Miguel Almiron: Wanted by Arsenal but thriving in MLS for Atlanta United

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Miguel Almiron was a target for Arsenal last summer – and you can see why judging by his performances for Atlanta United this season.

Arsenal made an approach to sign Almiron from Argentinian outfit Lanus towards the end of the transfer window and, although a move never materialised, the player’s agent suggested it may yet take place further down the line.

“Actually there was an approach, but it didn’t go any further,” Daniel Campos told Sport Witness last year. “I see it more for the future.

“That’s up to Lanus [his valuation]. But around €10m. No doubt he’d be delighted to play in the Premier League and for Arsenal.”

Atlanta went on to spend around $8.5 million to prise the central midfielder away from Argentina, a relatively large transfer fee for the MLS, and he is living up to the price tag.

The move raised a few eyebrows given there was major interest from Europe, but the 23-year-old has since revealed he was convinced to head to the States by former Barcelona boss Tata Martino, who is charge of Atlanta – while his team-mates include former Premier League trio Tyrone Mears, Kenwyne Jones and Chris McCann.

“At the beginning it was very important that Tata Martino was the coach,” Almiron said.

“Afterwards when I came, I came to see the club and saw that it was a serious club that had serious people working there, that they wanted to win important trophies, that motivates you more to come.”

As one of Atlanta’s Designated Players, the pressure has been on the Paraguay international to perform, and he has so far come up with the goods.

Already this season he has registered five goals and four assists in 11 appearances from midfield, although the club have had a mixed start to the season with four wins, four defeats and three draws, leaving them ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Judging by both his and the club’s most recent performance, however, they could be on the up. Almiron bagged a hat-trick from midfield as Atlanta thrashed Houston Dynamo 4-1, and has subsequently won the Player of the Week and Goal of the Week awards.

Diminutive and slight in stature, Almiron’s strength is evidently going forward and linking up with the attack, but he remains conscious of his defensive work, which will no doubt appeal to any potential clubs in Europe who are still monitoring the player.

In a Q&A with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Almiron went into more detail on his defensive duties.

“The coach wants us to help marking players when we don’t have the ball,” he said. “When we are pressuring coach wants me to mark the central midfielder. In today’s football you have to be able to defend and attack and you have to run a lot because if not the other team can really make a difference.”

On his physical presence – or relative lack of – in the central midfield battle, he added: “A player has to adapt to the style of the game. That’s something I had to get used to in Argentina, as well. Like I said before, in today’s soccer a player has to not only attack but defend so I try to do that as well.”

This maturity and awareness of his weaknesses will no doubt impress onlookers. The question now is how long he remains in the MLS.

If he continues in the same vein as against Houston, it might not be too long before Arsenal reignite their interest.