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Transfer Rumor: Arsenal linked with exciting midfield talent

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How much would it take to tempt Sheffield United to part with Berge?

Crystal Palace v Sheffield United - Premier League - Selhurst Park Photo by Tess Derry/PA Images via Getty Images

By now you’ve likely seen the transfer rumor report from The Athletic or other outlets that Arsenal has been scouting Sheffield United midfielder, Sander Berge (and/or using it as part of their scouting hiring process). Reports indicate that the relegated club still wants someone to meet their full release clause for Berge at £35m but given their drop into the Championship, and the player’s desire to remain in the top flight, clubs will be aiming to negotiate for a lower price.

Coming up with the funds shouldn’t be an issue for Arsenal with expected or rumored exits for Mattéo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock, and Hector Bellerin among others. So who is this midfield target and does it make sense for Arsenal to go for him this summer when there are other pressing needs elsewhere (i.e. fullbacks, keeper, striker, attacking midfielder).

Player: Sander Berge, 23

Current Club: Sheffield United.

He joined Sheffield United during the winter transfer window last season for $25 million. Prior to that, he spent three years at Genk in Belgium, winning both the league and Cup during that period.

International: Berge played for each of the Norway youth international teams from U16 up to U21 before making his full senior international debut in March 2017. Since then he has picked up 24 caps and one goal but was not called into the squad during the March international fixtures. It’s been documented that Sander is good friends with Arsenal loanee attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard, as well as future Balon D’or winner Erling Haaland. If the Gunners can find a way to keep Odegaard long-term or another year on loan, could that help sway Berge to join him in North London?

Position(s): In 16 matches this season for Sheffield, Berge split his time between central midfield and defensive midfield, picking up one goal, one assist, and just four yellow cards. While at Genk (over 100 appearances) he was used primarily as the deep-lying defensive midfielder.

Potential Price: According to Transfermarkt Berge’s current value/price tag is around $20 million. While Sheffield United would love to at least break even on the price they paid for him in 2020, their upcoming relegation may increase the pressure to recoup what money they can now. Additionally, it’s unlikely Berge wants to spend next season playing in the Championship with multiple Premier League suitors interested and World Cup qualification ongoing. His peak value was around $24-25 million, but clubs may be able to pry him away this summer for a price closer to $20m.

Arsenal Positional Depth:

  • Granit Xhaka — turning 29 next season and has two seasons left on his contract.
  • Thomas Partey — will turn 28 this summer and four seasons left on his contract.
  • Mohamed Elneny — turning 29 over the summer and has just one year left on his current deal.
  • Miguel Azeez — will be 19 next season and trained often with the first team this year. Next season he needs a senior loan to a Championship level club to determine his readiness unless Mikel Arteta sees a way for him to contribute meaningful minutes at Arsenal next season.

Arsenal Need: Arsenal lacks a proven senior-level defensive midfielder that isn’t closing in on 30 — considering both Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi aren’t expected back at the club. While a new defensive midfielder isn’t Arsenal's top priority this summer, it is a long-term piece that needs to be addressed in the overall roster rehaul project.

Final Verdict: Berge’s profile fits well with what Arsenal need, both from an age perspective and a talent level. The consensus is that he will continue to develop into a top-tier midfielder and the club needs someone to replace Xhaka/Elneny as one or both move on this summer or within the next few windows. He has experience in the Premier League, hasn’t reached his full potential yet, and could be persuaded to remain in the top flight and solidify his place with the Norwegian national team.

Lock Miguel Azeez into a four-year deal and find him a loan in the Championship next season. Sign Sander Serge for $15-25 million and find an exit strategy for either Elneny or Xhaka (who is rumored to want to leave this summer).