Unless you pay a lot of attention to Spanish football, are decent at FIFA or are a bit of a football hipster, chances are you may not know much about Arsenal’s latest target, Nolito.
Reports claim that the Celta Vigo man is firmly on the Gunners’ agenda heading into the January window, with an offer of £13.3m – which would trigger his release clause – on their agenda.
Some Arsenal fans may question the logic behind a move for a player who, by the time the window re-opens, will be 29, but Nolito really does have a lot going for him, and could be just the right boost ant just the right time to kick an Emirates Stadium title charge into gear.
Don’t believe us? Well, here are FIVE reasons to climb aboard this bandwagon…
Last season, Nolito created the most chances in La Liga (95) and made the greatest number of ‘key passes’ (82). Wow. That tally puts him ahead of the two best players on the planet, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, making the 28-year-old the most creative player in Spain’s top tier – widely considered to be the most technically demanding division on the planet.
Okay, Nolito’s assist tally may be the joint-lowest of the four players featured in the graphic above, but that may have more to do with the players he was playing alongside than the quality of his own contribution, as Celta finished the season eighth, some four points off of a Europa League qualification spot.
Such a streak for invention would surely serve Wenger well, with the Gunners often coming up against packed defences and sides intent on holding the Londoners at bay.
Oh, Nolito has three assists in league action already this season, too!
Numbers crunched by Squawka
As well as possessing the ability to create for team-mates, Nolito can find the back of the net himself. Since his 2013, the wide attacker has registered league returns of over 10 (12 and 13) and appears on course for his best season yet this term with five efforts in just six games to his name (including the above curler against Barcelona).
Nolito’s career hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops. The 28-year-old started off at Valencia, but was let go at a young age before earning his stripes in the lower reaches of the Spanish game with Ecija Balompie. This was where Barca spotted him, but he was 22 by the time his Nou Camp move was a reality, and even then he spent the majority of his time in their ‘B’ team.
It became apparent that first-team football in the red and blue shirt was too much for Nolito at that stage of his career, so he moved to Benfica, where he spent two seasons before heading back to Spain to join Granada on loan. His performances alerted Celta, and since his move to the north west of his nation, Nolito has exploded.
Such a journey hints that he has a real level of grit and determination, which is often needed to succeed. A cautionary tale, though, could be that of Iago Aspas, who shone at Celta, flopped at Liverpool and is now back in Vigo.
Celta mix their play between a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 set-up, in which Nolito’s in a vital player in the final third. Able to play on either flank or as a more reserved striker, his versatility bodes well for Wenger, with the Frenchman known to favour players who are able to slot into different zones.
Typically the Gunners boss goes for a line of three behind a main striker, and Nolito – who broke through at Barcelona – can feature in any of said positions.
With Barcelona thought to be looking at him, snapping up Nolito would show that Arsenal mean business. Reports claim that a figure of just north off £13m will be needed, and although that’s not ‘marquee buy’ money, spending such a sum on a 29-year-old illustrates a ‘right here, right now’ policy in terms of a title challenge.