A few months ago, Isaac Cuenca made football news when his manager reportedly said he was ugly. According to Total Barca, the rough translation of what Guardiola said is this:
“Physically speaking he might not be popular with the ladies, but on the field he does things that will amaze you. He does his work perfectly, but perfectly! [He's] at a very good level.”
This not only put him on the radar comically, but the praise that was attributed to the young Spaniard was taken into consideration by many clubs. The 21-year-old winger has now made sixteen appearances for the Barcelona A squad, after playing with the B team last year.
With the A team, he has provided two goals and three assists, but has yet to establish a spot in the starting eleven.
It seems like he would be a great buy for Arsenal; he's quick, clever, able to run at defenders, good off the ball, can take opponents on one-on-one, and a good finisher.
He also has the one quality that is typical of a young player coming out the Barcelona academy, and it's not just that he can pass well. Like Arteta, Fabregas, Xavi, and Iniesta, Cuenca is really good at rotating his upper body, and turning into space.
Unlike Arteta, Fabregas, and Xavi, Cuenca is extremely skilled in terms of dribbling past defenders, a quality that is always welcome at Arsenal. His agility clearly shined in the B squad, which brought him up to the senior squad.
A major question: why leave a team that is undoubtedly in the world's top three or four (maybe higher), for a team like Arsenal, who struggled to finish above competition that was, in all honesty, not very strong?
Should the Gunners Sign Cuenca?
Well, that may have been the question that the 2003 Cesc Fabregas was asking himself, prior to a move to Arsenal (despite the fact that the Gunners were better at that time than they are now).
The straight-forward answer is development. In my opinion, playing time at a fairly good club with less of a chance of winning trophies is a bit more important than winning trophies at such a young age.
Coming to Highbury nine years ago, Fabregas was amazingly talented, but it was with a lot of matches that he became the player he is today (though he has had to deal with a few obstacles at Barcelona).
Opportunities helped the youngster, especially in the Premier League, a competition which many players have labeled the world's toughest. According to Goal.com, Rafael van der Vaart had this to say: "The English league is by far the toughest in the world, I can judge this personally."
If this is true, then a spell under the supervision of unarguably one of the world's best managers, Arsene Wenger, should be ideal for the youngster himself. He will get lots of playing time, because Arsenal need a player like him.
Plus, he is extremely skinny, and needs to build some muscle, so adjusting to the "tough" Premier League will help Cuenca's strength.
But what's in it for Arsenal?
The recent Arsenal player with the game most similar to Cuenca's would have to be Andrei Arshavin, for me. A good finisher, great dribbler, and fantastic vision—something that is somehow ubiquitous at all levels of Barcelona—the Meerkat is a player who reminds me of the Barcelona winger.
With Arshavin well past at his peak, possibly trying to get a permanent deal with Zenit St. Petersburg, the Gunners have wingers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, and Gervinho. Oxlade-Chamberlain is possibly the real deal, but with Walcott injury-prone and Gervinho's form way off the mark, it seems that Cuenca is a great target.
With Walcott, especially, since he is a player who provides an injection of pace, maybe Cuenca can be a substitute every game around the 60-minute mark for Theo, which is more playing time than he gets at the Camp Nou.
Money, also, isn't a huge concern. According to Caught Offside:
"Arsene Wenger is tracking Barcelona youngster Isaac Cuenca with a view to launching a bid for the €10m (£8m) rated Spaniard. The 21 year old winger, like many other up and coming talents, may feel that leaving the Nou Camp is the best way to achieve career progression with a number of others players already ahead of Cuenca in the Barcelona first team pecking order a move to the Premier League may prove tempting."
And £8 million seems a good price for a kid whom Guardiola stated (translated from Spanish), "is so good it makes you crap yourself."
If van Persie does stay at the Emirates for the next season, it will be fantastic for Wenger's side to buy personnel to not only help van Persie score, but take some of the goalscoring burden off of the Dutch captain's shoulders.
All in all, this is a great move for Arsenal, especially for only £8 million.