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Could Renato Sanches be the perfect central midfielder for Arteta's Arsenal?

By Jahid Islam

Hello readers of WLYABlog! My name’s Jahid and this week we’ll be looking at yet another midfield candidate on an already burgeoning list. Our feature this week is LOSC Lille’s very own Renato Sanches, who I believe has developed immensely over the last 2 seasons in the North of France. So much so that he seems to have become well suited to the supposed physicality of the Premier League.


If you’ve been reading my articles up to now, you’ll know how much I love fbref.com. They’re a great source for understanding a player’s profile and makes a good companion to watching actual footage of the player. They work well together, just like how Renato Sanches would excel in a midfield trio at Arsenal…


Firstly, Sanches’ passing metrics hold up well against other more established midfielders. With a Progressive pass rate of 6.80 per 90, Sanches ranks in the 92nd percentile. That kind of ambitiousness subsequently results in a relatively mediocre pass completion of 83.2%, but it’s indicative of a player with vision and an eye for a through ball. Passing accuracy can be honed in training, but attacking intelligence and vision can’t be. You either have it, or you don’t. And if I’m Aubameyang, I’d be getting pretty antsy in my Gucci pants just ogling at the stats and footage. That kind of supply line would do wonders for a predatory striker who feeds off of dangerous through balls. Sounds pretty ‘sweg’ to me.


Cross referencing Sanches’ passing stats with actual footage further emphasises the intensity which he brings to the Lille attack. It’s relentless. Always looking for a player in space, as well as maximising possession when necessary. In a side like Arteta’s Arsenal however, that ambition might be obstructed by the structured football we’ve all fallen asleep watching. Though I will say that bringing in a player like Renato would offer another creative outlet through the central channels, complementing Saka on the Right, and Tierney on the Left.

Sanches’ definitely been hitting the gym hard too. With a physicality to his game that has been steadily improving year after year, Sanches’ dribbling metrics have benefitted hugely as a consequence. Speaking as a Centre-Half, it’s rather difficult to tackle a player who’s built like a brick shithouse, yet is unbelievably agile. That’s how I blew out my MCL last year.


Anyways, a progressive carrying distance that ranks Sanches in the 94th percentile combined with 2.69 completed dribbles a game makes him a formidable attacking midfielder. Not in the deliciously delicate and deft style of Mesut Ozil. More like an unstoppable barge that bullies its way into the final third.


One essential aspect of any creative midfielder’s game is chance creation. Chances were near-enough extinct at the Emirates until a certain Emile Smith Rowe showed up. Aubameyang was starving prior to December. With Sanches in the squad, there’ll be more than enough to go round. Aubameyang could even grab seconds. Sanches contributed an average of 0.64 Goal creating actions per 90 in Ligue 1 last season. That’s in the 98th percentile mind you. Though it is interesting to see a certain ‘Houssem Aouar’ dominate the league in this metric with 0.71…


I’ve mentioned Houssem Aouar in this piece briefly, but it is interesting to compare the two. Aouar’s got that silkiness, flair, and panache reminiscent of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla etc. On the other, much more muscly hand, Sanches has that brutal, dominating presence that’d be more that well-equipped to deal with the physical, technical, and mental rigours of the English Game. Don’t forget, Sanches has played Premier League football for Swansea during the during the 2017/18 season. That sliver of experience is valuable, and I’d love to see how much his game has grown since that underwhelming season.

If there’s one thing I’ve inferred about Renato Sanches; he dramatically improves the players around him. At Arsenal, he’d be the Mercedes AMG Formula One engine of that midfield; working extremely efficiently along with his superb technical attributes. Our key players would benefit hugely from such a presence in midfield. Auba would adore his through balls. Tierney and Saka would be granted hectares of space on the flanks due to Sanches’ impressive dribbling ability that would draw defenders out.


Players like this are those that elevate every member of the starting XI and, in essence, single-handedly drag the club up the table. Their contribution to their respected teams is significant, and for a reported price tag of about £35 million, I’m sorry to say folks, it makes far too much sense for Arsenal to sign him. With strong interest from Liverpool who’ve just lost Gini Wijnaldum to PSG, we may have to rely once again on our diluted, half-empty bottle of ‘Invincible’s Juice’ to bring Sanches to the Carpet. DO. IT!


I’ve been Jahid (@MadAboutMari) for WLYABlog. Cheers for reading, and I’ll see you next week for more bad puns and interesting takes. Au Revoir!

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