Transfer Talk: Barca starlet Balde can assist Arsenal's title charge
Premier League leaders Arsenal are keen to maintain their lofty standing by adding reinforcements this winter, with Barcelona’s Alejandro Balde thought to be in their sights.
The 19-year-old full-back has enjoyed a breakthrough year at Camp Nou and even featured once for Spain at the World Cup this winter.
The Gunners have also been intensely linked with Shakhtar Donetsk starlet Mykhaylo Mudryk — who now appears Chelsea bound — suggesting they are keen to enter the market this month.
Ahead of their North London derby clash with Tottenham this afternoon, we take a look at how Balde would bolster Mikel Arteta’s defensive options.
One of the most sought-after traits in a modern defender is versatility and that is why Arsenal have dipped into the market to sign Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu in recent windows.
England international White, 25, is a centre-half by trade but now features regularly at right-back for the Gunners, while 24-year-old Japan international Tomiyasu can play anywhere across the defensive line.
This could be why Arteta has taken a liking to Balde, who has played 617 minutes at left-back and 437 at right-back in LaLiga this term.
That versatility would not only be an asset for Arsenal but could help Balde in his search for minutes, should he make the switch to London.
Speaking in September, Barcelona manager Xavi was full of praise for his young starlet.
He said: "I am happy for [Balde]. He has great quality and character.
"It never ceases to amaze me that a teenager can play at that level. Physically, he is amazing and he is going to give us a lot."
The Blaugrana boss is clearly a big fan of his young gem and is unlikely to let him leave without a fight.
Quality in the final third
Balde has broken into the Barcelona side this season, accumulating 1,062 minutes in LaLiga so far.
He has impressed in the final third, registering three league assists — the joint-third most in the Blaugrana’s ranks.
That is an even more impressive feat given the abundance of talent at the club.
The left-back is level with Ansu Fati (three), one behind Robert Lewandowski (four), and two behind Ousmane Dembele (five) — certainly not bad company to be in.
Arsenal require technical excellence from their full-backs and Balde possesses that quality in spades.
Balde is a modern, attacking full-back but has been solid defensively this campaign as well.
He has made the most tackles of any defender in the Barcelona squad this season (21), only bettered by the midfield trio of Frenkie de Jong (23), Pedri (24) and Sergio Busquets (25).
La Blaugrana have enjoyed a fantastic start to the LaLiga season and are locked in a title race with rivals Real Madrid.
Incredibly, Xavi’s side have only conceded six goals so far this term — and Balde has certainly played his part in that impressive record.
Despite Balde’s clear talent, it is difficult to imagine him establishing himself as a regular starter immediately with the Gunners.
At left-back, Arteta can call upon Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kieran Tierney — two players of real quality and differing profiles.
Meanwhile, at right-back, White is virtually undroppable, though Tomiyasu has hardly put a foot wrong since arriving.
However, strength in depth could be crucial in the coming weeks and months as the Gunners eye a shock Premier League title.
If the opportunity to acquire someone of Balde's calibre arises, they would be foolish to turn it down.