Denis Suarez at Arsenal: What has happened to the January signing?
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Last Updated: 04/04/19 7:41pm
Unai Emery did not have great resources at his disposal in the January transfer window but he did bring in Denis Suarez on loan from Barcelona to help improve Arsenal's prospects. And yet, the 25-year-old Spaniard is still waiting for his first start.
Here, we take a look at the story so far and what the future may hold for Suarez at Arsenal…
Why did Arsenal sign him in January?
With Emery trying to impose his style of play at Arsenal, Suarez was seen as an ideal signing to help with that transition. He is a player who Emery knows well having worked with him at Sevilla. "I think he made me as a football player," said Suarez upon his arrival in London.
Already familiar with English football, having been at Manchester City as a youngster, the expectation was that Suarez would be able to adjust quickly and play an important role for the remainder of the season.
"We are very happy that Denis Suarez is joining us," said Emery at the time. "He is a player we know well. He brings us quality and options in many different attacking positions, so he'll be able to help the team.
"He has experience and I want to use his experience and his quality here with us. It's a big challenge for him to play here and continue improving. He works every day with a very big ambition to improve, because he loves football."
So why hasn't he played much since then?
Suarez did get 24 minutes as a substitute in the 3-1 defeat to former club City just days after joining the Gunners, but that remains his longest run out so far. There have been five further appearances from the bench since then but all of them have been brief.
He has not exactly seized his opportunity in those appearances either. In total, he has spent 67 minutes on the pitch in the Premier League but has not had a shot or created a chance.
In late February, Emery preached patience. "His adaptation is good but it needs time," he explained. "He is OK to start being involved in the first XI but also to be in the bench so that later in the match he can play.
"This adaptation is important for us and then also he can be playing, but he needs to earn it, little-by-little, to take minutes, confidence and rhythm with us."
In March, there was some media speculation that Emery must not have been impressed with Suarez in training but that sparked a response from the player on social media. "Don't talk about my workouts if you have no idea," he wrote.
Has the form of others been keeping him out?
When Arsenal were pursuing Suarez during the transfer window, there were concerns about the club's options in the attacking midfield areas with speculation about Mesut Ozil's happiness and some suggestions that Aaron Ramsey's departure could be fast-tracked.
Since then, there has been an improvement. Ramsey not only stayed but has scored three of his four Premier League goals this season since the turn of the year and the same is true of Alex Iwobi in all competitions.
In February, Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in back-to-back Premier League games for the fist time in his Arsenal career. Last time out against Newcastle, Ozil was named man of the match.
It may be that even without getting into the starting line-up, Suarez has provided some much-needed competition on the training ground.
Does he still have a future role to play at Arsenal?
Suarez got his first start for Arsenal against Al-Nasr during their recent trip to Dubai and set up the opening goal with a reverse pass to Carl Jenkinson. The Gunners won the game 3-2 with Suarez among the best performers.
Emery was asked about Suarez's future again as a result and though he offered some hope that the loanee could yet play a part from the start before the end of the season, he preferred to stress that this was a squad game and everyone would be involved.
"I think he is OK for starting in the first 11 or for giving us this impact after," said Emery. "But I think now, our focus is collectively very strongly focused on helping in 90 minutes, or 50 minutes, or one minute. We are going to need every player for the next matches."
Some are needed more than others though and it seems implausible that Emery could take up the option of making Suarez's move a permanent one if he cannot fit him into his Premier League starting line-up even once during this loan deal.