Yannick Carrasco: Does the reward outweigh the risk for Arsenal?
Yannick Carrasco looks to be a top target for Arsenal this summer. The Belgian winger was heavily pursued by the Gunners in January but a move failed to materialise. Looking at the rumours going about in the summer transfer window, it looks like Carrasco could very well be Arsenal’s answer to a lack of goals from the wide areas. The reported fee that would secure his services is around 25 million but given he currently plays in China, many fans are sceptical about whether he would succeed in London or become another overpaid, average player on Arsenal’s wage bill.
Can he fit in?
Carrasco arrived at Monaco in 2010 from the Genk U17 team. Rising through the ranks, he made his debut for the senior side in 2012 when Monaco were playing in the Ligue 2. Carrasco scored six goals that year as Monaco secured promotion. Amidst heavy investment, Carrasco remained in the Monaco side that finished second in their season back in the top flight. Arsenal fans will remember Carrasco’s goal at the Emirates in 2015 when Monaco recorded a 3-1 win in the Champions League. Carrasco scored the third and final away goal which secured Monaco’s victory over two legs and this impressive form led him moving to Atletico Madrid.
The Belgian spent two and a half years in Spain before leaving for Dalian Yifang in the Chinese Super League. The reasons for this move are disputed. The majority of football fans would agree that a move to China is purely for the money, and more often than not, it marks the end of a footballer’s willingness to compete at the highest level. However, many players have also left the CSL after a few years, such as Axel Witsel and José Fonte, and have gone on to become integral to their teams. Unfortunately, there is no empirical evidence to suggest that Carrasco would burst into life at Arsenal and to reach the heights many expected him to after his time at Monaco. Having said that, the clear interest Carrasco is showing in engineering a move back to a top European club is a positive sign.
What do the stats say?
The primary question behind a possible transfer is whether Carrasco is actually what Arsenal need. Statistically speaking, Carrasco had 20 goals and 24 assists in 103 appearances for Monaco. This was in a system that suited the Belgian, largely based on counter-attacking with speed. At Monaco, Carrasco enjoyed a great degree of freedom operating on the wings. His time at Atletico was the polar opposite. As is the case with Diego Simeone’s setup, Carrasco was expected to contribute defensively a lot more than he had at Monaco.
This significantly reduced his output in his first season in Madrid, and the winger’s second season saw him reach double figures for goals scored in a season for the first time in his career. Overall, Carrasco has 23 goals and 17 assists in 124 appearances for Atletico, but judging him based on his stint in Madrid would be difficult given Simeone’s rigidity. Carrasco isn’t the only creative player to have struggled under the Argentine with players like Thomas Lemar and Nicolas Gaitan unable to make an impact in Madrid. Carrasco’s stats are far better in China but aren’t of much relevance considering the difference in the quality of football with that of the European top flights.
His statistics indicate that Carrasco is not going to make the same impact that Alexis Sanchez brought to the club, however, it would be reasonable to expect around 15-20 goals plus assists from the Belgian. Furthermore, there is the issue of him settling into English football, an aspect that has caused mercurial players like Angel Di Maria to struggle.
A smart piece of business
The upside to Carrasco is that he is a significant upgrade on the current options at a reasonable price, as Arsenal’s shoestring transfer budget is well advertised. In the past season, the contribution from wide areas has been minimal with Iwobi and Mkhitaryan having just nine goals between them. Carrasco is capable of beating his man in one-on-one situations and is a good finisher as well. He also has a knack of chipping in with important goals, such as scoring in a Champions League final with Atletico.
Carrasco would represent a smart signing for Arsenal. Considering the reported fee, the Gunners would do well to secure a winger of his talents rather than spending an exorbitant fee on a player like Ryan Fraser who has had a stellar season, but is really an underwhelming signing, especially for a fee of 30 million. With the wage bill also experiencing a significant reduction, Carrasco would be affordable. It would be unrealistic to expect players like Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka to consistently perform at the top level without any experience.
No matter the talent in hand, Arsenal need a winger and Carrasco would represent a smart coup.