Pablo Fornals. This is a name that may not get instant recognition from people who do not follow Spanish football. However, it is a name that all things being equal will soon become a household name. Such is the talent level of the young Spaniard.
Aaron Ramsey will not be offered a new contract to stay at Arsenal. With that in mind, head scout Sven Mislintat and manager Unai Emery should be looking at the 22-year-old as a prime target to replace the Welshman.
Similarities between Ramsey and Fornals
At first glance, both players seem to be two peas in a pod. Central midfielders with a talent for driving forward, both players have/are making names in terms of their forward play.
Nominally a central midfielder, Ramsey’s remit under Arsene Wenger was to get forward and support the attack as much as possible. This meant he was saddled with as little defensive responsibilities as possible apart from forward pressing opponents in their own half.
This approach suited Ramsey perfectly as he got to use his mobility, uncanny timing and fierce shot to good effect. His record of 60 goals and 60 assists in 340 games for the Gunners is quite decent for a central midfielder.
Fornals is cut from the same cloth though with a better passing range. The Castellón-born star like Ramsey likes linking up with the attack from deep. He is yet to perfect his goalscoring act but will get better at it as he matures.
For a player who made his senior bow in 2015 against Real Madrid, his tally of 13 goals and 17 assists in 119 games for Malaga and Villarreal is not too shabby. Like Ramsey, Fornals is a chaotic midfielder. A chaotic midfielder is usually a man in the middle who can do something unexpected in order to turn the tide in a game. Many times for the Gunners, a driving run from midfield by Ramsey has either created a chance for teammates or gotten a goal at a crucial time (think the 2017 FA Cup final against Chelsea).
What Fornals brings and may offer Arsenal
Like the aforementioned duo, Fornals is of average height (1.78 m or 5 feet &10 inches). Like Santi and Isco, he is difficult to shake off the ball and is a majestic dribbler. As is common among Spanish midfielders, the Villarreal star is brilliant at passing and controlling the tempo of play if need be.
This means that unlike Ramsey, he can stay in midfield with a more defensive partner and dictate the tempo for his team. This was a role he played brilliantly at Malaga.
At Villarreal last season, he was moved forward to a more advanced position which suited his “chaotic” talents to a tee. This helped him to create many chances for his El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine) teammates (he had 12 assists, second only to Lionel Messi in La Liga).
The return of Carzola and arrival of Santiago Caseres (before his unfortunate injury) has made Fornals play further forward for Javier Calleja’s team. Despite the team’s travails (sitting 16th in La Liga), he has continued to shine averaging 1.5 key passes per game.
Fornals could be the perfect replacement the Arsenal midfield has needed since Carzola’s unfortunate issues. Ramsey has never been much of a controller and his blitzkrieg style has created lots of problems for an already shaky defence.
Fornals would be the perfect Carzola replacement
Were the Gunners to get the Spanish midfielder, manager Emery will finally be able to drop Granit Xhaka as Fornals would take over his regista duties. This would also allow the team to play three men in the middle without sacrificing creativity (bad news for Mesut Ozil).
It says a lot about the Spanish national team’s midfield that a talented player like Fornals was not even considered for the World Cup. He has been a fixture in the Spanish U-21 setup for about 2 years now. It’s only a matter of time before he joins the senior La Furia Roja setup as he is the prototype midfielder that Spanish manager Luis Enrique loves.
Villarreal will be loath to lose the gem in its crown after paying £10.8m for him last season. Whatever president Fernando Roig may demand, Arsenal should not hesitate to pay as a bidding war may be sparked if Fornals continues along the path he is currently on.