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According to reports in German publication Kicker, Arsenal are readying a €25million bid for Wolfsburg’s Swiss left back Ricardo Rodríguez. This could be an indication that Kieran Gibbs’s days at the club are numbered, with Rodríguez likely to compete with Nacho Monreal for a place in the starting eleven. Indeed, with Monreal now 30 years old and Rodríguez only 23, the Swiss may sense an opportunity to position himself as next in line for the role. It also seems possible that having both Monreal and Rodríguez would give Arsène Wenger increased tactical flexibility with the latter offering attacking threat and the former defensive stability.
As Arsenal look to build on Xhaka’s signing and further strengthen the squad, they will once again be one of the favourites to win the Premier League title next season and if you’re interested in backing the Gunners you can use this promo code to do so. However, it will take more than just 1-2 signings which is why Rodriguez is a good second step but not the final one.
After an uncertain first season at the Gunners, Monreal has had two excellent seasons at left back. When we compare his performance to that of Tottenham’s Danny Rose, who was awarded a place in the PFA Team of the Year, we can see his quality. Rose is able to make more tackles than Monreal, averaging 2.8 per game to the latter’s 2.2. However, the Spurs full back made only 1.6 interceptions per game, while Monreal averaged 3. Interceptions can provide a good clue to a player’s ability to read the game, while tackles indicate both technical and physical strength. While Rose excels at the latter, Monreal’s intelligence has often been at the heart of his good performances.
It is in attack, however, that Rose offers more than Monreal, completing both dribbles and key passes more regularly. In part, this is due to tactical differences. Arsenal’s attacks are heavily reliant on Mesut Özil’s passing, while many of Tottenham’s attacks are successful because of the ability of Rose and Kyle Walker to provide an overlapping option on the wings. At the same time, it is also due to Monreal’s attacking limitations, as Héctor Bellerín regularly dribbles down the right side.
This is where Rodríguez could offer Arsenal a different option. In the season which has just ended, Wolfsburg could only finish 8th. Here, I will use Rodríguez’s statistics from 2014/15, when they finished 2nd, with the belief that 2015/16 was a poor one for the team in general, and not a reflection of his individual ability. This is in the same way that we would not judge Eden Hazard, for example, on his performances in 2015/16.
In 2014/15, then, Rodríguez finished with 6 goals and 4 assists. He made 1.5 tackles per game, and 2.3 interceptions – less than both Monreal and Rose in terms of tackles, and less than Monreal in terms of interceptions. In attack however, he was playing over 2 key passes per game and completing 1.4 dribbles. To put this in context, Dani Alves, during the treble winning season at Barcelona in 2010/11, was completing 1.9 key passes a game and 1.5 dribbles. And that was as part of the Barcelona team that was, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, the best team Manchester United faced under his management.
With Wolfsburg not qualified for the Champions League and Rodríguez with a release clause of €25million, it is easy to see why a move makes sense for the player and for Arsenal. It seems feasible that next season we could see Rodríguez’s attacking threat when Arsenal are attempting to break a team down, but Monreal’s defensive intelligence when up against tricky opposition wingers.
All statistics from Whoscored.com.
Article by Toby Lorber @tlorba