This season’s The Serie A campaign has once again been dominated by defending champions, Juventus despite being strongly challenged by an impressive Roma side.
The likes of Napoli, Inter and AC Milan have all suffered from faltering campaigns but Fiorentina have done extremely well to remain on course for a respectable fourth place finish, after pushing Rafael Benitez’s side for that third and final Champions League slot. The Viola’s recent fine form has been largely down to the performances of a highly versatile Colombian winger, Juan Cuadrado.
The 25-year old has played with the confidence and maturity that his unique style deserves. His pace, trickery and eye for goal has seen him tear many an Italian defence apart, and these displays haven’t gone unnoticed around Europe, with several clubs reportedly jostling for the South American’s services. Arsenal have also been mentioned on a number of occasions this year, and a move for the winger would be sensible, to say the least.
The Gunners’ over-reliance on Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey for pace and mobility this season has ultimately cost them a real shot at the title. Considering the fact that no one has taken a strong grip of the domestic prize, with less than two weeks to the conclusion of the league season, it’s once again a case of “what might have been” for the FA Cup finalists – an all too familiar phrase for Gunners when analyzing the team’s premier league campaign.
Despite giving fans some moments of real quality from quick combinations between players, Arsenal have seemed too predictable this season, especially when the aforementioned British duo have been absent.
In away games at West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City, as well as home ties against Manchester United and Swansea City, Arsenal lacked options of outlets, with midfielders keeping the ball assuredly but without any concrete options to lay key passes to, in and around the 18-yard box. At times we played the dangerous game of fielding five midfielders and Olivier Giroud, relying solely on the perfection of one-touch passing to secure the desired result(s). It seldom worked out. It could indeed be argued that the need for movement and penetration has never been this paramount in Arsene Wenger’s reign at the helm.
This makes a move for Cuadrado ideal, due to his superb movement of the ball and an excellent awareness of space. These qualities would ensure we keep the very essence of our game, even in the absence of Walcott, Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Movement/Penetration – Arsenal have lacked it in absence of Theo and Ramsey
Arsenal in need of skill
Aside requiring the services of an attacker with brilliant movement on and off the ball, the Gunners also need a forward who defines games with a change of pace/skill and skins his man at will, thereby creating more possibilities.
Teams who lay much emphasis on a possession based approach have got to possess players who bail the team out in tight situations, commit players and equally leave them for dead. We’ve had players who executed this skill, a few times in impeccable fashion. Perhaps you can cast your minds back to the 2-1 win over Fulham in December 2010 when Samir Nasri’s sumptuous brace secured all three points, or the Frenchman’s amazing run that ended with a ruthless finish against Porto in the 2008/2009 Champions League.
Almost every top team boasts of one. A player who takes the bull by the horns, especially when the team is crying out for inspiration to rescue faltering aspirations. Someone who the opposition can’t handle in and outside the box. We need ours to take us to the next level.
Cuadrado certainly fits the bill and he’s more than capable of bringing back edge of the seat stuff to the Emirates. For his second in the brace against Bologna last weekend, his sublime change of pace from a standstill position enabled him skip past his man, before dashing to the edge of the box to unleash an unstoppable drive past the Bologna shot stopper, Gianluca Curci. A moment of genius from the dreadlocks man.
Cuadrado can be Arsenal’s unstoppable weapon in the final third
Injuries to Fiorentina forwards, Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez have limited the Viola’s options in the attacking third. This has proven to be a blessing in disguise however, as this has forced coach Vincenzo Montella to move Cuadrado to a more advanced attacking role, more precisely, on the left hand side of attack. The Colombian has flourished there, enjoying his most productive numbers for the season. In ten appearances, he’s found the net on six occasions, assisting thrice, with a whoscored rating of 8.29. Exactly the sort of stats you want from your danger man.
When Arsene Wenger signed Roma attacker Gervinho from Lille in 2011, the Frenchman expected big things from the Ivorian. Quick, skillful and dangerous in front of goal, it seemed like we had found our “x factor”. Gervinho was on the back of an impressive season with the Ligue 1 champions alongside Eden Hazard and spoke of his desire to move to the next level with Arsenal.
However, poor decision making – which began right from the former Lille Star’s debut at Newcastle – marred his two year stint with the Gunners, despite possessing interesting raw abilities. He most times did everything right till the decisive point where a better finish or final ball needed to suffice.
Like Gervinho, Cuadrado’s rare dribbling skills and close control affords him the opportunity to breeze past players, while the Colombian further possesses a better final ball and is undoubtedly more composed than the ex-Arsenal forward. His ability to provide that final pass even in full speed completely blows the Ivorian’s intelligence out of the water and could give us what Eden Hazard might have showcased here, had he chosen the club suited to his artistic style.
Gervinho lacked composure at Arsenal
Tactically sound, versatile
Cuadrado versatility has come to the fore this season, with the Colombian used in no less than five different roles. Aside being deployed at right wing back and forward left, his stints at central and attacking midfield, as well as in centre-forward has aided has helped him provide options for teammates. He’s enjoyed much joy on the left side of attack because the position affords him the chance to cut in and get into dangerous positions, using his brilliant first touch and impressive shooting ability to his team’s advantage.
Some may think that would mean Lukas Podolski drops further down the pecking order but that won’t be the case if we were to sign the Colombian. In fact the clinical German would benefit immensely from Cuadrado especially when the Colombian plays in a more central role. Most of Podolski’s goals have come centrally due to his willingness to get into scoring positions. When Cuadrado dashes to the left, Podolski’s intelligence and thirst for goals will take him to occupy the space in the box. They’d develop a fabulous understanding, reminiscent to the Henry – Pires partnership.
Competition for his signature favours us in all sincerity. Those who have been linked with the Colombian include Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Now the Catalan, despite having one of the world’s best dribblers in Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez and Neymar, are understandably going to be focusing on shoring up their rear guard, not least because they’ll be losing Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes this summer.
The man Arsenal need to bring to the Emirates Stadium this summer
Bayern Munich on the other hand are blessed with immaculate dribblers in the team and would be looking for a younger version to introduce into the frame perhaps to ease out Franck Ribery. And that doesn’t exactly sound right.
For Manchester United, the fact that they’ve got to accommodate two world class strikers and fit in January purchase Juan Mata makes a case for signing Cuadrado look quite puzzling. Add to that the fact that they’ll be having a new manager who would certainly have his own short list of players he’ll be looking to bring in.
In the case of money bags Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid, they’ve got similar players in Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Angel di Maria…an almost endless list. Would they really be looking to invest in someone with similar qualities?
Finally, we should once again use our Champions League football right to lure a potential signing, especially considering Fiorentina won’t be participating in that competition despite having a season as good as the previous campaign. But we’ll need to act fast and ensure we do any deal before the start of the Mundial in June. Tell you what, I won’t be bothered if he’s our only summer signing. Yes, the prejudice is telling.
The Italians have proven to be hard bargainers, as shown in what was deemed acceptable to price Stevan Jovetic away last summer, but I strongly believe a fee around £25m – which is by no means a rip off – would be enough to convince Vincenzo Montella’s side to sell. They replace players extremely well anyway.
So let’s take what could be a final step into completing the construction of this consistently improving Arsenal side we all love and have a crack at every stubborn defence next season.