It’s fair to say that not many Argentina players left the World Cup having enhanced their reputation. After scraping through the Group Stages by the skin of their teeth, they faced an admittedly strong France side and were found out by the devastating and incisive runs of Kylian Mbappé. Argentina were flattered by the scoreline and they never looked convincing in each of their four tournament matches.
One of the few bright sparks for the Gauchos in Russia was Cristian Pavon. He was used as a substitute in each of the group games and was then offered a place in the starting lineup by managers Lionel Messi/Jorge Sampaoli for their knockout game against France.
Up against a strong defence with N’Golo Kante shielding the back line, Pavon did well to run into space and hit the byline, but too often there was no one to aim for in the box. Messi was forced to drop deep and the good positions that Pavon found were often wasted. Even though the Boca Juniors player failed to make any direct impact on the game, the blame can hardly be directed at the diminutive 23-year-old as he kept trying to make something happen. Unfortunately for Pavon, it was a young talent on the opposing team who will be remembered for his electrifying performance rather than the Argentinian.
In their first game of the World Cup against Iceland, Pavon was only given 15 minutes to change the game and he nearly managed it in two. His direct and pacy running frightened the Icelandic right-back who made a clumsy challenge inside the box which should have been a penalty for Argentina, but the referee was clearly reluctant to give one having already awarded one earlier in the game.
It is these flashes of brilliance that have made him a transfer target for Arsenal who made a £27million bid for him in January and are said to be moving quickly to try and sign him this summer, according to Argentinian news outlet AS.
Pavon has been on fire in the Argentinian Primeira Division, registering six goals and 11 assists in 26 appearances for Boca Juniors last season. The season before the youngster managed nine goals and nine assists in his first full season for the club, showing he clearly has an eye for goal and an end product, despite his failure to show this in Russia.
For around £30million, Arsenal would be signing one of the hottest prospects around but the question is not so much his talent but whether the Gunners really need him.
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It was an often repeated argument about Arsene Wenger’s team that they had great flair players but they had no bite and often went missing during big games. New Arsenal boss Unai Emery has so far signed two defenders over the age of 30 to help shore up the defence, but the midfield still needs balance.
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With Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Iwobi, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil all existing options in attacking positions, do they really need another? We saw what happened last season when Manchester United signed Alexis Sanchez just because they could, and it threw their whole balance out of kilter and stifled the development of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
I have no doubt that Pavon would make a very good Premier League player but he needs to be a regular starter, not a bit-part player. Perhaps Emery wants to change the shape of the team and the Argentinian would be the main feature of it but it seems like the one area of the team that Arsenal have covered, and they’ve already got their fair share of luxury players.
If I were Emery, I would focus first on sorting out the central midfield positions before adding more attacking talent, but if Cristian Pavon is the man he wants then I’m sure we will see many exciting moments from him regardless of whether he’s really a necessary purchase.