Transfer Analysis: Is Denis Suarez the Midfielder Arsenal Need?
Arsenal social media is rife with discussion and speculation on transfer rumors at the moment. None are hotter than the speculation regarding Barcelona midfielder, Denis Suarez.
Depending on who you follow and chat with, Denis Suarez is either the next incarnation of either Cesc Fabregas or Fran Merida. He’s a player who isn’t getting much time at Barcelona and has experience working with Unai Emery at Sevilla.
The move for Suarez is curious from the standpoint that the defensive unit is where Arsenal would seem to have the most pressing need. With continual lacklustre performances from any of its CBs and the growing injury list to anyone who happens to be an Arsenal defender, a transfer strategy focusing there seemed the most logical one.
But here we are. Its seven days in and the most substantive rumor is that we are trying to bring Denis Suarez, an attacking midfielder in. It could be for a few reasons, his familiarity to Emery, the injury and sup-par performance of Mesut Özil and/or the imminent departure of Aaron Ramsey.
The question is, if we are going to focus on a midfielder of this type, is Denis Suarez the best option Arsenal can get? Again, the general response here is mixed some saying he definitely is and point to the ever-tried process of showing youTube videos of his time at Villareal where he had a great game against Liverpool.
If we’re honest, YouTube videos could make Mustafi look like the reincarnation of Tony Adams if we edited it right.
So, if we’re looking for an attacking midfielder who some options we could consider – in addition to Denis Suarez. The reality is, you need to look no further than La Liga to find two other players who should garner the same if not more attention than Denis Suarez.
Current Club: Valencia
Height: 6’ 0”
At 22-years-old, Valencia’s Carlos Soler is a player already turning heads within La Liga.
Soler’s preferred position is as an attacking midfielder and the way he plays the game suits that. He is a quick, direct player who likes to float in the midfield looking to get the ball at his feet. Once he has the ball at his feet, he tends to want to take on the opposition, looking to create Valencia’s chances in the final third.
If viewed as an Özil replacement (or upgrade), he would offer Emery a creative player who isn’t afraid to drop deeper and do the required defensive duties needed to help out his team. But it really is his attacking strengths that make this 22-year-old stand out.
So far in the 2018/2019 season, he has one assist through 1356 minutes played. He has averaged about 34 passes per game with a success rate of 81%
Even though he is willing to drop and do the work say Özil won’t do, he’s not very good at it and is shown to especially weak when it comes to helping Valencia defend on set pieces and corners.
Still, he is a player who possesses, excellent vision, touch and tactical acumen. He has pace to spare and at 6 foot he has strength that would serve him well in a league as physical as the Premier League.
Current Club: Villareal CF
He is considered the next bright talent in Spain’s vaunted midfield set up. But here is something else you might not know about Pablo Fornals – he followed a similar career trajectory as our own Santi Cazorla.
Both came through the youth ranks at Villarreal before eventually coming into the limelight at Malaga. As AS has reported there was also an eerie similarity to how the two came to prominence for the Yellow Submarine – both wearing the number 8, had a coming out party of sorts that launched them into everyone’s view vs Athletic Bilbao.
To get a perspective of his insane skills, you need to watch his performance against Blibao. Locked into the corner by Inigio Martinez, the highly rated defender, Fornals left the defender for dead with a slight shift of the ball from his right to left foot with Fornals racing down the end-line. It was something that Arsenal fans saw Santi Cazorla do numerous times wearing the red and white.
Fornals has all the technical skills you’d expect of a Spanish star in the making. He supplements that with the cerebral side of the game that really makes him stand out. He’s at his absolute best, playing as number 10 linking the midfield to the attack. He dribbles well and again like Santi, has an excellent passing set of skills.
He is not known for his scoring prowess but where he really shines is making others shine. In his first season at the Estadio de la Cerámica, Fornals assisted 12 goals – the joint highest in La Liga in 2017/18, along with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
So far in 2018/2019 he has two assists and one goal. He is averaging 2.1 shots per game and averaging over 40 passes per game (2.1 long balls per game) with a pass success rate of 77.8%
If there is an issue with his game, it is more physical than anything else. In April 2018, he collapsed in a game suffering from something called “presyncope” or a state of lightheadedness, muscular weakness, blurred vision and feeling faint. It was the second such spell as he fainted in December of 2017 during a training session. In each case, there have been no answers or solutions offered for the issue.
Fornals is not unknown to Arsenal. When Santi was still on our books he was being looked at as a long-term replacement for him. Transfermarkt has his fee around Value: €30,000,000 but other reports say his release clause is modest in Spanish terms, a mere Value: €22,000,000
The problem now is going to be is that he has emerged on the big stage, will Villareal sell?
Current Club: Barcelona
“I think the club is working for the possibility to take some players who can help us during these next four months,”
These are the words of Unai Emery in the wake of the recent FA Cup win vs. Blackpool. He also went on the confirm his familiarity with Suarez, the player we’ve most strongly been linked to.
It’s hard to gauge how Suarez will be as there is very little data on him from Barcelona. He simply is not getting any playing time. And on one level that’s understandable as FCB have a very strong set of midfielders in the starting XI at this time.
However, Emery’s familiarity with the player may go a long way in making him the front-runner for any midfield needs we may have.
Suarez is a versatile midfielder capable of playing anywhere from centrally to left wing. Like Fornals and Soler he is quiet on the ball and works well getting the ball from deep. Against the other two players we’ve highlighted, his passing success rate is higher (using previous year stats) at 84.6. But he only managed an average of 20 passes per game in the observed period. This might explain why he isn’t being used by Barcelona, a team notorious for passing and possession.
It’s hard to gauge how good or bad Suarez is. However, a lot of the poor form may have to come from his mentality at the moment since he isn’t playing AND he wants to play.
Financially speaking, he makes perfect sense. It’s still unclear the type of deal we’d be getting. News reports have the deal as a loan but Barca are pushing for a permanent deal reportedly in the range of £20m – though that’s well above his perceived value and a lot for a player not getting a lot of playing time.
While it seems unfair to criticize a player not getting time at Barcelona, general perceptions persist that he doesn’t possess the elite pace we need on the wings, he doesn’t possess the guile of the other two players compared and isn’t especially strong or blessed with vision.
Still, with time and regular playing time he may be able to take his amazing first step – the double tap move we’ve seen Santi do so many times and turn it into something more at Arsenal.
If midfield is really an option we are considering, Arsenal need to be, as we’ve argued, shrewd in how they do business. Denis Suarez might be the cheapest option but is he the best.
Both Soler and Fornals come with a bigger but not astronomical fee attached to them. But they are young. They are regulars with their teams and they are already showing the quality that would make it easier to integrate into the first team.
These players seem to be replacements for Aaron Ramsey, whom they’ve all scored relatively better than in this season’s statistical comparisons, but the Welshman had the quality that made him stand out when we seemed to most need him. At a minimum, his replacement should have that quality too.