Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may have missed out on a star like Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain and may yet lose out on Brazil international Luiz Gustavo, but he did recently succeed in offering a trial to Moroccan international Alharbi El Jadeyaoui.
In this scouting report, we'll take a look at the player's skills and weaknesses as well as assess his potential role at Arsenal.
First, the biographical details:
- Name: Alharbi El Jadeyaoui
- Age: 27
- Height: 6'1" (1.85 m)
- Weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)
- National Team: Moroccan (French born)
- Position: Attacking Midfielder
Alharbi El Jadeyaoui began his professional career in the French fourth division, signing for AS Beauvais' U19 squad.
In 2002 he moved up to the senior squad, spending two years at Beauvais before signing for Ligue 2 club FC Tours on a free.
A year later he moved to LB Châteauroux on another free. The 2006/07 season with Châteauroux was the first in which he saw regular starting time, scoring six goals in 29 matches with the Ligue 2 club.
He also earned a France U21 call-up in 2006 for a friendly, though he would eventually settle on representing Morocco.
During the next season, he registered no goals or assists in 27 appearances, which led to his free transfer to Ligue 2 club Brest for the 2009/10 season.
He regained his form at Brest, featuring 31 times, scoring six and assisting another. That form led to interest from Blackpool, who offered him a trial but passed, and Ligue 2 side EA Guingamp, who put up the first and only transfer fee for the player: €250,000.
His move to Guingamp was not destined to be fruitful—he appeared only 45 times in three seasons, scoring three and assisting four before being released. He signed with Ligue 2 club Angers SCO in July 2012.
It was last campaign's performance—four goals and 10 assists in 34 matches—that seems to have tipped Arsenal's French scouts and drove them to offer the trial.
El Jadeyaoui is a nimble left footed attacking midfielder, who plays primarily in a roving central role, though he has featured out wide as well. He is certainly quick enough for the wide role, and in many ways is better suited for it.
For Angers, however, he can be found all over the pitch, looking at times above the level of Ligue 2 in terms of sheer determination and willingness to orchestrate attacks.
His agility with the ball at his feet is a standout feature of his technical arsenal, and in this regard he also shows flashes beyond the typical Ligue 2 player, regularly barreling towards and dribbling around opposing defenders and occasionally doing so with real flair.
At around the 1:00 mark of the following video, compiled by Arabic language web outlet AlmarssadPro, he displays that flair while under pressure with a quick spin move as defenders close in on him:
He also possess a good eye for through and long-ball opportunities and looks adept at finding the open man while under pressure.
He attempts short passes within the opposing box with some regularity and succeeds fairly often, a welcoming sign for Arsenal fans growing tired of attacks fizzling out at the final pivotal moment.
This YouTube highlight reel features his goals and assists from last season, but note the full-tilt runs that precede so many of the scoring chances:
There really is quite a bit of determination there, which may have been what tipped the scales in favor of offering El Jadeyaoui a trial.
However, the player comes with drawbacks, most of which stem from his tendency to run at defenders and dictate play. Anyone who makes a habit of running at defenders is liable to be dispossessed from time to time and El Jadeyaoui is no different. In Ligue 2, the consequences are not always severe, but you can be sure that the English top flight will be much less forgiving.
He is also apparently quite inconsistent, unable to string two solid seasons together with standout performances in 2009/10 and 2012/13.
Then there is the issue of the failed trial at Blackpool, which must suggest some potential pitfall, though I must admit none seem readily apparent aside from his lack of experience at the highest level.
While he often lines up as a central attacking midfielder, El Jadeyaoui does his best work out wide.
Primarily left footed, he crosses ably from the left and cuts in especially well from the right with the pace of a winger and the dribbling ability of an inside forward. He also takes free kicks for Angers.
At the Emirates, he will likely be a reserve utility attacker, capable of providing some depth in the event of injury to Arsenal's first-team wide players. Total comfort on either wing will be an added bonus to be sure.
Should he sign, he is unlikely to find himself above anyone in the pecking order, but that could change quickly. Having never been tested at the highest level, he could prove up to the challenge and even thrive on it.
Perhaps Arsenal can cut and polish El Jadeyaoui into a player of Premier League quality, but one has to wonder whether they can afford to spend time developing a promising 27-year-old.
Then again, the occasional diamond in the rough is out there. Arsenal's own Laurent Koscielny spent most of his French career with Guingamp and Tours, two Ligue 2 clubs for whom El Jadeyaoui has also played.
Should Arsene Wenger Sign Alharbi El Jadeyaoui?
If anything, El Jadeyaoui should prove an inexpensive and reasonably effective backup winger with enough speed and tenacity to make himself useful in spite of his inexperience at the highest level.
If he can retain his flair on the ball and his composed passing while upping the speed and the stakes of his game, he could prove an inspired signing.
While Arsenal fans are justified in their frustration at the lack of high-profile signings, they should not direct their frustration here. There is more to Alharbi El Jadeyaoui than his playing in Ligue 2.