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Good chance Arsenal to target a Spanish striker this summer but it may not be David Villa?

SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 15 Feb 2013

This piece concerns a striker playing in La Liga who is not getting quite as much football as his talent perhaps deserves and no I am not talking about David Villa.

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Paco with the U-19′s.

I would have personally loved to see the prolific striker arrive in North London on the 31st January to bolster our options, but when Barca refused to play ball I think that ship sailed. I see it as exceedingly unlikely that Wenger will return for a player in his 30′s who essentially plays where Podolski plays.

No, if Wenger looks to strengthen our attacking options in the summer I suspect he might revert to younger options. Why? Because he will have Podolski at 28, Giroud at 27 and Theo at 24, all of whom by the end of the season will have close to 20 goals or more each. All 3 of these players would be considered experienced and the former 2 will have a full Premier League season under their belt from which they can only emerge stronger for 2013/14.

For me the strengthening of the experienced kind will be of a defensive nature and I see one of our currently established 3 centre-backs being a casualty. Indeed I would bet good money on a new centre-back arriving, and it is also entirely plausible to me that should Sagna leave and Jenkinson be deemed not quite ready an experienced right-back could arrive. However I digress and it is an attacking addition or two that is the subject of this article. I say 2 because Joel Campbell is now playing week in week out for Betis and playing well. Should he play the next 3 World Cup Qualifiers for Costa Rica he will have featured in 17 of the last 22 competitive games in the past 24 months and be eligible for his work permit on June 11th.

It will then depend on how Wenger assesses his progress and from what I have seen he would be excellent cover for Theo on the right of our attack. He has explosive pace, a bullet of a shot, quick feet but is wayward with his final ball on occasion. He is playing in the same position on the right flank in the main and he would appear to be where Walcott was 18 months to 2 years ago. Undoubted potential, flashes of brilliance, but much to learn and consistency to gain. I hope Wenger brings him home and takes him under his wing.

So for me the position we need to look at is the central striking role assuming we stick with the sole striker system in the main. We need a challenger, understudy, alternative to Olivier Giroud. It would appear Chamakh is not that man and I sincerely believe that in a 4-2-3-1 that Walcott is not either. I would like to think that Roy Hodgson setting up the whole England team to suit Theo last week and his performance has finally convinced him that his future, for England and in our system is cutting in from the right or using his speed to to go past defenders on the outside

I am still keeping a close eye on Szalai in the Bundesliga and he is still scoring regularly and as I write this has 14 in 23 for Mainz this season, which is mighty impressive. However the subject of of this piece is today’s blog is Paco Alcacer, (Francisco Alcácer Garcia) currently on loan from Valencia at Getafe for the whole of this season. Arsenal, along with Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid were heavily linked with Alcacer in the autumn of 2011 ahead of the January 2012 window but Valencia managed to convince their hottest young property that he should sign his first proper pro-contract in November 2011.

Wenger had been alerted after Alcacer dazzled at the European Under-19 Championships in the Summer of 2011 in Romania when the youngster, only 17 at the time scored 3, including 2 in the final where Spain beat the Czech Republic 3-2. In reality though the story began for young Paco even earlier than that, so I will take you on a quick journey.

In the summer of 2010 Paco starred for Spain on a run to the final of the Euopean U17 Champiuonships. He finished the tournament’s top scorer with 6 goals, including a brace in the semi against Turkey. You can enjoy his highlights here but to be fair, England won and Connor Wickham was voted player of the tournament. No guarantees of future success then I hear you say and think? However past winners and stars at this tournament include Wayne Rooney, Tony Kroos, Nuri Sahin and Cesc Fabregas who when last I looked turned out okay.

The following season however Paco did progress with Valencia’s B team in the Spanish 2nd division scoring a ludicrous 33 goals in 54 games in 2010/11 and 2011/12. In the summer of 2011 Paco headed off to Estonia to again represent his country but this time in the U19 European Championship Finals.

