Why Arsenal will regret missing out on Fabinho last summer
The Metro understands that Fabinho, who had been plying his trade with Monaco at that time, was rated very highly by Emery during his managerial stint at the French capital and the Spaniard was open to the idea of bringing him to Arsenal last summer.
Emery was then persuaded by the board to complete a £26 million move for combative Uruguayan ace Lucas Torreira, who came through the door in North London from Sampdoria, while Matteo Guendouzi was also brought in as a completely unknown entity from French second-tier outfit FC Lorient.
To be honest, Arsenal recovered pretty well from that setback in the transfer window and went on to have a successful campaign the last term, making it to the finals of the Europa League and securing a 5th-place finish in the Premier League.
Torreira earned plenty of plaudits for his industrious and tough-tackling displays in the middle of the park while Gundouzi, who showed tremendous potential in his first season in English football, was hailed as the best bargain in the 2018 summer window.
However, things have changed this season and the club hierarchy has been left to rue the failure of landing the signature of Fabinho last summer, with Torreira suffering a drastic fall in grace.
The Uruguayan drew comparisons with N’Golo Kante during his first season in North London but those who deemed him to be at par with the Frenchman have been left embarrassed.
Torreira has slipped down the pecking order at Arsenal following a significant dip in his performances and has hardly played a significant role in the playing eleven this term.
Guendouzi has kicked on from where he had left lat season, making a wonderful start to the ongoing campaign and saving Arsenal’s blushes on a number of occasions with his consistent run of form.
However, the same cannot be said of Granit Xhaka, who has come under scrutiny repeatedly for his lacklustre displays at the base of the midfield, and that is one of the main reasons why Arsenal’s failed pursuit of Fabinho last summer looks all the more galling.
The Swiss international has done a good job when it comes to moving the ball around in the middle of the park, as evident from his pass success rate of 87 this season, but the 27-year-old has failed miserably in terms of putting the team on the front foot with his distribution, whilst also leaving a lot to desire with his ineptness in shielding the backline effectively.
It is largely down to Xhaka’s failures that Arsenal have been able to control possession without any sort of progressive influence and it is imperative to say that the former Bundesliga star has played a negative role by slowing things down with his knack for playing passes backwards and sideways.
Those deficiencies were masked to a large extent by the presence of an influential all-round midfielder like Aaron Ramsey last season but with the Welshman now out of the picture, the Gunners made been made to pay a heavy price for Xhaka’s uninspired and one-dimensional performances in deep midfield.
Besides faling to provide any kind of a goal threat from the midfield, Xhaka has hardly done anything, either offensively or defensively, to justify his selection week in, week out, although it has to be said that Emery doesn’t really have the luxury of quality alternatives.
On the contrary, Fabinho has established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League after a slow start to life at Anfield, leaving Arsenal red-faced with their failed bid for him last summer.
The Brazilian international was tipped for failure on English soil when he struggled to make much of an impact in the first few months but he has progressed by leaps and bounds over the last one year, largely benefitting from Jurgen Klopp’s proficiency in handling new recruits and gradually easing them into the first-team fold.
Fabinho has gone on to establish himself as one of the first names on Klopp’s teamsheet and after playing a key role in Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in the previous campaign, the 25-year-old has continued his impressive run of form this term as well.
He hasn’t scored too many goals, which is largely a result of Liverpool’s heavy reliance on the likes of Salah, Mane and Firmino up top, but Fabinho has definitely caught the eye with his robustness, tactical nous, proficiency in shielding the backline, as well as his intelligent progressive distribution to act as that vital link between the midfield and the forward line.
Suffice to say, Fabinho is currently an indispensable component of Liverpool’s midfield and the unheralded genius to the flawless functioning of Klopp’s 4-3-3 system that has constantly destroyed the opposition in the Premier League over the past twelve months.
Hence, it doesn’t take a professional analyst to figure out that his superior all-round game puts him head and shoulders above someone like Xhaka, who has badly struggled to make any kind of a positive impact for the Gunners.
Arsenal’s latest 1-0 defeat against Sheffield United further epitomized the need to bring in an upgrade on Xhaka at the base of the midfield, as the Gunners were completely taken aback by a well-oiled, resilient and industrious opposition.
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To that end, having someone like Fabinho in the ranks would definitely have made a massive difference and it is a no-brainer that the Gunners missed a trick in the market by failing to acquire the services of the Brazilian last summer.