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Denis Suarez & Arsenal: Why he can be Emery's best ever compromise

COMMENT: Blocked. Ignored. Sold short. Unai Emery and Arsenal's front office. On first flush, it does appear the manager is being forced into a compromise by the club's transfer fixers.

Ever Banega versus Denis Suarez. The spiky Sevilla attacker versus the sometimes Barcelona substitute. The here and now versus what could be. On the face of it, for this column, the choice would be easy: You go with the Argie.

Banega is a player who knows Emery. Who has won things with him. And at 30, is one you could parachute into this Arsenal team and he'd make a difference. Energetic. Even nasty. He's your typical Emery player. Is it any wonder the manager lobbied directors Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi about bringing the playmaker to London last summer?

Arsenal did make an attempt during the first week of the World Cup, but the word from Banega's camp wasn't exactly enthusiastic. Emery has since stayed in touch, however any thoughts of trying again were shot down by the higher ups before Christmas.

At 30 - and for the price Sevilla were quoting - those with the keys to the biscuit tin felt their money could be better spent elsewhere. Hence the compromise: Suarez. A name first raised by Sanllehi - and one familiar to Emery.

The Basque was still convinced about Banega. But eventually was talked around. Like the Argentine, Emery knows Suarez. The pair were together as Sevilla won the Europa League in 2015. And he is five years Banega's junior.

But unlike the Sevilla man, Suarez has struggled for minutes this season. The prospects of a positive, instant impact are slim. And he also isn't the ideal midfield option Emery is seeking this month. The Arsenal manager wants a winger - with pace. But Suarez is no Gerard Deulofeu or Adam Traore - now with Watford and Wolves respectively. When the trio were together, coming through the La Masia academy, Suarez was seen as a ball carrying midfielder. A player groomed by management with an eye on succeeding Andres Iniesta.

But he can play wide, as Emery stated when dropping Suarez's name last week: "At left or right wing, perhaps one player can help us in this position. We will only sign players who give us quality.

"He was playing as a left or right winger for Sevilla when he was with me."

It wasn't so much you could sense resignation in Emery's words, just that he knows there's a lot of work needed to get Suarez to where he wants him to be. But he also knows - unlike Banega - Suarez wants to play for Arsenal. He wants to play for Emery. And he's told Barca it's the Gunners or bust with negotiations now well underway.

A first Arsenal offer of a six-month loan with a €25m permanent option has been rejected. Barca are pushing for a straight sale - at €20m. For his part, Suarez has had his minders inform Arsenal he would prefer to cut ties with Barca immediately - but a loan arrangement isn't a deal breaker.

The two clubs, with former Barca powerbroker Sanllehi at the forefront, remain in negotiations today.

Of course, just over a year ago Sanllehi was still with Barca as football director. And at the same time, Suarez was being talked up as the natural heir to Iniesta, now of Vissel Kobe in Japan. "He is the ideal replacement for Iniesta," one front office source stated at the time.

Spain coach and former Barca boss Luis Enrique went further.

"He could be, why not?" replied Enrique to a question about Suarez matching Iniesta. "He is in the line of power to get closer to Andrés and I hope he gets there.

"(But) Iniesta is Harry Potter and it is difficult to find another like that."

This is how highly they thought of Suarez at La Masia - and still do. But the club's big spending transfer policy, coupled with coach Ernesto Valverde's demands from his central midfielders, has seen Suarez sidelined.

Now 25, Suarez is at a crossroads. But that ability which had him likened to Iniesta just a year ago is still there. He's not Emery's first choice - but Arsenal is his.

And if Emery can get him playing as he did at Sevilla, then Denis Suarez could be the best compromise this manager has made.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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