Why Arsenal Should Consider Joan Jordán To Fill In Their Midfield Hole
With the potential departure of Lucas Torreira and the return of Dani Ceballos to Real Madrid, Arsenal find themselves light in midfield heading into next season.
Should Torreira and Ceballos leave, aside from Guendouzi and Xhaka, Arsenal will have Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and a few academy players who can play in central midfield. This isn’t enough for yet another testing Premier League Season.
In this report I will explore and analyse a potential left-field signing in Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan, as someone who could come in relatively cheaply and potentially fulfil the role. I will compare him against current Arsenal midfielders Lucas Torreira, Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka, in order to determine whether he could suitable fit in at Arsenal.
Role at Sevilla
The 24-year-old, holds a key role in Julen Lopetegui’s Seville team. This season, he has played 2529 minutes, executing an energetic role in the team. Jordan is a dynamic midfielder who plays a very complete role. He enjoys winning the ball and quickly progressing it with quality. Jordan often plays as the right side of a midfield two and uses his reading of the game to cut passing lanes and create precise passing angles for his teammates. Jordan’s intelligence means he knows when to create midfield balance and when he needs to drop into the defensive line and plug holes. This knowledge is fundamental in creating an autonomous defensive structure which sees all moving parts work in tandem. This season, Jordan has helped Sevilla to the fifth-best defence in La Liga.
Jordan is fundamental in how Sevilla build-up play and progress the ball up the pitch. Often Jordan will leave his central role to receive the ball behind the opponents first wave of pressure. He then looks to either dribble or play a pinpoint pass to a teammate. Jordan’s ability to play this role, allows him to effectively contribute to positional rotations. This is especially impressive when the opposition are applying great pressure on the Sevilla team. Jordan is very effective at moving wide into the “false fullback” role and protecting the advanced fullbacks when Sevilla are attacking with width. Xhaka does this at Arsenal down the left. It occurs a lot less down Arsenal’s right.
Jordan also has great athleticism which allows him to make many vertical and horizontal sprints to challenge opponents and quickly help create numerical superiority around the ball zone. Sevilla can then quickly recover from counter-attacking situations and also allows for Jordan to cover his midfield partner should he be caught advanced.
Jordan isn’t the most vocal on the pitch, however his teammates have a lot of trust in him to defensively challenge the ball should the team come under defensive strain. Jordan wins 47% of his 7 defensive challenges per 90 minutes. One criticism of Jordan in defence is in tight 1v1 duels. Players with a low centre of gravity can easily beat him. To compensate for this, he often looks to slow down his opponents, rather than lock into a challenge and get beyond them, defending the space in front of the defence. This restores midfield cohesion.
Joan Jordan defensively averages 3.4 ball recoveries per 90 minutes. Of those ball recoveries, he makes 1.09 in the oppositions half. Jordan also makes 12 challenges per game, which in total stands at 436 challenges for the season. Of these 436 challenges, he has won 53%. Aerially, at 6ft, Joan deals with aerial battles well. Per 90 minutes, he makes 2.1 aerial challenges and has won 52% of his 73 total challenges for the season. Jordan makes 4 tackles and 3 interceptions per 90 minutes, as well. Jordan’s defensive intelligence is shown through his 5.1 per 90 minutes loose ball recoveries. This shows an impressive ability to mop up the ball and regain possession for his side when it goes loose.
On the ball
As previously mentioned, Joan wins the ball and progresses it with great efficacy. This helps provide a good link between the midfield and defensive lines. He receives the ball, lays is off and proceeds to create an angle where he can receive it again, breaking the opponent’s lines in the process. This is very useful against teams who apply great pressure and those who defend in medium blocks. He opens pockets and channels for other players, massively helping his team.
On the ball, Jordan is somewhat reminiscent of Sergio Busquets. The way Jordan uses his body to sell an opponent and skill his way past his marker, makes him flawless in fluidly moving the ball. Sevilla play with great width. Jordan’s ability to either facilitate the switch of play or be a useful cog in the progression of the ball out wide is key. Jordan is very much an engine room player. He is calm and relaxed on the ball, always looking to keep things ticking. His full value is only truly seen in his absence. This is reflected through his 21 starts in La Liga this season and Sevilla’s fine form culminating in 3rd place in the league.
Joan is in the typical technical Spanish midfield mould. He plays 61 passes per 90 minutes and in total has played 2147 passes this season. These passes have come with 89% accuracy. Jordan’s accuracy and vison is shown through his 1.09 key passes per 90 minutes. Of his total 38 key passes, he has executed 61% of them. Negatively, Jordan is prone to the odd lapse in concentration. This often sees him miss controlling the ball through rushing his first touch. This is reflected in his 4.9 ball losses per 90.
How would Jordan fit in at Arsenal?
Jordan is different to all of Arsenal’s current midfielders. Jordan’s positional intelligence and reading of the game, means he knows when is best to advance and when is best not to. Whilst Xhaka statistically is having a great season, sometimes it seems as though he doesn’t have a natural partner. Lucas Torreira is the closet to being the best partner for Xhaka. While he is exceptional in defence, he doesn’t quite have the on the ball quality of Jordan or Ceballos. Ceballos is good on the ball, however, doesn’t have the greatest defensive ability, defensive intelligence or athleticism, to effectively partner Xhaka.
At times it seems as though Arsenal are forced into long channel passes when playing out from the back. The forwards not being the most physical, struggle to win these balls and this leads to the opposition regaining the ball. Whether it’s a lack of quality or bravery, Arsenal against teams who press higher or against those who identify the weakness, lack a player who can create the perfect angle to be found and effectively move the ball through him. Obviously, this is as much down to the centre-backs and goalkeeping quality as it is the midfielders, but Jordan would definitely help. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Jordan could deal with the pace of the Premier League. His speed of mind and use of the body would allow him to efficiently match many opponents physicality.
Aside from Jordan’s quality in building-up play, the tactical versatility he would give to Mikel Arteta would be valuable. As previously mentioned, Jordan is comfortable taking up a “false fullback” role, meaning he is happy to take a balanced position between his own centre back and fullback when in possession. This means he can protect the high fullbacks position should the ball be lost. He also offers himself as a passing option for the team. This allows Arsenal to stretch the pitch in a structured manner and maximise their attacking threat.
In conclusion, I think in terms of pure quality alone, Jordan would suit Arsenal down to the ground. Jordan would enable Arsenal to effectively build-up from the back through his intelligence to create the best angles. As well as this, his technical ability to manipulate the ball under pressure, would allow him to break waves of opposition pressure and help the team construct their own offensive lines and break those of the opposition. It’s important that Arsenal can rotate the ball around the pitch and it’s hard to look at any of the current midfielders and say that anyone of them is a true dynamo, who can maintain the flow and fluidity of possession. Jordan is the heartbeat of his team.
I think it would be great to see a midfield partnership of Xhaka and Jordan. Jordan can defend just as well as Torreira and has a bigger on-the-ball impact than Ceballos. He has a greater offensive and defensive intelligence than all of Arsenal’s midfielders and has a far better temperament that Matteo Guendouzi. Jordan is a very humble and hard-working player – something Arsenal truly are without. If Arsenal can hold onto Torreira, then they most definitely should, however his comments may suggest his eyes are elsewhere. Jordan would be a great replacement for him. If Torreira did stay, Jordan could well accompany him in a midfield two or three. Jordan wouldn’t cost too much either and could be a vital component for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.