According to reports in both England and Spain Arsenal are close to securing a deal for young Barcelona striker Antonio Sanabria. The move is not yet a formality, with Roma also reportedly interested in his services, but, if Sanabria was to join next month, where would he fit into Arsenal’s catalogue of young strikers?
Sanabria has been at Barcelona’s renowned La Masia academy since 2009 and broke into their B team at the start of this season having trained with the senior side the previous year. Already a senior Paraguay international at the age of 17, Sanabria is a quick and skilful talent who would undoubtedly suit Arsenal’s style of play.
Arsenal’s interest in Sanabria is understandable as he is evidently a prodigious talent, but what would his arrival mean for the quartet of young strikers attempting to carve out a senior career at the club- namely Yaya Sanogo, Benik Afobe, Chuba Akpom and Zak Ansah?
Sanogo has had an injury-ravaged start to his Arsenal career since joining from Auxerre, with the 20 year old restricted to two senior appearances, both of which came back in August. He is pencilled in for a return next month, however, and, given that he is under contract until 2017, it seems likely that Sanogo will still be given an opportunity to prove his worth despite his injury record.
Afobe is another striker who is no stranger to injuries, with the England U21 international having only recently returned from another lengthy spell on the sidelines. His form for the Arsenal second-string since his comeback has been impressive, but Afobe will be acutely aware that time is running out for him to salvage his career at the Emirates Stadium, with his current contract set to expire in the summer. It would be feasible for him to spend the second half of the season on loan at a Championship club in an attempt to prove his worth, but he knows that he will have to produce something extra special in the coming months in order to prolong his stay at the club.
Akpom, given that he is more than two years younger than Afobe, has rather more time on his side, and has already achieved something that Afobe hasn’t by making his Premier League debut earlier this season. The youngster enjoyed a prolific season in front of goal for the U21s during 2012/13, but has found the going considerably tougher this time around, scoring only four goals so far this campaign. His star is far from on the wane, however, and he will be given every opportunity to prove his worth at the club, with a starting berth in the Capital One Cup next season a genuine possibility.
Like Sanogo and Afobe, Ansah has endured an injury nightmare over recent months, with the striker not having featured at all this season. It is not yet clear when he will return, and there is a similar sense of uncertainty over whether he will remain at the club beyond this season having scored just once in 28 second-string appearances.
Overall, it seems that, if Arsenal were to succeed in signing Sanabria there would certainly be room for him at the club, given the uncertainty over the long-term futures of Afobe and Ansah and the persisting concerns regarding Sanogo’s fitness.
Sanabria’s acquisition would continue to swell the number of La Masia graduates at London Colney, with Hector Bellerin, Jon Toral and Julio Pleguezuelo already at the club, whilst Mikel Arteta and Ignasi Miquel also spent some of their formative years with the Catalan side.
Arsenal’s ability to acquire some of Barcelona’s brightest talents is a source of considerable ire for the Spanish champions dating back to the signing of Cesc Fabregas in 2003, but, at present, the signs suggest that Sanabria is set to follow that well-trodden path.