Arsenal have longed for a deep-lying creative midfield hub since the tragic ankle injury suffered by Santi Cazorla in 2016.
Dani Ceballos looked to be the solution to that long-lasting issue when he was brought in on a season-long loan from Real Madrid last summer. It seemed to be shrewd business from the Gunners. After playing a starring role in the Spain side that were crowned 2019 UEFA Under-21 European Championship winners, Ceballos found himself on the wish-list of numerous clubs on the continent.
However, the 23-year-old has had a rather unremarkable season in North London. It looks highly unlikely Arsenal will match the reported £44million asking price Los Blancos are demanding. Instead, opting to look elsewhere for a new playmaker.
A player who has been repeatedly linked with a move to the Emirates is Valencia midfielder Carlos Soler. A team-mate of Ceballos’ in the Spanish Under-21 Euros winning side, Soler has been labelled as ‘the next David Silva’ by many in his homeland.
A graduate of the famed Valencia academy, Soler is the latest in a long line of illustrious midfielders produced by Los Che. After signing for the club at the age of eight, Soler made his debut in 2016 and has not looked back.
The 23-year-old swiftly became a fan favourite at Mestalla after solidifying himself as a first-team regular in the latter stages of the 2016/17 season. It's clear to see why. Soler possesses an exquisite passing ability. A trait which has become synonymous with players who learn their trade in Spain.
Despite emerging as a central midfielder, Soler has been mainly deployed as a winger by both coaches Marcelino and Albert Celades since his emergence in the starting line-up. Yet, demonstrating a clear inclination to dictate the game from a more central role, he often drifts inside rather than hugging the touchline.
It is these incisive runs which allow Soler to operate between the lines and make penetrating passes in behind the opposition’s defence – something Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pépé will welcome.
Soler’s versatility will be a huge asset for Gunners boss Mikel Arteta. Capable of playing on either flank, as a defensive midfielder or in a more advanced midfield role, the Soler has already made more than 100 appearances for Valencia in various midfield positions.
Despite his game largely being centred around having possession of the ball, Soler does not shirk away from his defensive responsibilities. He isn't shy to put a foot in and has averaged 0.8 tackles per 90 whilst predominantly playing out wide. That will suit the counter-attacking style Arteta has expressed a desire to implement at the Emirates.
Soler has exhibited a sense of maturity years beyond his age since breaking into the first team just three seasons ago. Playing in a 4-4-2, he has shown an astute tactical awareness in regard to when to sit and when to make a bursting run forward.
Performing on the big stage hasn't fazed Soler either. The youngster has regularly featured for Los Che in the UEFA Champions League, scoring against both Chelsea and Manchester United in the competition in the last two seasons. Soler has also turned up in the big games domestically, putting in a man-of-the-match performance against Barcelona in Valencia’s 2019 Copa Del Rey final victory.
Soler’s goal contributions have come under scrutiny this season. The midfielder has only registered three goals and one assist in all competitions this term, a significant decrease on the 11 assists he recorded last term.
Not dissimilar in style to Ceballos, Soler could potentially take a while to acclimatise to the Premier League. Something which Ceballos has gradually done since making the move over from Madrid. The pair operate in almost identical positions, which makes you wonder if Soler will have more luck in the capital than Ceballos.
It will also take a lot of convincing on Arteta’s part for Soler to leave his boyhood club after recently mandating his family’s aspirations for him to finish his career in Valencia. The midfielder also has a reported release clause of £140million which is far from the type of move Arsenal fans have come accustomed to.
However, Soler is one of the most well-rounded up-and-coming midfielders in the whole of Europe and will fill the creative burden left by Cazorla. But whether Arsenal choose to spend big money to do so is another matter.