Sure, we're all aware of the rumours linking Gonzalo Higuain to Arsenal this summer. And while that would surely thrill Arsenal fans, there's another play the team has been linked to that would be a perfect fit for the Gunners.
Arsenal fans, meet holding midfielder Asier Illarramendi. From Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail:
Meanwhile, The Gunners are leading the chase for Spain Under-21 international Asier Illarramendi.
Arsenal have also been monitoring Gilbert Imbula—as revealed in Sportsmail—but Illaramendi would fit well alongside fellow Basque Mikel Arteta.
Illarramendi seems like the perfect fit for the Gunners. He's a young, highly talented player who is sturdy enough to man the holding role but technically gifted enough to spur the play forward. Plus, he's a cheaper alternative to another player the team has been linked to, Everton's Marouane Fellaini, per the Mirror.
And we all know Arsene Wenger likes himself a tidy bit of business over a big and expensive splash whenever possible.
If you are wondering what player the Spanish youngster compares to, Bleacher Report's tactical analyst, Sam Tighe, compared his game to Sergio Busquets of Barcelona and offered the following scouting report:
He shields his back four perfectly, patrolling the deeper areas and sticking a foot in when needed. His identification process is excellent, shifting wide at the right times and tracking attacking runs with aplomb.
When he needs to, he can put in a real cruncher of a challenge.
In possession he's superb too, and doesn't hinder his side like many holding midfielders do by recycling pointless passes to his full-backs and midfield partner; Illarra is adept at moving the ball between the lines, forcing positive passes through into tight spaces.
It's easy to imagine him pairing with either Mikel Arteta or Aaron Ramsey in the midfield behind Jack Wilshere or Santi Cazorla in the 4-2-3-1 the Gunners seem to be playing with more regularity. If the Gunners slide back into a 4-3-3, he would be in the hole right in front of the defense behind a more advanced midfield pairing.
He was very solid for Real Sociedad this season, making 32 stars and earning a 7.18 rating at Who Scored. He also started four games for Spain's U-21 championship side (and appeared in a fifth), anchoring a young midfield that completely dominated the tournament.
While some folks may want a more physical specimen in the holding role—he's about 5'9" and 170 pounds—or a rangier option, Illarramendi has a solid build and makes up for a lack of pace with his solid reading of the game and quick reactions.
Is Asier Illarramendi a perfect fit for the Gunners?
While Arteta filled in admirably in a deeper role, he's far better advanced up the pitch where he can be a more creative force. He has neither the build nor the defensive inclination to be used in a deeper role again.
He did his job this season, but for Arsenal to take the next step, a more natural holding player must reside in the position.
It seems unlikely that Illarramendi could be had for as low a cost as Mokbel's report suggests, but he most certainly should be a target for the club.