According to reports published by the Spanish outlet Sport, negotiations between Arsenal and Dalian Yifang for the sale of Yannick Carrasco are “going well”.
While it’s always best to take anything and everything that relates to transfers with an enormous pinch of salt and slice of scepticism, it does seem logical that Unai Emery would re-ignite his interest in the 25-year-old, given the well-publicised courtship that took place in January.
On that occasion, Arsenal failed to find the funds necessary to complete the deal and, given our current financial restraint, it’s difficult to see how the club would make it work just a few months later, but that’s really a secondary concern.
What niggles me above all else is the player himself. When we failed to land him at the start of the year, Arsenal moved instead for Denis Suarez, a man who proved so lightweight and ill-suited for the Premier League that he was scarcely seen on the training pitch, let alone in the starting line-up.
And while my knowledge of Carrasco is admittedly limited, I worry that the Belgian shares a lot of the characteristics of the aforementioned Spaniard.
Emery made it clear at the start of the year that he was looking for a player who could occupy wide areas and give Arsenal better options when attacking from the wings, and all three players he pursued in January fitted that bill – Suarez, Carrasco, and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic.
Of course, you could argue that Perisic has been a success for both club and country (he managed 13 goals and six assists in 2018/19), so why would Carrasco be any different?
I take that point entirely, but I can’t help but be troubled by the experience of Suarez much closer to home.
Injuries may have denied him the chance to really make an impact for the Gunners but, in the brief glimpses we were given of him, he really didn’t affect the game in a meaningful way and Emery was loathed to trust him in matches of any significance.
To me, he looked lightweight, off the pace, and lacking in confidence. He looked like a man who knew he was third choice and who was overwhelmed by the Premier League’s reputation for physicality before he had even kicked a ball in England.
I don’t blame Suarez entirely for the situation. He was, after all, keen to get some playing minutes under his belt after a tepid start to life in Barcelona, but nobody will look back on his time at the club with anything other than a confused shrug of the shoulders.
And maybe that old adage ‘once bitten, twice shy’ is what fills me with reservations about the move for Carrasco. How will he cope with the rough and tumble of a November evening in Burnley, when the thugs of Turf Moor are more interested in smashing his ankles to pieces rather than winning a game of football?
Is he going to be able to cope with gruelling, three-game weeks with scarcely a moment’s rest? Does he have the stamina, mentality, and determination needed to do the business under the unrelenting gaze of the Premier League spotlight, in which every pass can make or break your reputation?
I don’t know. And, if the move goes through, we won’t know until he gets the ball at his feet for the first time in 2019/20.
For the moment, all we can do is make judgements from afar and, I have to confess, this signing doesn’t fill me with confidence. I don’t think a player in the Denis Suarez mould is what’s needed to Arsenal to bridge the gap between fifth and fourth. A tight budget requires prudent decisions and, on the face of it, this is something of a punt.
Would showing faith in Reiss Nelson or Bukayo Sako not be a better move?
Seven goals and two assists from 10 games in the Chinese Super League is an excellent return for Carrasco but England is both literally and metaphorically a world away from China in terms of its football. We’ll watch this one develop with interest.