would be a far cry from the current fluent and tough-to-break-down side.


Apart from the goal he looked a real handful today. In the first period he once surged forward at full speed before picking out his teammate with a diagonal pass. That alone showed what he’s all about: strong and unselfish while possessing the vision of an attacking playmaker. His composure, co-ordination and control when he scored Lens’ winner then epitomised what a great midfielder he is.


On top of it he’s a consistent, rarely has a bad game and is a real threat on the ball and off it thanks to his ability to find pockets of space to run into or be in an unmarked position for his teammates to pick him out when he makes intelligent runs without the ball.


Sometimes he may try too hard to score, like when his swerving effort flashed wide off the part post from afar. Or when his first-time low effort fizzled wide on 45 minutes. He had all the time in the world to control it and get a better shot away yet at times he rushes his decisions. Not elast when his team is under pressure and needing goals. Yet that does nothing to take the shine off yet another bravura performance and a stunning finish.


Fofana already wouldn’t have come cheap before the game kicked off, but Lens may now be entitled to add a further £10million to his asking price tag. And if tonight was his last home game for the club, what a way to say farewell.


If not, the player deemed the ‘best’ outside of PSG’s collection of superstars will be ready to face his hometown club on the first of January.


In 2020 he picked Lens and their vociferous supporters over clubs with bigger reputations as he wanted to play in front of the electric Stade Bollaert crowd. Picking Arsenal at nearly 28 years of age to enhance his career now looks like the perfect next career move.


Line-ups


RC Lens


30 Samba- 24 Gradit-4 Danso-14 Medina- 29 Frankowski-26 Abdul Samed-8 Fofana- 3Machado-7 Sotoca-22 Said-20 Costa


Clermont Foot


99 Diaw-5 Caufriez-4 Wieteska-36 Seidu-18 Rashani-7 Magnon-25 Gastien-91 Bela-10 Khaoui-9 Andric-95 Kyei


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