02 December 2013

Could we see Álvaro Morata at the Emirates in January?

A report in the Daily Star suggests strongly that Real Madrid's 21-year old forward Álvaro Morata is set to be loaned to Arsenal in January. The transfer-window is still weeks away from being officially open, but our form has been so strong recently that we're being linked with all manner of players. I have a long-standing policy of ignoring
the trees for the forest, so to speak. That is, I care less about the likelihood of players actually joining the club than I do about the general direction of player-movement. In years past, of course, we've had to endure the angst of losing key players. This past summer is the first in recent memory in which we've seen that tide turn, so much so that we were able to unload dead wood and sign one of the world's most influential playmakers. As such, the transfer-tea leaves we're starting to read—Draxler, Costa, now Morata—suggest suggest that we're among the most-desirable clubs to play for (not that any of us ever doubted that, but you know how fickle others can be...).

So what of Morata? As is typical of such reports, the Daily Star quotes no one. We'll have to take this one with a few grains of salt, to put it mildly. As we look over the menu, then, let's see what all the fuss is about. A few particulars to whet our whistles:
  • Age: 21
  • Height: 187cm
  • Weight: 80kg
  • La Liga: two starts, seven sub-ins—two goals.
  • Champions League: two sub-ins (11' v. Copenhagen, 15' v. Juventus)—one assist
He's hardly set the world on fire, at least not with Real Madrid, but he's easily a fifth-choice option behind Ronaldo, Benzema, Khadira, Isco, and Di Maria, all of whom he's subbed on for at various points (most often for Benzema). He also has to compete with Jesé, a 20-year old who also plays forward. With all of this competition, it stands to reason that a mid-season loan would work for Morata as well as for Real Madrid. He wants more playing time on the pitch in order to develop, and Real Madrid could see how he handles the rigors of playing in a—ahem—more-challenging league.

More seriously, I look at this and think, "why not?" Another club is willing to pay us to give playing time to a promising young player? It's certainly an improvement on our own preference of paying clubs to babysit our ne'er-do-wells or ne'er-will-bes. After all, it seems that the ship has sailed on Bendtner and Park (whether they were ever seaworthy is still an open-question). We certainly need some kind of relief, maybe even competition for Giroud. True, Morata is cup-tied thanks to his 26 minutes of action in the Champions League, but he could still relieve some of the pressure that Giroud has handled so well. Rather than splashing cash on a higher profile but also cup-tied forward, Morata might offer a tidy short-term solution that doesn't hamstring us for the summer transfer-window, when we might look to sign someone truly top-flite instead of rummaging around in January for who might be available. Many of the names we've been linked to, after all, have hefty asterisks. Suarez? Expensive time-bomb. Lewandowski? Expensive, cup-tied, pining for a move to Bayern. Benzema? Again, pricey, and this time also lazy and sulky.

How well would Morata fit in? Does he offer a skill-set similar enough to Giroud's that he could slot in neatly, is he different enough to vary our attack, or is he a thrift-store option who offers a little of this and a little of that without filling the bill? Reports suggest that he's very good in the air and can play well with his back to goal, holding up the ball and contributing to the build-up. That's promising. It's also been said that he brings clinical finishing ability. All of this bodes very well for his future. Then again, he's a babe in the woods, a 21-year old with less than 10 full matches-worth of top-flight action, so it's hard to fully assess his productivity in the six months to come—changing clubs, changing leagues, changing languages, might be too much for him to absorb. 

With all of this in mind, I certainly don't oppose the idea. He's free. As long as he's not brought in as an actual solution, I say, why not?