By Edward Stratmann
With Unai Emery keen to reinforce Arsenal's squad in the January transfer window, the capture of Denis Suarez from Barcelona is a shrewd piece of business.
Versatile, technical and intelligent, the Spaniard will give Emery plenty of tactical flexibility as to how best deploy him, for he's capable of playing in a multitude of positions and roles across the midfield and attacking lines. Adaptable to being stationed wide and centrally, the Spaniard will be a great asset for the Arsenal head coach to have at his disposal.
Proficient at controlling games from central midfield or using his creativity and nous further upfield, his multifaceted skillset will certainly make him a valuable option for Emery, who knows all about his attributes from their time working together at Sevilla. A superb technician, the Spaniard thrives with the ball at his feet, which should see him complement Arsenal's already impressive band of offensively-geared players.
To start with his passing, the midfielder can connect, construct and create with his aptitude in this regard. Particularly excelling in his short passing, he's vital in terms of unbalancing opposition structures with his fast combination play in close quarters that effectively cause confusion amongst defenders and manipulate their organisation.
Suarez is also competent when hitting more expansive line-breaking deliveries to bypass lines of pressure, where he weights his passes beautifully to pierce his opponents while still being at a speed that his intended recipient can control.
Further little details he gets spot on comes from how he uses his eyes to disguise his passes, hits pinpoint diagonal passes that can force opposition blocks to move vertically and laterally and that he usually passes to his target's preferred foot to enhance the quality of their action. Importantly, however, if a progressive option isn't available he won't force the issue and hit an unnecessarily risky ball, as he'll play a safer pass for ball-retention purposes or look to change the angle of attack. Suarez's calculated distribution makes him a quality organiser, orchestrator and all-round contributor.
Meanwhile, his immaculate first touch, Velcro-like control and neat array of shimmies, shoulder drops and feints ensure he's a challenge to dispossess. Always performing scans of his surroundings enables him to adjust his body shape prior to inheriting the ball so he knows whether to sharply turn in one motion, protect the ball or play a one-touch pass.
A nifty dribbler, who's very comfortable on the ball and uses swift changes of pace and direction effectively in 1v1 duels, his capacity here means he can either go past his man or lure out one or more pressers to generate a free man or open passing lanes.
Possessing excellent balance, a low centre of gravity and lower body strength, he's deceptively strong and harder to push off the ball than would be expected, something that should hold him in good stead in the Premier League.
Complementing this with his smart movement, the former Manchester City man is always awake to any gaps in the opposition block that can be exploited. Timing his movements shrewdly, he works cohesively to destabilise backlines through rotations, opposite movements and by spacing himself well to supply his teammates with an option.
An example of this comes through how he'll rotate with a winger or full back if he's playing in midfield to cause a decisional crisis on who should mark who. Another one is when he notices a forward or winger dropping deep towards the ball, which typically drags their man with them. Suarez will then burst forward and take advantage of the opening to surge in behind and maintain depth.
Knowing when to shift towards the flank or position himself centrally, he drifts into certain zones to create positional and numerical superiority, to help bypass his opponents' structure more easily.
Moreover, picking his moments when to push up and provide third-man runs, receive between the lines or surge in behind, he's so intelligent at doing so while being unmarked, regularly catching his marker out ball watching to gain separation.
It's always a positive to observe how he'll receive possession in advantageous forward facing body positions too, so he can control the ball and keep his momentum going forward as opposed to receiving the ball with his back to goal.
His positional acuity also means he manages to create space for others by drawing and pinning his marker away from potentially usable space. The most prominent cases of this come when he pins his man by running forwards to give a centre back or midfielder extra room to run into, plus when he moves laterally towards the wing to open central passing lanes.
Being so well versed in the art of pressing from his time at Barcelona, he should have little trouble adapting to Emery's demands in this compartment. Awake to various pressing triggers like when an opponent receives with his back to goal, he will duly pounce when a cue arises.
Upon delving into his statistics over the last four seasons, these illustrate his two-way output, for he's averaged 4.39 dribbles per game, 1.22 key passes pg, 1.62 shot assists pg, 2.71 touches inside the box pg, 1.92 progressive runs pg, completed 4.7 passes into the final third at a 75.8 per cent rate, plus made 3.04 interceptions pg, 1.6 tackles pg and has a solid 65 per cent pressing efficiency.
One of his former Barcelona managers, Luis Enrique, gave a fascinating insight into Suarez back in 2017, whose attitude and talent led to comparison him to Barca legend Andres Iniesta. "He has to improve [to get to Iniesta's level], but Iniesta is Harry Potter, he makes magic, and it's difficult to find another," he said. "But Denis is on the right path and I hope he can be it. He takes great care of the ball but also works hard off it, which some players forget about. You have the ball for a minute or a minute and a half in the game, so if you don't do well without it, you have no chance at this level. Denis understands that and he's well loved by his teammates."
All things considered, the signing of Suarez gives Arsenal a player that has experience, should have little issue functioning within Emery's framework and gives the team essential depth.
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