It has been quite the few days of the transfer window. Two days ago, Arsenal announced the loan of Pablo Mari from Brazilian side Flamengo, the first signing for Mikel Arteta since his arrival in December. The back and forth saga over the 26 year old defender kept the media focused on that developing story over the last week. While all eyes were fixed on that news, Arsenal went ahead and got a bit of extra business done behind the scenes, quietly acquiring Southampton right back Cedric Soares on loan for the duration of the season for a deal thought to be worth £5M to the Saints (loan fee + salary saved + possibly other savings). Soares is out of contract at the end of the year, and the loan is thought to give Arsenal the inside track on signing him on a free in the summer if the club so chooses.
The signing of Soares is a prudent move for the Gunners. While Mari’s signing addressed the glaring needs in the middle of the defense, Soares helps bolster a right back position in immediate need of depth. Hector Bellerin’s recovery from last season’s ACL has taken longer than expected, leaving the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a midfielder, and Calum Chambers, a center back, to deputize on the right side while Bellerin regained his form and conditioning. With Chambers now out for the season with his own ACL injury, the addition of Soares couldn’t come at a better time Arsenal.
With Soares now able to deputize for Bellerin, Maitland-Niles will be able to feature in his preferred midfield role. Should the loan of Dani Ceballos come to an end, Maitland-Niles could find more playing time and opportunities. He has certainly earned the opportunity, as he has filled in time and time again in the defense.
The biggest upside to the signing of Soares is his familiarity with the Premier League. After spending the first five years of his professional career at his boyhood club Sporting CP in Portugal, he was sold to Southampton in 2015, where he has become a regular player for the Saints in recent years while also spending a season on loan at Inter Milan last season. With no need for acclimation, he can play immediately without the difficulty of adapting to a new league.
As a defender, Soares is patient and has a penchant for intercepting passes. He is also smart in his challenges - in the league, he has only earned one yellow card, which will undoubtedly increase during his time at Arsenal because of course it will. He is also quite good at getting in front of shots for blocks, a trait that Arsenal’s defense could greatly benefit from. His biggest weakness, which could be an issue in Arteta’s system, is his passing - he is completing only 69% of his passes, which will need improving if he wants to thrive in Arteta’s pass-heavy system. To be fair, the lower percent could be affected by his knack for long-balls, which is quite a good quality, but is also a high-risk trait.
Much like the Pablo Mari loan, Arsenal have a great opportunity to give a potential acquisition a solid test without any obligation to buy. With any luck, the two loans will give Arsenal the boost they need as they continue their Premier League, FA Cup, and Europa League campaigns this spring.