Miguel Almirón was linked with a move to Arsenal last year, and the rumours have started circling again.
Last January, he moved from Lanus in Argentina to Atlanta United in MLS and has taken another step forward as a player. His team have burst onto the scene, with massive crowds and sit 3rd in their conference in their first season.
But what makes the 23-year-old Paraguayan from relatively unknown clubs (at least to most European sides) so special, and would he be a quality signing for Arsenal?
Almirón has flourished since moving to Atlanta and playing in former Argentina and Barcelona manager Tata Martino’s system.
Almirón has nine goals and eight assists for Atlanta this season in 29 appearances.
He has formed a deadly partnership with striker Josef Martinez, a pacey forward with very intelligent movement.
Playing as a central playmaker in a 4-3-3, Almirón has been given freedom to roam the field. He pops ups everywhere in the final third, and excels at playing the final pass to slice through a packed in defence.
Where Atlanta have been most deadly though, is on the counter attack.
Almirón has combined with lightning-quick forwards Tito Villalba and Martinez all season, ravaging all of MLS with efficient and quick counters.
Here is an assist that is a bit of both:
Geddaloada the commentary on this goal by Josef Martínez. 'No, no, no, no…it's not a goal…it's a golaaaazooooo' pic.twitter.com/WJvQcrnfMi
— Hispanospherical (@DarrenSpherical) March 18, 2017
The passion and work rate are both there. He would bring a spark to an Arsenal team that have been accused (rightly or wrongly) of appearing careless in recent seasons.
Over the last year, Arsenal have sometimes had two separate squads: players they used when they knew opposition would be packed in, and players they utilised when the match would be more of a back-and-forth affair.
Miguel Almirón is a deadly playmaker both on the counter and against packed defences, and would certainly be an asset to Arsenal.
Goals, goals, goals!
Early in the season, Almirón appeared to have the same problem many Arsenal attacking midfielders have had in the past: passing it when there was a clear opportunity to score themselves.
Martino urged him to shoot, and shoot he did.
Here is a screamer he scored in the snow in Minnesota:
— Jason Foster (@JogaBonitoUSA) March 12, 2017
Here is another strong strike from earlier this season:
— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) May 21, 2017
What team couldn’t use goals like that?
For an Arsenal team that has sometimes struggled to find goals from players not named Alexis Sanchez, Almirón would surely be a useful player.
An easy comparison in the current squad would be Mesut Özil.
His ability to freely roam about the pitch, attacking the defence from wherever he can find a weakness is what sticks out.
Their unique vision and ability to think three steps ahead of the rest make them excellent attacking midfielders.
With the German possibly (and maybe likely) on his way out the door, Almirón would directly replace what Arsenal are losing.
He is not quite on the level of Özil, but at only 23 years of age, it is not crazy to suggest that he will be, and possibly quite soon.
Almirón does come with a few concerns, however.
The first knock against him is the level of competition he has faced. Argentina does not have the strongest league. And while MLS has improved drastically over the last five years, it is not exactly the Champions League. But he has played with Paraguay against the big guns of CONMEBOL and not looked out of his depth whatsoever.
Would he really be an Arsenal target without some injury concerns?
This season, he pulled a hamstring and missed several games, during which Atlanta went 1-1-1; a major cool-down from their scorching hot form before the injury.
A hamstring pull is worrying, but at least it is not Jack Wilshere’s ankles or Abou Diaby’s knees.
Hopefully, this is a one-off and not a chronic issue.
Likelihood of a move to North London
Almirón is clearly a player that would fit in well at Arsenal, but would the player actually want to come?
No player in their right mind would turn down a move from a top 10 club in the world, but it would have to come with the right situation.
Almirón is not going to play in MLS forever. In his first season, he is perhaps the best player in the league.
A European move in the near future is certainly on the cards. But the Paraguayan can probably wait until the right situation develops.
He is being called in and used regularly with Paraguay, he is the number 10 for a world class manager, playing in front of 50,000-70,000 fans every week. And, to top it off, he makes around 35k pounds/week (in US Dollars)—Arsenal can easily pay more, but it is not like he is dying to get a payday.
The club/league (all MLS clubs are centrally owned) will certainly not want to sell unless a high asking price is met. Plus, the Atlanta United team president is Darren Eales, former Director of Football Administration at Spurs.
He is still strongly linked with them as well, as Atlanta took one of their youngsters on loan for the season. He will likely be averse to selling to Arsenal, further driving up Almirón’s asking price.
If Özil agrees to move somewhere else in January, a move for Almirón could materialise. That way, he is much more likely to get immediate playing time, and Atlanta would not have to sell their best player mid-season (MLS runs March-October).
He would be a terrific like-for-like replacement for the German playmaker, if Arsenal can make it happen.
Stats courtesy of FotMob and WhoScored