PROFILE: Miguel Almiron – Arsenal’s First Ever Paraguayan Player?

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In the last few days, Atlanta United and Paraguayan forward Miguel Almiron has been linked with a shock move to Arsenal Football Club, or is it really a shock? The 24-year-old was linked with Arsenal just two years ago when he was playing for Lanus, before he moved to Major League Soccer to play for Atlanta.

Almiron has been nothing short of sensational playing for a record-breaking MLS team in Atlanta. Almiron has contributed 12 goals and 13 assists as Atlanta have stormed their way to the top of the Western Conference, while they set all sorts of records this season. With just two games to go in the regular season, Atlanta are three points away from breaking the most points accumulated in a single season. In Josef Martinez, the five-stripes hold the forward who just recently broke the record for the most goals in a single regular season (currently 30), previously held by Bradley Wright-Phillips, Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski (27).

This piece will look at the strengths and weaknesses of Almiron and exactly what he could bring to Arsenal if he is to join them in January as being heavily reported.

Who Is Almiron? And What Has Happened In His Career So Far?

Miguel Almiron was born on the 10th of February 1994 in Asunción, Paraguay. He is primarily an attacking midfielder, however, can also play on both flanks, as described by his current coach Gerardo Martinez.

He came up through the ranks of Cerro Porteno, for whom he also signed his first-ever professional contract. After a bit part role in Cerro Porteno’s unbeaten title win in 2013, Almiron move on to Lanus two years later, where he won yet another title with the Argentinian Premier Division team.

He quickly attracted interest from the MLS and was eventually signed up by the then MLS expansion team, Atlanta United, for whom he currently plays. He scored nine times in his first ever season with the club, including the club’s second-ever hat-trick in March 2017 against fellow MLS newcomers Minnesota United, in a 6-1 victory.

Outside of his club career, Almiron broke into the Paraguayan national team and played a part in both their Copa American Centenario and 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. All in all, the 24-year-old has 12 appearances for Paraguay and is yet to score a goal.

Where Does Almiron Play?

Almiron is primarily seen “as a traditional number 10,” as described by his current manager Gerardo Martinez. However, Martinez has also described Almiron “as a team player,” and reckons there is more to the little Paraguayan them initially meets the eye.

“Miguel has a commitment to the team, I’m talking about his commitment to winning the ball back, pressing, he’s a player that’s always working,” he said
“He’s an atypical No 10. Because he gives you everything that a No 10 gives you and he probably dispossesses players like a defensive midfielder.
“So as a player who always works hard, he’s never absent in a game, even a game where your team isn’t dominating the offensive face of the game. It’s very rare to find a game where he’s not.” (Source: Sky Sports).

The quotes above seem to suggest that Almiron has all the qualities to play both attacking midfield and both wings. With Aaron Ramsey on the verge of leaving Arsenal next summer and Arsenal lacking width, Almiron could be the perfect player for Unai Emery’s system. With Ramsey playing in behind the striker so far this season, with Mesut Ozil deployed on the right-hand wing, Almiron could be brought in as a direct replacement for the Welshman, who could be sold in January. Emery’s system relies on hard-working forwards, who press from the front, yet still possess the quality to open up an opposition.

Miguel Almiron This Season

As mentioned above, Almiron has set the MLS alight this season with both his goals and Assists. The Paraguayan has 12 goals and 13 assists this season, which makes him Atlanta’s second-highest scorer and top assist-king. However, Almiron’s influence goes way further than just his goals and assists. In 32 MLS games this season Almiron has played the second-most minutes in the team, 2764, second only to Jullian Gressel, who has played just two more minutes than him. 

When it comes to passes completed in the Atlanta team, Almiron holds his own, with 2.3 key passes per game for Atlanta this season. This is higher than any Arsenal player averages this season, with the highest being Aaron Ramsey on 1.5 key passes per game. If Almiron was to be compared to Arsenal players based on the 2017/2018 season, then he would come third behind only Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, on 2.7 and 3.2 key passes per game respectively.

However, despite these impressive statistics, Almiron does possess a few weaknesses in his game. The most clear and obvious weakness Almiron has is his inability to hold the ball up due to his height. This is shown in the number of times he is dispossessed, 1.4 times per game this current MLS season, which is the 5th highest when including Arsenal players from the 2017/2018 season.

Final Thoughts

With the departure of Ramsey in Summer 2019 all but sealed, a further attacking midfielder will be needed to plug the hole, and given Almiron’s youthfulness and better creative ability, Almiron could prove to be a worthy successor. However, doubts remain whether Almiron would be able to adapt to the pace and power of the Premier League. His stints in the MLS and Argentinian and Paraguayan leagues gives no indication as to how Almiron will cope with the English Premier League.