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Asier Illarramendi: Scouting Rumoured Arsenal Transfer Target

NETANYA, ISRAEL - JUNE 15: Asier Illarramendi (C) of Spain is challenged by Stefan Johansen (L) and Magnus Wolff Eikrem of Norway during the UEFA European U21 Championship Semi Final match between Spain and Norway at Netanya Stadium on June 15, 2013 in Netanya, Israel.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 18, 2013

According to Sami Mokbel of The Daily Mail, Gonzalo Higuain isn't the only signature Arsenal are pursuing this week.

Asier Illarramendi, Real Sociedad's star defensive midfielder, is also attracting interest at a price of £10 million. The Spaniard is currently on U-21 international duty, preparing to take on Italy in the final.

If you haven't caught much of Illarra, you've come to the right place: Here, we can tell you everything you need to know about the youngster.

Descriptions of him being the next Xabi Alonso are perhaps a little inaccurate—if you were to pick one player in the Spanish setup he most resembles, it's Sergio Busquets.

Illarramendi is a modern holding midfielder who can tackle, intercept, move, pass and head the ball.

Sounds basic, sure, but few players boast a more complete skillset than this man when it comes to doing his job.

He shields his back four perfectly, patrolling the deeper areas and sticking a foot in when needed. His identification process is excellent, shifting wide at the right times and tracking attacking runs with aplomb.

When he needs to, he can put in a real cruncher of a challenge.

In possession he's superb too, and doesn't hinder his side like many holding midfielders do by recycling pointless passes to his full-backs and midfield partner; Illarra is adept at moving the ball between the lines, forcing positive passes through into tight spaces.

It's in this aspect he is most akin to Busquets, who also excels at playmaking from deep.

Illarra is perhaps not as mobile as you would like—he's more muscular than your average player his age and actually looks a little like Francesco Totti in his running style and speed.

But his superb awareness and positional sense allows him to pull the strings deep in midfield, combining the opportunistic tackling of Busquets and the tracking of Sven Bender.

Arsenal are crying out for a true holding midfielder to either replace or accompany Mikel Arteta.

Illarramendi is one of few players likely available for a reasonable price that can anchor a midfielder on their own, and the Gunners will feel the effects of his presence all over the pitch.

As admirable as Arteta has been in filling in for his club as a No. 6, he's no natural and it's showed—Wenger's men will instantly become more fluid in attack and more positionally sound on the reverse.

A holding midfielder is a must, they cannot enter the new season without one. Asier Illarramendi would be a fine, fine addition—especially at the reported £10 million price.


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