Transfers

Mariano is a Real bargain but not the player Arsenal need

 • by Sam McGuire
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Arsenal are having a strange summer window. They’ve put in a lot of work, identifying targets and putting bids in for players, but have nothing to show for it, yet. 

Joachim Andersen is reportedly close to joining Lyon, Crystal Palace have a firm stance on Wilfried Zaha while William Saliba’s signing has been close for what feels like weeks now. It’s clear Unai Emery feels he needs to bolster his defence and that his forward line is short. 

Saliba takes care of the former but a solution for the latter is proving to be more difficult. Dennis Praet, a long-term target for the Gunners, is reportedly heading to Valencia. Lucas Vázquez is available but at £30million he eats up two-thirds of Arsenal’s rumoured transfer budget. However, a link making a little more financial sense has recently emerged. 

Reports suggest a team-mate of his at Real Madrid could be heading to the Emirates in a cut-price deal. Los Blancos need to balance the books after a summer of spending with multiple stars being shown the exit door. One such name is Mariano

According to various outlets, the 25-year-old is available for £18million, with Real prepared to take a loss on a player they signed only 12 months ago. Mariano’s stock has fallen since returning to the Santiago Bernabéu. Heading into the summer of 2018, the Dominican Republic international was one of the most in-demand forwards in Europe after starring for Lyon. 

His move to Ligue 1 went a little under the radar in 2017 but he was identified by those at the Groupama Stadium as the man to replace the departing Alexandre Lacazette

He, perhaps, exceeded expectations. It was his first season playing regular football having spent most of his time with the Real Madrid B team. He finished the 2017/18 campaign with 21 goals in 45 appearances, 17 of those in Ligue 1.

His partnership with Nabil Fekir and Memphis Depay just worked and the former enjoyed his most productive season to date playing just off Mariano. The ex-Castilla starlet finished the season with 0.64 goals and 0.14 assists per 90. He was a volume player, averaging 3.54 shots and this gave him an expected goals return of 0.49 per 90.

His form appeared to be sustainable.

His shot map was one of a player who knew all about high-value efforts, taking shots in the penalty area more often than not. It also demonstrated he was capable of scoring from distance. A wildcard goalscorer but with the reliability of a poacher. It’s an intriguing mix and one that could’ve been explored a little further.

In fact, he could’ve improved had he stayed at Lyon. But few players can turn down a move to Real Madrid and they brought him back to Spain for £20million.

The 25-year-old was used sparingly during the 2018/19 campaign, making just 13 appearances in LaLiga and he’s been stripped of his shirt number, with new Galáctico Eden Hazard claiming the club’s iconic No.7. 

Plenty of Premier League clubs could do with a forward like Mariano. Newcastle United, Everton, Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Southampton are all reportedly in the market for a reliable chance-getter.

Arsenal, however, are pretty stocked in terms of attackers. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lacazette struck up an understanding last term and both finished the season with double figures in the Premier League.

The Gunners are reportedly after someone who can play in wide areas and is a ball carrier. Mariano doesn’t tick either box.

Granted, sometimes an opportunity presents itself and it’s too good to pass up. Signing someone of Mariano’s quality for below £20million is a bargain in the current market.

But Arsenal, according to numerous reports, don’t have cash to burn and need to be a bit more frugal. If his arrival is at the expense of another better-suited signing it isn’t one Emery and friends at the Emirates should even contemplate.

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