07 January 2014

Sizing up Álvaro Morata for a loan-deal

For as much as we'll miss Theo over the course of the season, his absence may hurt us far less than would a long-term Giroud absence. After all, behind Theo, nipping at his heels in many ways, is Serge Gnabry, who has turned in a number of strong stints so far this season; behind Serge is the Ox, who has impressed in previous years and is due back from injury perhaps in time to make an appearance against Fulham on the 18th. Should they struggle or falter, we have other options as well—Özil can play on the right, for example, as can Ramsey or Wilshere in a pinch.

Instead of letting the shock of Theo's injury skew priorities, then, I hope Arsène and the rest set as their highest priority the signing of a center-forward who can relieve Giroud from time to time. Not that I oppose the pursuit of Draxler or Reus, but our best bet in the short-term appears to be a loan-deal for Real Madrid's Álvaro Morata. At 21, he's young, but his lack of playing time has apparently become a concern, not just for him but for the managers, who would like to see him get more playing time. To date, he's had to content himself with late-game cameos rarely lasting more than 15-18 minutes. Given his potential, then, a short-term loan might just make enough sense to Real Madrid as to encourage them to let it happen. Other clubs linked to a move for Morata, such as Tottenham, are likely looking for something in the longer term, but given Morata's youth, his status as a home-grown talent, and the waning stature of Karim Benzema, an out-and-out transfer strikes me as highly unlikely. Given the stick that Florentino Perez took for selling us Özil, he might be that much more cautious about letting another popular player leave permanently.

So who is he? He's 6'2" (1.9m) and strong in the air, but he doesn't seem to fit the mold of the big but ponderous forward. He's been described as quick on his feet, not that he'd make anyone forget Theo, but Morata's combination of size and pace is rare to merit a mention. He can play well with his back to goal, contributing to the build-up and letting teammates flow around him. To along with those attributes, he's a strong finisher. Despite only amassing 213 minutes of first-team action, and getting it in chunks of 12 minutes here, eight minutes there, he's managed to score twice, but it's really with the u21's that he's shone, netting eight times in just six starts.

Given how unlikely and expensive the signings of such players as Diego Costa or Jackson Martinez might be, a Morata makes a quite a lot of sense. He's cup-tied, unfortunately, having played a grand total of 29 minutes in two group-stage matches, but, given our relatively soft January schedule (at Aston Villa, home matches with Fulham and Coventry, a tougher trip to Southampton) bringing him soon could give him a chance to bed in before we might need him to face the much-sterner February/March gauntlet.

For what it's worth, a £10 bet on Morata coming to Arsenal wins you a measly £20 from betvictor, far less than the £90 you might win should Morata end up at Tottenham, his next-most likely destination. Put in other terms, the legitimate-businessmen's community sees a move to Arsenal as much more likely than a move anywhere else—more than four times more likely. It's been rumored that Arsène has made a £2million loan-fee to entice Real Madrid to make Morata available. Why not? It could be a win-win for both clubs, not to mention the player, as he'd get much more playing time (presumably) and can hone his skills without exposing Perez to further criticism, we'd get support for a position is currently bereft of players to fill it (sorry, Yaya and Park, but it's true). Make it happen, Arsène. Please?