As we get close to the January transfer, all the top clubs are looking for that piece of the puzzle that brings their plan together and helps them achieve their end of season goals.
For both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, the initial plans may have been to win the Premier League title, but Chelsea look head and shoulders above the challengers, so it’s a place in the top four that the North London clubs will likely be fighting for.
To secure a place in the UEFA Champions League, both need to strengthen and reports this weekend suggested that Real Madrid forward, Isco, is on Arsene Wenger’s wanted list. Maybe it’s because Mesut Ozil is struggling to match his creative streak from last season, or it could be the Gunners’ boss sees him as a compliment to the German playmaker.
The 24-year-old Spaniard is unhappy that he’s not a regular starter for Los Blancos – only playing 666 minutes in La Liga this season – and that has put clubs on red alert.
His contract runs out in 2018, but Real are keen to want to extend that, however, that’s just to protect them, nothing to do with Isco’s future.
“It’s difficult when you’re training well and the manager does not put you in,” the player admitted back in October. “But in the end it’s my own fault. In the end it is me who is responsible. I want to see where I can improve to get in there.”
“I am not going to give in easily. I know I will be a success. I don't know if that will be with Madrid – I hope so. But if not, I will be a success somewhere else.”
Football Whispers understands that Spurs have not given up hope on landing the forward. It was believed that they moved for Moussa Sissoko as they couldn’t sign him, but a future deal is not quite dead in the water.
Chelsea and Manchester United are also thought to be keen and Isco’s desire is to play for a Champions League level club, that is why Arsenal’s interested is, at the time of writing, ranked eighth in the Top Whispers with a 2.8 rating.
Isco has played in the Champions League this term, so would be cup-tied for the knockout stage. That gives Spurs a chance, and if they can convince the Spaniard he fits in their team, he could be the difference between playing on Wednesday’s rather than Thursday nights.
Mauricio Pochettino played 3-5-2 in the win over Hull City, but went back to 4-2-3-1 in the 2-1 victory over Burnley at White Hart Lane. The Argentine has shown flexibility in his system and it is the adaptability of Isco that will instantly attract the Spurs boss.
The former Tenerife man is able to play on the left or right of the attack and even deeper behind the forwards. It doesn’t really matter where you pick him, he has the intelligence, movement and skill to cause problems from anywhere in the final third. That is why he would be an excellent signing for Pochettino.
This is not to say that he is miles better than any of Spurs current attacking options, but it’s the variety in his play, a different look, a new option, someone to terrorise the English defences in a way that they don’t face when playing Spurs at the moment.
When you watch his goal in the recent 2-2 draw against England at Wembley in November, it’s everything Spurs have lacked when games haven’t gone their way this season.
The home side look fine when Isco (yellow) plays the ball out to the right, but then he runs past the line of three England midfielders, not one of them tracking his run. It’s not until he gets beyond Eric Dier (red) that anyone takes notice of the forward, but then it’s too late.
Isco takes the ball down beautifully with his chest and finishes low past Tom Heaton – who should actually do better. The goal came in the 95th minute, and it was his movement and desire that caught England napping. That’s what the 24-year-old does best. He’s a busy, relentless, worker bee, with a big heart and a great engine.
When in possession, he doesn’t just try and run past defenders with the ball, he understands he’s not quite the quickest, but uses link-up play, one-twos and movement to burst in between full-backs and centre-backs.
If teams play high up the pitch, like Cadiz did in the Copa del Rey last season, he watches and waits for his moment, playing off the last shoulder. As soon as he knows Casemiro is in possession and the deep midfielder’s head is up, Isco is off, running past the defence, he is picked out beautifully and applies the finish.
He is capable of producing that on both flanks and although very right footed, he can finish on his left too. From watching his fleeting minutes in the Real Madrid first-team, you can’t help but believe he would fit Spurs team very well. He is the ideal player to link up with Harry Kane, Vincent Janssen, or even deeper with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
Isco is a creator and a worker, his running creates problems and he has the ability to make things happen. When he gets inside the penalty area, he plays with his head up, looking for team-mates in a better position. That unselfishness and vision can be priceless.
Spurs like to play it tight through the middle and link little triangles of passes. Isco is excellent at that. Perhaps in a more compact league, where teams don’t leave so much space in behind, his skill and artistry will help the London club unlock even the most stubborn of defences come the new year.