O'Neill and McDermott sackings give Arsenal the momentum in this transfer battle

Stoppila Sunzu

Sunderland and Reading were thought to have outdone Arsenal in the pursuit of Zambian talent Stoppila Sunzu. Now it seems Arsenal have jumped back to the front of the queue.

This season has been one of the most dramatic in recent memory. Perhaps not so for the football being played but certainly for what has been going on off the pitch.

This season has seen no fewer than five in-season managerial changes and when you then consider the departures of Harry Redknapp, Alex McLeish and Kenny Dalglish in the pre-season that is eight managerial sackings in the Premier League this campaign.

March has seen two such departures alone with Brian McDermott and Martin O’Neill both losing their jobs at Reading and Sunderland respectively. With both teams desperately fighting for survival it was deemed by some the final act of desperate owners while others may consider them bold decisions.

Yet the ramifications of such chopping and changing in managerial employment goes far beyond the impact of that one team but in some cases it can affect the future of a specific player; in this case one who plays for neither Reading or Sunderland.

Stoppila Sunzu of TP Mazembe has long been touted by Premier League clubs as an unearthed gem from African football.

The Zambian international originally caught the eye back at the Afcon 2012 as he was a shining light in the Chipolopolo side that won the competition in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea.

He again impressed during the Afcon 2013 edition in South Africa despite the reigning champions going out at the Group Stage; although, in their defence, the two teams that finished above them in the opening stage went on to contest the final.

Around the time of Zambia’s visit to South Africa it was suggested Sunzu was on his way to Reading but it fell through due to misrepresentation of his client by Sunzu’s agent. Essentially the original belief that the 23-year-old was a free agent proved to be incorrect and Reading decided to wait on any deal.

Recently he has been training with Sunderland and even took part in a behind-closed-doors friendly where a knock to his knee cut short his involvement. It was strongly believed O’Neill was ready to make a move for the player. Now however O’Neill is gone.

Which means the Premier League team who originally showed an interest in the player may just have a clear run at their target. That team is Arsenal.

The club appear keen to bring in an African player to continue their long link with the continent; where they already have a strong fanbase.

Sunzu was originally watched by Arsenal staff at the back end of 2012 and nothing came of it; perhaps due to an over-priced £4 million asking price.

Now however Arsenal appear the only candidate left for the aspiring talent. With McDermott and O’Neill gone such subsequent interest from the relevant parties would also seem to have dissipated.

Arsenal have recently tried and failed to bring in another of Africa’s shining defensive talents in the form of Nigeria’s Godfrey Oboabona from Sunshine Stars.

Now they may revert back to their original option; Stoppila Sunzu.

image: © ennaimi

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