According to Sky Sports, Arsenal are keen on signing Valencia CF midfielder Carlos Soler. Head coach Mikel Arteta is reportedly interested in the Spanish wonder kid’s services and is a great admirer of the player.
With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing massive clouds of uncertainty around football currently, there are no guarantees that the transfer market will operate in the same way this summer. However, that hasn’t stopped clubs scouting and fielding out players for their squads next season.
It’s been reported that Arteta is planning on making signings from Spain, should the window goes ahead as planned. If rumours are to be believed, then Arsenal could have a so-called ‘Cesc Fabregas 2.0’ in their hands.
So, let’s take a deeper look into the most relevant question at hand, who is Carlos Soler and what could he bring to the Emirates?
Who is Carlos Soler?
Born in Valencia, Spain, Carlos Soler joined the youth setup of hometown club Valencia CF in 2005 at the tender age of 8 after impressing their scouts while playing for his local neighbourhood team. Initially starting as a striker, he was later pushed back to an attacking midfield role because of stature, physique and impressive technical skills.
Soler’s role change didn’t stop there, he was further pushed back into the central midfield areas upon his graduation to the reserves. He made his first appearance for the Valencia CF reserves in May 2015 in a 1-0 loss to UE Cornella in the Segunda Division B.
The same year in December, he finally got off the mark by scoring his first senior goal, netting his teams’ second in a 2-2 draw with CF Badalona. The following year, he was rewarded with a new contract and was promoted to the first team.
The Spanish midfielder was an unused substitute in Valencia’s 2-1 home win against Athletic Bilbao in the UEFA Europa League. His first team, as well as LaLiga debut, finally came in December 2016, coming on as a second-half substitute for Mario Suarez in a 2-3 loss against Real Sociedad. Soler netted his first goal for Valencia CF against derby rivals Villareal CF at the Estadio de la Cerámica.
Since then, the Spanish under-21 international has never looked back, becoming a key figure for both club and country. He’s made 20 appearances for Spain’s U-21 national team, scoring 4 goals.
Why is Soler so Highly Coveted? What’s his Playing Style?
One aspect that enables Soler to stand out is his incredible versatility. He’s probably the only player in the Valencia squad capable of playing in a variety of positions – as a number 10, on the flanks, as a number 8 or a deep-lying number 6. His technique, vision, passing range, and remarkable ball control imparts him the capability to play in a variety of roles.
Under Albert Celades though, Soler is mostly deployed on the flanks. In Valencia’s latest 3-4 defeat in the Champions League to Italian outfit Atalanta, he lined up on the left in the 4-4-2 system.
Despite being knocked out of the Champions League, this system has rewarded Celades in LaLiga with the club lying in 7th place in the table. It is a system that allows structure as well as the fluidity and most importantly, creativity along with thrust and pace on the flanks, mainly through Carlos Soler and Ferran Torres. The former is the creative hub, the latter is the speed maestro.
Carlos Soler isn’t your traditional winger, one who beats his marker with a piece of trickery and gets to the byline to cross it in. Not to say he doesn’t possess those traits, but the Spanish Under-21 midfielder isn’t renowned for it. Instead, he’s more of a wide-playmaker. It is a role executed by a player who acts as the team’s primary source of creativity, drifting inside to find space in between the lines to provide the telling pass in the final third and create a variety of chances.
His freedom to roam out from his designated area doesn’t mean he shirks from his defensive responsibilities. In a defensive scenario, the wide playmaker takes up his position on the wing to provide cover for his full-back and also to maintain a solid shape when lining up in low blocks, or two banks of four.
These tasks are assigned to Carlos Soler and he fulfills them with great efficiency and cutting edge. He is a fast and fine dribbler, alongside his traits of extraordinary vision and passing. He is more dangerous when he cuts inside or takes up positions in behind the striker duo of Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno, threading fine through balls or disrupting the flow of opposition defence. Moreover, it allows the full-backs to move upfield and provide an extra body in attack.
However, Soler hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons in terms of his goal contributions. In all competitions including the Champions League, he’s only registered 3 goals with only one assist in 25 appearances. In fact, Valencia CF aren’t among the most potent frontlines in LaLiga.
Valencia CF have scored a total of 38 LaLiga goals from 27 games, and hold a goal difference of -1. The stats don’t make for exciting reading, however, the league table doesn’t lie. They’re only 4 points away from Champions League spots and still hold a real chance of finishing in the top four.
The Spaniard’s goal exploits this season might not be one to remember but, he still adds so much more to Valencia’s traditional system. He may not be the quickest, but what he lacks in pace, he makes up for with his work-rate, tenacity and off the ball work.
In LaLiga, he’s averaged 0.8 tackles per game, 0.3 interceptions and has committed, rather tellingly, 1.1 fouls per game. Other than being an exciting imaginative midfielder, he’s also a workhorse and a reliable performer. It’s no wonder why Albert Celades continues to pick him week-in, week-out.
What Could he Offer Arsenal?
It’s uncertain how Carlos Soler will fit in at the Emirates. Arsenal does not line-up in a traditional 4-4-2 setup for him to line-up as he does on the flanks for Valencia CF in the LaLiga. However, you can understand why Arteta holds an interest in the player. It’s his vision, passing, technical acumen and Spanish traits that make him an attractive acquisition.
There is a belief that Mikel Arteta could line-up in a formation that he co-ordinated so well at Manchester City alongside Pep Guardiola. If Arsenal lined up in that system, it won’t be foreign to Soler as he is traditionally an attacking midfielder along with other new signings.
He could line-up in a ‘free-8’ role alongside Dani Ceballos (providing he extends his loan from Real Madrid), one which lends him the opportunity to work in and around the no.10 positions while also helping out in defence. Soler’s efficiency both in attack and defence could be a vital tool for Arteta if he lined up as shown above.
With much better performers alongside him, there’s no reason why Soler can’t become a much better performer at a bigger club like Arsenal.