Rumours abound that Arsenal are looking to close a deal for out-of-favour Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez.
Whether a move for the Spaniard would be permanent or take the form of a short-term loan is unclear at present, but there are positives and negatives to both scenarios.
Leaving those to one side for the moment, what could the 25-year-old bring to the squad as Unai Emery looks to stake a claim in the race for a top four spot?
Given his relative youth and difficulty in getting minutes on the pitch, true comparisons are difficult but, using stats available on whoscored.com, we can measure Suarez against Gunners midfielders Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Alex Iwobi.
In league and European competition, Suarez manages, on average, about 26 passes per game, a relatively low amount when set against Ramsey (51.7), Xhaka (70.9), and even Iwobi (33.8).
Granted, given his deeper role in the middle of midfield, Xhaka has much greater exposure to the ball – collecting from the defence and recycling across the pitch as the team builds through the phases.
However, when set against Iwobi, Suarez still manages a fairly low number per match. Does that hint at a wider, more progressive attacking nature to his game?
The point is supported by Suarez’s passing success rate, which comes in at 79.6 per cent. Iwobi (84.3), Xhaka (86.5), and Ramsey (85.6), all fare better than the Spaniard, suggesting his role is much more about higher-risk, lower percentage play – as Alexis’s used to be.
In key passing terms, Suarez is more or less on par against current Gunners’ squad members.
Perhaps a more revealing statistic is his average number of crosses per game, which comes in at 0.6. While this might seem particularly low, none of the other three Arsenal midfielders forming the basis of this comparison manage more than 0.3 per game.
Equally as interesting is the number of assists offered by Suarez over his relatively short career (Suarez has 7,344 minutes to his name, Ramsey has 19,726, Iwobi 6,083, and Xhaka 20,562). The Spaniard has 21 assists, which is five more than Xhaka and four more than Iwobi. Ramsey, who has played about 2.5 times more football, has 54.
The Spaniard averages 1.1 dribbles per game, which is more than both Xhaka and Ramsey, and only a fraction behind Iwobi (1.3). In terms of goals, Suarez has 13 to date in league and European competition, compared to Iwobi’s 11, and Xhaka’s 18. Ramsey is out in front with 52.
Suarez has managed, on average, 0.9 tackles and 0.4 interceptions per game in league and European competition.
This pales in comparison to Xhaka and Ramsey, who both offer a great deal more in the middle of defensive thirds. Iwobi, meanwhile, manages 0.7 and 0.3 respectively per game, so that comparison is perhaps a little more reflective of where he is as a player and what he offers.
What does this mean?
What we can infer from all the statistics is that Suarez, who is reportedly as adept with his left as he is with his right foot, prefers a role in wide positions and in the attacking third of the pitch.
Like Iwobi, he likes to dribble and carry the ball but, unlike the Nigerian, Suarez operates in much wider positions and is more of a traditional wide man, where Iwobi likes to drift inside. Suarez gets to the byline and puts the ball into the box for others, which would explain his relatively high number of assists.
However, Suarez doesn’t offer much in defensive terms or, at least, hasn’t been asked to do that sort of work in his career to date. Obviously, that doesn’t address the most glaring and pressing need of this team but, if nothing else, it gives us more versatility in attack.
With Reiss Nelson, Iwobi, Henrikh Mhikitaryan, Mesut Ozil, and Bukayo Saka already filling attacking berths in this Arsenal side, though, are we adding in an area in which we have a pressing need or are funds once again be diverted into the wrong area of the pitch?
The possible combination of Hector Bellerin or Sead Kolasinac and Suarez screams of goals and attacking nightmares for defences, but it also screams of wide open spaces in our wide areas and simple balls over the top for strikers to run onto.
Is that an issue we really want to exacerbate or is it time to address the problem that continues to plague us?