Arsenal’s top four hopes took another hit on Sunday as they only managed a 2-2 home draw with Manchester City.
The Gunners twice fell behind to Pep Guardiola’s men, with Leroy Sane giving the visitors an early lead before Theo Walcott levelled for Arsene Wenger’s side.
However, Sergio Aguero restored City’s advantage moments later, only for Shkodran Mustafi to head home eight minutes into the second half to once again level proceedings.
The draw doesn’t do either side much good, with Wenger’s men remaining in sixth and seven points adrift of the Champions League places, while City drop to fourth and 11 points behind league leaders Chelsea.
Yet, with these two sides set to meet in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley in a few weeks time, there’s clearly much to play for between now and May for Arsenal, but that hasn’t stopped speculation building about who Wenger may look to sign in the summer to make his team more competitive next term.
And one man they have been linked to in recent days is Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi, who scored a stunning goal in the Foxes’ 2-0 victory over Stoke on Saturday.
The 20-year-old only signed for the Premier League champions in January following a £17 million move from Genk, but has seriously impressed in the centre of that midfield, and has been a big part of their revival under new boss Craig Shakespeare.
And it’s his efforts in the midfield which must persuade Wenger to fend off interest from Manchester United to land the Nigerian international in the summer.
That central midfield area has been a problem area for a while now at Arsenal, with many names coming and going in a bid to add the necessary power and strength, as well as a bit of technical ability and guile, to beat the top sides.
And when you look at the current options, you still sense there’s something lacking.
Santi Cazorla’s injury issues have ruled him out for most of the season, while summer signing Granit Xhaka has shown glimpses of promise, only to be undone regularly by disciplinary issues.
Francis Coquelin has not been at his best this term, almost as if he is being found out in that position now, while Mohamed Elneny has also had injury troubles and thus not a prolonged run in the side.
However, Ndidi would give them that midfield steel that they have lacked in recent times.
The 20-year-old is physically strong and adept in the air and, ultimately, he has been repeatedly compared to his predecessor at Leicester, N’Golo Kante (only Ndidi is a fair bit taller).
Like Kante, he has an incredible work-rate and energy to burn. Like Kante, he keeps things simple and looks reasonably calm when on the ball under pressure. Like Kante, he is a tough-tackler and reads the game well – he must be doing something right to be labelled in the same breath as the Chelsea star.
And imagine that sort of player in the Arsenal midfield, someone who has the physical attributes to take on Yaya Toure, Victor Wanyama, and Paul Pogba, as well as the technical ability to launch attacks from the midfield, and retain possession in tricky situations.
At 20, Ndidi is far from the finished article, but what a future he has ahead of him given his first few months in English football.
With a summer overhaul likely at the Emirates this summer and with it looking like they won’t make it into the Champions League, beating United to Ndidi would be a huge statement of intent from Wenger – it would serve as a reminder that, although things haven’t been great this term, they are ready to go again next season and challenge at the very top of the league.