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Arsenal should be prioritising Bruno Guimaraes Signing this Month

By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)

Arsenal are currently in something of an immediate midfield crisis. Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are in Cameroon ahead of AFCON, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is currently on his way to Rome to complete a loan move to Jose Mourinho's latest entity. This leaves Mikel Arteta with just Granit Xhaka and Sambi Lokonga as senior options in this area, with the former suspected to have either an injury or illness issue that we haven't yet been made aware of, due to his lack of involvement in training in the last few days.

Thus, Arsenal should certainly be on the lookout for a new midfielder in this window. Although AFCON will be over within a month's time, this month could be hugely impactful in our fight to finish in the top four, with a pivotal North London Derby and then Burnley at the Emirates on the horizon. Heading into these games with potentially just Lokonga, 18-year-old Charlie Patino and makeshift options in Martin Odegaard and Ben White is highly risky. Even if Xhaka is deemed healthy, we still look very lightweight in this position.

Even looking beyond just the next four weeks, Arsenal should be in the hunt for a new number eight for the long-term. Everyone can acknowledge Xhaka's importance to the Arsenal system, but everyone can also identify his flaws and the notion that for this side to progress to its next stage in its development, it needs to move past the Swiss international. Acquiring this long-term replacement six months earlier than planned will not only aid our top four attempts this season, but also enable us to plan ahead for next season. All players need time to settle and acclimatise to a new club, so doing this as early as possible can only be a positive. Look at Martin Odegaard as a case study for this.

So, who should that man be? Well, the central midfielder most heavily linked to the club in the last six weeks has been Bruno Guimaraes, who we were coincidentally also heavily linked to in the Summer. He's also been my personal first choice for some time. This isn't going to be an in depth player profile piece, because our writer Jahid Islam produced exactly that when the rumours were circulating in the summer, but here is the data radar I concocted for him, for the 21/22 season thus far:

Yeah, pretty good. And now, in less visual form, is the data laid out bare to show just how superbly he profiles: (all via and all per 90)

- 86th percentile for expected assists.

- 84th percentile for pass completion percentage.

- 95th percentile for passes into the final third.

- 87th percentile for passes into the penalty area.

- 97th percentile for progressive passes.

- 99th percentile for through balls.

- 99th percentile for passes under pressure.

- 92nd percentile for shot-creating actions.

- 96th percentile for tackles.

- 86th percentile for pressures.

- 94th percentile for successful pressures.

- 83rd percentile for dribbles completed.

- 98th percentile for progressive carries.

- 96th percentile for carries into the final third.

- 88th percentile for carries into the penalty area.

- 97th percentile for fouls won.

I wouldn't normally just list the percentiles that players are in for key stats without any other analysis and in such a banal way, but I had to demonstrate just how good he is in every aspect. He's essentially an excellent ball progresser, both in passing and carrying, a good dribbler, creative, great at pressing, while also producing superb defensive output. His statistical profile resembles the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Thiago Alcantara, Fernandinho, N'Golo Kante and Marco Veratti.

This does of course have to be caveated by the league he is playing in. Although French football is improving, the level is still far off the Premier League, in terms of physical intensity, technical quality and the tactical level of the game. He's not going to arrive immediately in English football and replicate these numbers. He isn't as good as those aforementioned world class midfielders. However, having recently turned 24, there is plenty of room to develop, so the ceiling is ridiculous.

There is also of course the very reasonable idea that data doesn't tell you everything. It certainly doesn't, but it does give you an indication of what the player is good at. Dani Ceballos profiled excellently in the data, but the eye test in his second season at Arsenal told you something very different.

Luckily, in preparation for this article, I watched over an hour's worth of footage of Guimaraes. The data does depict a good demonstration of what he is and can do. Technically superb, brilliant at negotiating small spaces, exquisite expansive passing and very good defensive awareness. In fact, his defensive work is what stood out and was probably the most encouraging aspect of the footage.

There is a certain stereotypical expectation of Brazilian footballers to be very astute technically and produce flashy moments of individual brilliance on the ball. The more gritty side is often overlooked. In Guimaraes' case, his off the ball tenacity, intelligence in how to use his body to make defensive interventions against mobile attackers and ability to cover large parts of the pitch were very evident in the clips I saw of him. This was backed up in further reading I found by French football experts on him.

We're ultimately looking for a partner to Thomas Partey for the next 2-3 years and a long-term partner for the Ghanian's eventual successor, of whom we hope will be Lokonga. Someone who can bring a similar all-roundedness but perhaps is more mobile, will cover more ground and be more front-footed in the press. This is Guimaraes to a tee. Recent weeks have shown us that Partey's double pivot partner will be tasked with getting further forward and often occupying half spaces in the attacking third. The Rio born man is capable of replicating what Xhaka has done in this role, but also capable of being able to re-position himself in the defensive areas more quickly after these forward bursts. His deceptive athleticism and strength would perfectly suit the fast paced and physical Premier League and would further contribute to our growing athletic core.

There really is nothing to not like about Guimaraes. And it's very doable. Lyon are lingering in an underwhelming 13th place in Ligue 1 and are in danger of being nowhere near a European place. Surely the prospect of being an essential part of the exciting project that is unfolding at the Emirates, in a better league, at a bigger club and on more money, will be too hard to turn down? We also certainly have the financial resources to do it (Lyon supposedly are asking for £35 million) and there seemingly appears to be little competition for his signature at the present moment.

Do it this month, Edu.

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