By Andy Sixsmith
Rarely afraid to turn down a potential star in the transfer market, Arsene Wenger has made Atletico Madrid forward Adrian Lopez his top January transfer target, as previously revealed by Goal.com.
The versatile striker has earned plenty of plaudits since moving to Diego Simeone’s side last season, scoring 12 goals in the club’s march to the Europa League title last May.
And that form prompted Wenger to take a serious look at the 24-year-old, who was his preferred striking choice ahead of eventual summer acquisition Olivier Giroud to fill Robin van Persie’s considerable boots.
Adrian started Atletico’s match against Real Sociedad on Sunday evening, and Goal.com took a look at how he got on, and just what he might be able to bring to Arsenal.
A first half that was largely dominated by Zaragoza allowed Adrian to show a different side to the sparkling, attacking game he is renowned for.
The 24-year-old’s positional awareness was superb, constantly tracking back to cover raids down the Atletico left and making a number of timely interceptions.
As the match progressed, Atletico came into the game more as an attacking force and this allowed Adrian to showcase his abilities further up the pitch.
The Spain Under-21 representative is a presence in the air and the Madrid-based side used the striker’s height to their advantage.
With Adrian deployed in a wide position to support Falcao in the centre, the defence and midfield hit long diagonal balls towards him, consistently allowing the 24-year-old to hold the ball up and bring others into play, or flick the ball on to the more advanced Columbian.
Adrian also possesses a distinctive, direct dribbling style and was rarely afraid to face up to a defender and take them on, admittedly with varying degrees of success against Sociedad.
On two occasions he displayed his value to a swift, counterattacking side, picking the ball up on the halfway line and taking on defenders for pace - drawing fouls on both occasions.
His movement off the ball would be another facet to his game to interest Wenger. Perhaps not his favoured attacking role on the left wing, Adrian still made various darting runs to torment the Sociedad right-back, but was let down by a poor pass or delivery.
Dribbling style aside, his control and vision let him down at numerous intervals against Sociedad. Adrian continued to pick the ball up in the left-wing channel but either chose the wrong option or gave the ball away carelessly when a simple pass was the necessary action – an attribute required of any prospective Gunner.
That said, the Spaniard did look uncomfortable on the left wing so it would be interesting to see how he fared in a more central position alongside Falcao - presumably a position he would be expected to occupy if he moved to the Emirates Stadium.
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Adrian has the physical and aerial prowess that Fernando Llorente possesses, but marries that with the work rate and intelligence of Lukas Podolski, a welcome summer addition to the Arsenal side, with the Germany international also making the left-wing spot his own at Emirates Stadium.
With Arsenal playing a distinctive counterattacking style too, Adrian’s pace and intelligence would be well suited to Wenger’s side’s play but the real issue would be where to play him should Olivier Giroud suddenly find his shooting boots.
Not that any side in their right mind should, but if a scout were to make an assessment based on a sole performance against Real Sociedad on Sunday night, Arsenal fans would be disappointed to see Wenger cough up a reported £14.6 million for Adrian.
Although the Spaniard’s attributes are tempting - Adrian possesses the footballing intelligence and raw skill required of an Arsenal recruit – if he were to be deployed as a left-wing forward in support of a main striker, you could not see him displacing the increasingly popular Podolski in the Arsenal side.
As a target man, with service coming in from Podolski and Gervinho, Adrian would offer the north London club an extra option.
Strong in the air, with a work rate that is capable of giving any defender a rough 90 minutes and impressive footwork and dribbling skills to boot, the Adrian would provide stiff competition to the misfiring Giroud. But, a price of anything over £10 million would represent a gamble for Wenger.
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