Here is the second of my in-depth analysis of Arsenal’s centre-back targets by Aidan
I’m sure we’ve all seen him in action. Stones was a Barnsley youth team product- snapped up for £3million by Everton in Jan ’13. He burst on the Premier League scene to tremendous hype in the 13/14 season, like many young Englishmen before him (Theo, Jack, Ox spring to mind). An impressive first top flight season resulted in him making the standby list for the World Cup, though missing out on a seat on the plane. Some of the resultant hyperbole included club manager Martinez saying, “I think John Stones is in the perfect environment to fulfil that potential and become one of the greatest players England has ever seen.”
Alan Hansen said, “In a footballing sense, and this is purely a footballing consideration, Barcelona would be perfect for him,”…… “the way he plays, and the way they play, would be the ideal match-up”. Glenn Hoddle said on the England team, “Stones represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to break that mould”… “we need to have our best technical players on the ball, to give them the opportunity to create as many chances as they can, to put opponents on the back foot…..for that they need the ball, which means a passing link between the back four and midfield.”….. “You are not going to get that from a central defensive partnership of two from Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka”.
This hype all culminated in a rumoured £30million+ offer from Mourinho’s Chelsea being rejected last summer. This season he hasn’t pushed on. He made some errors and when all three options were available, was often benched in preference for a Funes Mori/Jagielka partnership; Martinez has had to defend him – what is it about British culture building people up to knock them down?!!!!…..Ooooh, I’ve come over all philosophical. Martinez stated, “I think John has attracted a lot of interest in terms of his potential, and that’s what we need to understand. He’s still 21.”…. “he’s still in that development phase. .. “well ahead of where he should be and I think we should all be a bit more aware that he’s such a young player and he shouldn’t be under that scrutiny at that stage of his career. If you think at 21 he’s going to be the finished article, I think we’re all in the wrong game.”
Like his team-mate & fellow French superstar- Karim Benzema, Varane seems forever destined to be linked with Arsenal every transfer window for the duration of his Real Madrid career. Key attributes are his pace, power, comfort on the ball, eye for a pass and long-pass ability, and his decision making. Pundits have compared him to French all-time great- Lilian Thuram.
Varane began his career with his amateur local club AS Hellemmes aged seven, then joined RC Lens two years later. He rose through the youth ranks- winning the U16s league. He made the U19 Lens side when still aged 16. In summer 2010, age 17, he was given a pro contract- then elevated to the reserves for the 10/11 season. After impressive performances, Varane was fast-tracked to train with the senior squad and made his debut after an injury to a first team defender, going on to make 23 first team league appearances.
In summer 2011 aged 18, with less than a full pro season’s experience- Varane secured a €10 million move to Real Madrid. It was thought that a meeting with icon and club spokesman Zinedine Zidane (coincidentally current manager) wooed him sufficiently to choose Madrid as his destination over other suitors.
He has had several extended runs in the Madrid side, but has now spent five years at Madrid and is still not a guaranteed starter; there may come a time that he gets fed up- at least the gossip columns would like us to think so. Although he has made some hints of discontent- particularly in reference to omissions from the Champions League lineups this season, I see him staying at Real. Pepe is in the twilight of his career & Sergio Ramos is the wrong side of 30. He will be given increasing responsibility in the team. Varane has also proven fairly injury prone, ruled out of the Champions League Final & the Euros in his home nation – making it less likely a club would stump up a massive transfer fee which Real might entertain.
Which one would suit Arsenal the best?
Here is the original article with all the statistics for each target (and comparison with ours)