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Arsene Wenger has proved he remains in control of Arsenal’s transfer policy after rejecting recommendations from within the club to sign Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina.
Lemina has passed a medical at Southampton and is set to complete an £18million move before the Premier League kicks off this weekend.
Stoke and Watford had registered an interest in Lemina but Arsenal were first to identify the 23-year-old as a possible target at the end of last season.
The Gunners place great importance in a performance comparison matrix system to help plan their transfer strategy ever since introducing it in 2012 and Standard Sport understands this analytical data threw up Lemina as a player to help strengthen the first-team squad.
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The club’s principal transfer negotiator, Dick Law, had mentioned Lemina’s name in conversation with agents earlier this summer in a bid to begin exploring a deal but it is believed that opinion was soon divided over whether to pursue a player who had made just eight starts in Serie A last season and was relatively unproven.
Wenger’s future as manager was yet to be finalised at that stage and he only signed a new two-year contract after Arsenal beat Chelsea to win their third FA Cup in four years.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis had originally wanted to appoint a director of football to influence transfer policy but Wenger strongly rejected any compromise in his authority in this area and instead agreed to a number of appointments to his backroom staff including fitness coach Darren Burgess and legal expert Huss Fahmy.
Lemina is thought to have impressed a number of scouts but Wenger instead chose to prioritise other areas, completing a club record £52.7m deal for Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette in addition to Sead Kolasinac’s arrival on a free transfer while continuing to pursue a move for Monaco winger Thomas Lemar.
Wenger also hinted at the retention of that control when discussing Alexis Sanchez’s position last week. Senior figures at the club were thought to be considering selling Sanchez should a huge offer – well in excess of £50m – come in for a player with just one year left on his contract and showing no indication of signing an extension.
But Wenger is adamant another season with Sanchez at his best is worth the potential risk of losing him on a free transfer next summer, stating on the eve of Arsenal’s Community Shield win: “My decision is clear – he will stay and he will respect that.”