Alcacer this time did emerge victorious with Spain coming off the bench to equalize a tight final in extra time at 2-2 against the Czechs before going one better and hitting the winner with minutes to spare. There is a touch of class in his finishing for both goals given the importance of the occasion. Well the commentators certainly got excited:

Of course this sort of club form in the Valencia second string and his summer exploits drew the attention of several European giants, Arsenal included. Indeed the UK tabloids reported we would be going head to head with Barca for his signature. There were many reports suggesting the young striker had a £8.7 million release clause which Wenger hoped to trigger but in November he was convinced to sign a new deal at the Mestalla. Valencia president Manuel Llorente said: “He has shown, despite the interest of several clubs to seize his services, a desire to continue at Valencia. Alcacer is and will be a very important player for the team, as are others, and will bring much joy to Mestalla and our supporters.”

The new deal runs until 30th June 2016 so is that the end of the story. Of course not. Despite the posturing of Valencia they have no money and will always be tempted with hard cash. After securing Paco in November 2011, he was only used as a substitute for the 1st team on 3 occasions in La Liga and this summer it was announced Alcacer would be sent on a season long loan to Getafe to gain valuable top flight experience. Valencia’s faithful were frustrated at the end of the last campaign that their brightest prospect was given only minimal opportunity off the bench as their season drifted away.

For some of them Alcacer is even being touted as the new Villa. Many expected Paco to be given a chance this past August, particularly as Aduriz had been sold to Althetic Bilbao and Hernandez to Swansea leaving only Soldado. However as usual at Valencia, a club with no cash and always in turmoil it was a crazy summer with 13 first teamers leaving and 10 arriving at a net profit of circa £10 million. One of the arrivals on a season-long loan from Rubin Kazan was Paraguayan Nelson Valdez to understudy Soldado and Paco was sent to Getafe instead of getting the gig.

So to bring us up to date how has the 2012/13 unravelled for Paco? Is he getting a chance to shine at Getafe? The short answer might be no but whilst he has only started 5 of his 17 run outs for this loan club, 3 of those starts were in January. This ran came after his superb cameo in the first La Lifa game of 2013 aganist Vallecano in which he scored a late consolation in a 3-1  He then capped this with a stellar goal scoring performance in the first half against Granada on the 14th January a week later in a 2-2 draw. A performance you can witness here that evidenced his touch, heading ability, pace, finishing and confidence. It was also a display that earned Alcacer his first call up for the Spanish U21s. He made his debut in a friendly against Belgium on the 5th February.

I know many of you will be hoping for a star name like Jovetic but from what I have seen not sure he could do the sole striker role in our system? The Montenegrin is either played wide left or in the hole in a 4-4-1-1 is he not?  Is that what Arsenal need or are we just as often we do clamouring for a big name? Paco Alcacer is not a big name on the European stage at senior level but there are very strong indications and some pedigree that suggest he will be and he does have the attributes like Szalai to play the central role we currently rely heavily on Giroud to perform.

Like Malaga, Valenica are not in the best shape financially and I suspect despite the strong feeling of the fans for Paco, a reasonable bid of between £5 and £10 million would be hard for them to ignore. Arsenal and Wenger have  a reputation of allowing talent, not age and experience dictate opportunity, and Alcacer and his his advisers will be aware of this, but we do not have a core of experience as well. Of course the added advantage if that 23 of that 1st team core are also Spanish and Iggy Miquel, who may break through soon is a team mate of Alcacer’s at U19s and now U21s.

This is one move from Wenger that I would be very much in favour of, particularly in light of recent  disappointing reports on Benik Afobe. I find the idea of first rate youthful talent in Oxlade-Chamberlain, Paco Alcacer and Joel Campbell understudying and constantly pushing Walcott, Giroud and Podolski very appealing. The questions remain about who Wenger may turn to, but I hope he revives his interest in Paco Alacer, brings Joel home and spends the larger cash on tightening our defensive frailties.

campbellj

Joel Campbell

I guess the reason why I have not let this one go in my mind is that Barcelona were widely be reported to be ready to pay 10 Million Euros for Paco Alcacer before he signed his new deal at Valencia in November 2011 when he was just 18. This is the one club in the world who would never need to buy young talent with the finest production line of their own. Why then was Guardiola ready to splash the cash on Paco if he was not convinced he was seriously special? A fair assumption therefore that Wenger might have to move before Pep takes the reins in Munich!

Published 14 Feb 2013
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