Arsenal have emerged as favourites to land highly rated Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodriguez. TheHardTackle looks at how yet another Bundesliga signing could benefit the Gunners.
Ever since his impressive showing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Ricardo Rodriguez has caught the eyes of millions around the world. Therefore, it is no surprise that the left-back has been linked to some of the best clubs around Europe.
Premier League giants Arsenal have shown an interest in him and have now emerged as favourites to land the Swiss international. The 23-year-old’s contract with Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg lasts until 2019, but there is a €25 million buy-out clause which can be activated till the 30th of June.
Granit Xhaka’s transfer to Arsenal further elevated Rodriguez’s hopes of making the move to North London. In a recent interview with German publication Kicker, the 23-year-old suggested that joining his compatriot at the Emirates would be exciting, admitting that he would be open to making the switch. Wolfsburg’s failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League may have further diminished their chances of keeping the left-back at the club.
The transfer to Arsenal would be beneficial for both parties. Nacho Monreal, who made 35 appearances last season, is already 30, with his best days behind him. Also, the Spaniard offers little to no support offensively, seldom moving beyond the half-way line. Instead, Monreal stays put to offer defensive cover to the two centre-backs, with Bellerin bursting forward on the right.
Meanwhile, Kieran Gibbs’ Arsenal career has failed to take off. Starting in only three league games last season, it’s no secret that he is growing out of favour at Arsenal. Plagued by a number of injuries, Gibbs has shown tremendous potential but has failed to maintain consistency. He may have come to the club’s rescue while deputizing for Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy, but now, with the possible arrival of Rodriguez, his days at the club may be numbered.
Rodriguez’s age and ability to surge forward make him a good buy
Ricardo Rodriguez is blessed with a killer left foot. His ability to cross the ball in from the by-line and his accuracy from long range highlight the versatile nature of his game. Additionally, he is also a composed penalty taker, showing a number of similarities to Everton’s Leighton Baines.
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) May 29, 2016
The 23-year-old’s defensive qualities are equally noteworthy; he averages 1.92 tackles and 2 successful aerial duels per game (via Squawka). If Wenger decides to rope in the Swiss fullback, he would be a signing for the future. Under the guidance of defensive mainstays Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, Rodriguez may develop into one of the world’s most feared left-backs.
Comparing Rodriguez to the current crop of Arsenal left-backs
Rodriguez’s six-foot frame gives him the aerial edge over the two Arsenal fullbacks. While Kieran Gibbs is good at winning back the ball, his positional play has seen him face a lot of criticism over the years. Monreal has the ability to break up opposition attacking play, averaging close to three interceptions a game.
The current Wolfsburg left-back would give Arsenal an additional option further up the field. Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez favours to drift in from the left flank, which would mean that Rodriguez could overlap the Chilean, giving another dimension to the Gunners’ play in the final third. While Monreal is an orthodox fullback who prefers to stay put, Gibbs likes to attack, but then fails to track back in time, leaving Arsenal vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Thus, the weaknesses of the Gunners’ current left-backs are obvious. However, with the positional understanding and the ability to sprint from one to box to the other in no time, Ricardo Rodriguez will add dynamism and solidity to Wenger’s backline.
Taking all factors into consideration, it is fair to say that Ricardo Rodriguez will be a safe buy for Arsene Wenger and is definitely worth his reported release clause of €25 million. And with a Swiss revolution taking shape at the Emirates in 2016, it would be wise for Rodriguez to pack his bags and move to North London when the Gunners come calling.