Sunday 24 February 2019

Gunners land Barca's heir to Iniesta as Suarez reunites with Emery

Denis Suarez. Photo: Reuters
Denis Suarez. Photo: Reuters

Sam Dean

It is a reflection of the technical quality of Denis Suarez, Arsenal's new creative midfielder, that he was once name-checked by the great Andres Iniesta as one of the Spanish legend's potential heirs at Barcelona.

That was last summer, when Iniesta was calling time on his Barcelona career, and it raised expectations that this could be the season when Suarez finally showed his class on a consistent basis at the Camp Nou.

The fact that Suarez has now left Barcelona, signing for Arsenal on a loan deal yesterday, shows that those high expectations have not yet been met.

But the doubts held by Ernesto Valverde, the Barcelona manager, are clearly not shared by Arsenal head coach Unai Emery, who sees Suarez as a versatile midfield option who can provide his side with some much-needed width and creativity.

Despite the lack of a big-money fee, Suarez represents one of the more exciting signings of this quiet January transfer window.

With both Barcelona and the Spanish national team on his CV, he brings pedigree and a promise of class to the Emirates, where he will hope to kick-start a career that has stagnated in recent months.

Prospect

At 25, Suarez should be coming into his prime as a player. Instead, he has spent much of this season as a reserve, still seen as a prospect for the future after promising seasons at Sevilla - where he played under Emery - and Villarreal.

He had made only eight appearances for Barcelona this campaign, with just two of those coming in the league.

The comparisons with Iniesta have lingered, though, and Suarez did nothing to shut them down upon his unveiling yesterday.

"I am a midfielder and my best quality is my final ball," he said.

"The person I look up to most in the world of football is Andres Iniesta. He has always been my idol."

Emery has made it clear in recent weeks that he sees Suarez as a winger, who can operate on either flank.

It was in this wide position that he impressed under Emery at Sevilla in the 2014-15 season, earning a move to Villarreal for a year, before he was bought for the second time by Barcelona.

Arsenal have been short of width this season, with the inconsistent Alex Iwobi providing the only option since the long-term injury loss of Danny Welbeck, so there is a sense now that a gap has been plugged.

Suarez's arrival allows for more tactical flexibility for Emery, a head coach who has repeatedly shown himself capable of tweaking his formations with immediate effect.

"He brings us quality and options in many different attacking positions," said Emery, who was no doubt encouraged by Suarez's desperation to come to north London.

Indeed, the prospect of working with Emery again proved so attractive to Suarez that he rejected Barcelona's attempts to sell him permanently to another La Liga side.

"I have been pushing hard to come here," Suarez said.

"I have a good relationship with him (Emery). I think he is one of the best coaches in the world right now."

Suarez will hope to be in contention to make his debut against Manchester City, his former club, on Sunday.

He joined City as a 17-year-old in 2011, leaving Celta Vigo, but left two years later for the Camp Nou without making an appearance in the Premier League.

It was under Emery at Sevilla, and then at Villarreal, that Suarez's career burst into life.

Since then, though, his career has been defined by unfulfilled promise and inconsistency.

This reunion with Emery provides him with a fresh start and opportunity to display a technical ability that once made him one of the exciting forwards in Spain.

With Suarez coming in, Arsenal's highly-rated attacker Emile Smith Rowe has been allowed to join German side RB Leipzig on loan.

Leipzig do not have an option to buy the 18-year-old, who is seen as integral to Arsenal's long-term future.

Arsenal had also pursued a loan deal for Paris St-Germain midfielder Christopher Nkunku, but the two clubs could not reach a financial agreement before the close of the window last night.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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