Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Everton Soares: Arsenal's solution to their hidden attacking problem?
An over-reliance on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette hampered the Gunners' top-four hopes
Last Updated: 22/07/19 3:08pm
Despite their issues at the other end of the pitch, could Everton Soares fix Arsenal's hidden problems in attack?
The 23-year-old Brazil winger has ridden the crest of a wave in the past 12 months. His international debut came in September midway through a coming-of-age season for club side Gremio, and just last month he lit up the Copa America in his first big appearance on the world stage.
Last week Sky Sports News reported that wave could bring him to the shores of England and the Emirates Stadium if Arsenal can tie up a deal for the exciting goalscorer, and in doing so solve a problem less obvious than some of their biggest, long-standing flaws - but perhaps just as important.
Two of few players who could come out of the Gunners' testing 2018/19 unscathed were their two impressive forwards, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But, even with a front-line most Premier League sides would happily swap with their own, when their goals dried up, so too did Arsenal's results - drastically.
While Arsenal's defence has been taking blows and derided for its inconsistency, are shortcomings in attack just as problematic for Unai Emery? Will a little-known Brazilian winger help solve them?
Is firepower the actual problem?
Spending upwards of a reported £30m on another attacking player may initially seem odd considering Arsenal outscored both third and fourth-placed Tottenham and Chelsea last season.
But more than half of those goals came from their front two, Aubameyang and Lacazette, with the former even sharing the Premier League golden boot with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
"I am very happy now", Emery declared with his strike force in April. "I will continue to be very demanding of them to continue creating chances and scoring them - individual scoring targets are what's best for the team."
What will not have gone unnoticed at Arsenal's London Colney training base, though, is that when the deadly duo do not score, more often than not the team do not win. It's not just the odd game here and there.
Contrasting fortunes with Arsenal's front two
|When they score||22||17||55||54|
|When they don't||16||4||15||19|
There were 16 games where neither appeared on the scoresheet in 2018/19; Arsenal won just four of those matches, and scored 1.19 goals per game as opposed to 2.57 when either or both netted.
An over-reliance on their most potent attacking options may be a problem just as big as their defensive frailties, conceding only nine goals fewer than 17th-placed Brighton.
Given the fine margins by which Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification in 2018/19, even a few extra points from games where the front two flounder could make a big difference.
Everton Soares' strong credentials
Six months ago, you might have to use Google Translate to find out more about Everton Soares - in fact since the start of June searches for him have increased 20 times over as he's been thrust into the limelight, first with Brazil and now interest from the Emirates.
But behind the scenes the 23-year-old has been attracting suitors from this side of the Atlantic for a little while, and last year enjoyed a breakthrough season at Gremio in 2018 which saw him score 10 goals from 24 starts on the wing in the league - the sort of numbers which could prove a shot in the arm for Arsenal.
By the end of 2018, he was already batting away questions about reported interest from Manchester City and United, saying in December: "We hear rumours which create that anxiety. But let's rest well on vacation and see what's going on there."
What was going on did not materialise into a move but another impressive calendar year to date, coupled with three goals from four starts at the Copa America have convinced Arsenal he can be the firepower they need to bridge the gap to the Champions League spots in 2019/20.
Paulo Freitas, Brazilian football expert, told Sky Sports: "For a winger, his finishing is well above average. He's fairly two-footed and plays as an inside forward off the left usually.
"In 2018 Gremio put Everton on a specific regime to work on his physicality, dribbling and finishing and he ended up as the club's top scorer, ahead of the club's traditional strikers."
Can he adapt to the Premier League?
South American players have had a mixed time of adapting to the Premier League down the years, but if Soares can follow in the footsteps of fellow goalscoring Brazilian winger Richarlison he will be onto a winner.
The 23-year-old is yet to be tested on the biggest stages but during his first two full seasons in the Copa Libertadores, South America's equivalent to the Champions League, he has shone and scored eight goals in 13 starts.
Despite a diminutive stature at a shade over 5ft 7ins, as mentioned before the tricky wide man has made beefing up a priority over the past 12 months, which should give him a good chance to cope with the physical demands of English football.
"He is not physically strong but is above average," says Freitas. "Given his agility, technique and speed, I believe he can handle the physicality of the Premier League just fine, like other Brazilian players, going back all the way to Juninho, have done in the past."
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