Arsenal Transfer Analysis: Juan Mata
Juan Mata, 23, Valencia, Attacking Midfielder
News that Arsenal are talking to Valencia regarding the transfer of Spanish midfielder Juan Manuel Mata has given supporters fresh hope that a marquee summer signing is not beyond the financial constraints of our club. There are several factors in favour of the deal. For a start; the financial situation at Mestalla remains precarious. Secondly, he is currently earning just £30,000 a week so Arsenal are in a position to more than double those wages. The timing feels right in essence.
The club is in a summer of transition where it looks as though both Fàbregas and Nasri could leave – given certain prerequisite factors coming together – putting the club in a position where it will be under pressure to show it can be competitive. Finally, Arsenal are pursuing Mata against little competition. Chelsea want Modric, United chose Ashley Young, and Manchester City do not appear on the radar. There do not appear to be any noises from the Italian sides about him either; whilst Barcelona are prioritising Sànchez at Udinese. In addition, the Financial Fair Play regulations from UEFA are also not yet in effect either, so Wenger will feel more comfortable about releasing funds. I have noted the fact that Wenger said he intends this to be the last busy summer regarding signings new players for a while.
Mata is a brainy, talented, specialist attacking midfielder with the ability to make quick one-two’s, and the pace to outsprint defenders. He also has the prowess to finish fast passing moves that he starts 40 yards from goal. His movements are somewhere between the guile of Robert Pirès and the pace of Ashley Cole who have been Arsenal’s best left sided combination of the last 20 years. Most players are best suited to a solitary style of play, unlike Mata who can play in both styles. Some are best at playing counter attacking football (such as Wayne Rooney), whereby their pace and prowess in front of goal are best suited to that style. Rooney would be lost and frustrated in the present style employed by Wenger. Others, such as Fàbregas and Van Persie like to take touches of the ball and lack the explosive pace to play that way. They too would be unsuited to the Manchester United style in it’s present fashion, though not as much as Rooney would at Arsenal. Their continental game and love of touch football means they are less inclined to want to resort to winning football matches whereby the defining factor is the more natural athlete in a footrace. Wilshere and Mata are two players who can fit into both styles. Mata has the pace to break at speed, whilst also having the close technical control to break through 2 banks of 4 players when stubborn defensive teams come to our ground to maintain a draw.
Valencia utilise an attacking brand of quick pass-and-move football. The style of Arsenal is as similar as he would find outside of Spain. He is quick over 20 yards and able to drift inside and stay wide to allow the team to keep their shape, a crucial asset to the mobile style that Arsenal’s 2 attacking midfielders do on both flanks to confuse and stretch the opposition.
Last year he said ‘I admire Arsenal and the philosophy that the young players have.’ He would have seen Arsenal beat Barcelona at The Emirates and probably been as impressed, jusst as he would have been nonplussed by our defeat at the Nou Camp. The important thing is that as an intelligent young man with knowledge of European football as he is, he would appreciate the fact that Wilshere could play him through in front of goal; and the running beyond defenders of Walcott could leave space for him to embarrass and confuse fullbacks and defensive midfielders.
Juan Mata is entering his peak as a footballer. The next 5 years or so will be the time he will have the best of his physical abilities and the experience to make the most of them. Will he be satisfied to spend his best years at a club that are not level with England’s strongest? Is it a progression to leave a nearly team in Spain for a nearly team in England? Yes it may be more lucrative, but whether it will give him a chance to win the medals he could elsewhere is another question. It will depend on the motivation to sell from Valencia, Mata’s personality and will to leave, whilst the financial package on the table from Arsenal to the player himself will also be key.
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