The Gunners are said to be on the verge of completing an £18million deal for the Argentine midfielder, who could be brought in as a direct replacement for Aaron Ramsey, with the Welshman reportedly Juventus-bound.
It is a sign of proactivity from Arsenal boss Unai Emery, who clearly wants to make improvements to his squad come the opening of the January transfer window.
Ramsey is on his way out in the summer, so an alternative has been identified.
How, then, do the two midfielders compare? Banega, at 30, is two years older than Ramsey, although that is unlikely to be overly concerning for Emery. His squad is relatively youthful, and some added experience is unlikely to prove harmful.
Both are creative players, elegant on the ball and capable of providing for more advanced teammates. Where they differ, though, is off the ball. Banega is unquestionably more aggressive, more tenacious, and that is likely why Emery considers him a good fit.
Banega, this season, has averaged 1.13 interceptions and 2.87 tackles per 90 minutes, compared with Ramsey’s 0.52 and 1.84 respectively. Clearly, he is better suited to the high-intensity pressing game that Emery wants his Arsenal team to perfect in the coming months.
At Sevilla this season, Banega has been a key player, dictating games from midfield and helping his side to third in La Liga, three points clear of Real Madrid and only five behind leaders Barcelona. Emery knows him well, too, having coached him while at both Valencia and Sevilla.
Where Ramsey has the edge over Banega, perhaps, is in the final third. The Welshman is far more likely to burst forward and score a goal or provide an assist. He has averaged 0.79 assists per 90 (Banega has 0.26) and 1.84 scoring attempts per 90 (1.13 for Banega). Ramsey finds himself in the opposition’s box far more often, too: 4.88 touches per 90 compared with Banega’s 0.73.
But Ramsey is a more attacking player than Banega. What Emery requires is a controlling presence in midfield, and that is exactly what Banega offers. His passing accuracy (85.3 per cent) is better than Ramsey’s (80.6 per cent). He completes more accurate passes per 90 – 57.9 compared with 40.77 – and more forward passes per 90 – 24.6 compared with 12.4.
Admittedly, Ramsey has played significantly fewer minutes than Banega this season. But the differences between the two players are clear. Emery is evidently searching for a midfielder who can take control of games, an area in which Arsenal haven’t always succeeded this season.