Arsenal’s revolution under Unai Emery could continue in January as they consider triggering Ever Banega’s release clause.
Gunners boss Emery had already made an impressive start to life at the Emirates, putting together a 22 match unbeaten run across all competitions which stretched from the end of August to mid-December
The next stage of the overhaul is likely to include some more new signings to go alongside Bernd Leno, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
And a new central midfielder is high on the agenda with Aaron Ramsey leaving on a free transfer and Mesut Ozil likely to be moved on in one way or another.
So it’s unsurprising Sevilla ace Banega is on Emery’s wishlist.
The Spanish boss has twice had the Argentine under his tutelage, first at Valencia (2008-2012) and he signed him at Sevilla (2014-2016), with Banega admitting Emery being at the club helped secure the deal.
In 2015, the midfielder celebrated winning the Europa League – Sevilla’s second in two seasons – by hailing Emery’s affect on both the club and his own performances.
Banega was named Man of the Match in the 3-2 victory over Dnipro in Warsaw and told UEFA.com: “We have a great coach and he is getting the very best out of us – we don’t relax whether we are on the pitch or on the bench. We have really healthy competition for places here.
“[Emery] supported me, pushed me and helped me develop. Winning this final and going straight into the Champions League – what more can you ask for?”
A cool £18million will end Banega’s second spell at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, but how has he been performing so far this season in LaLiga and how does he compare to Arsenal’s current crop of midfielders?
talkSPORT.com takes a look.
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Already this campaign Banega has played in a midfield trio when Sevilla played a back-three, and also a midfield two with a back-three behind them, which will be a huge bonus should Emery continue with his use of similar formations.
His role in the different combinations varies depending on the opponent with the 30-year-old proving his adaptability by featuring more towards the left against Deportivo Alaves in a 1-1 draw, while in a 2-1 victory over Espanyol in November he was over towards the right-hand side for most of the match, where he registered four key passes.
One key element to Emery’s interest in his former charge will be his tenacity, which certainly fits the bill given the Spaniard signed Torreira and Guendouzi.
Ever Banega’s defensive statistics compared to Arsenal midfielders.[/caption]
As shown above, Banega would certainly add some extra bite in midfield as the Gunners attempt to battle for a spot in the top four and he’ll be in good company given the abilities of those who surround him.
He’s naturally a grafter, which helps complement his ball-playing abilities which are far superior to his possible new team-mates.
Ever Banega’s passing statistics compared to Arsenal midfielders.[/caption]
Banega’s average ball length is a lot higher than most of his potential team-mates, which could come in handy as Emery’s side like to break with pace and switch the play to pull defences apart.
A tendency to pass backwards may be of concern, but it should be noted that when he’s in the final third Banega is far more positive than Arsenal’s current crop, as shown below.
Banega’s experience at 30 and his previous relationship with Emery are two of the likely reasons behind his rumoured transfer, but it’s easy to see why the player is being linked in terms of his acumen, his style, and his form.
The addition of his dribbling ability and his strength on the ball isn’t dissimilar to that of Tottenham midfielder Mousa Dembele, who is famed for his skill in progressing the ball and shifting possession accurately.
With Ramsey set to be dumped unceremoniously, Banega should be considered a replacement and not a marquee signing.
His role will also be either as a No.8 or a 10 (where Emery has used him previously) and if used correctly he could provide plenty more ammunition for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – as well as giving an extra threat at set-pieces.
But can he fire Arsenal back into the top four?
It will be a tough ask but he’s got the grit, determination and faith in his former boss, which gives him a fighting chance.