Latics have secured another signing in the shape of 21 year old Central Midfielder Miguel Azeez. The youngster arrives at Latics from Arsenal on a loan deal and bolsters our midfield options till the end of the season. He comes with a lot of potential, a bit of an interesting reputation off the pitch and a lot of faith in him from the club’s coaching staff.
Having struggled to break into Arsenal’s first team, which is by no means a failure they are damn good at the moment, the move to Latics offers Azeez the chance to kick start his career under the tutelage of former youth boss Kevin Betsy. He’s played the best football of his short career under Betsy at youth level for the Gunners and hopefully reuniting with the Latics coach will be a match made in heaven.
He’s had a couple of rough loan spells in the past 12 months and hasn’t endeared himself to Portsmouth fans after his spell there. At 21 years old there have been suggestions that he lacks a bit of maturity off the pitch but you’d imagine that won’t last too long in a very professional Latics dressing room should it be the case, and moving far away from home could be a good thing too. He’s someone who needs to kick on with what could be a really impressive career and hopefully he can do that here.
What will he bring to the side?
As you’d expect from a product of the Arsenal academy Azeez is a really technically gifted footballer. His best attributes are certainly his close control, ball skills and technique when passing and shooting the ball. All of those things mean he shouldn’t find the Championship too difficult a level to adapt to and will be comfortable playing in a *hopefully* possession focused side.
There’s a level of mystique around players that come from the academies of big clubs, rightly or wrongly you can put levels of expectation on them that become unhealthy. That may have been the problem for Azeez in his two loan spells at Portsmouth and UD Ibiza, he went from a big named club and didn’t immediately show big club qualities. We need to make sure we don’t apply that pressure to him.
I don’t think anybody has ever doubted his talent, but the noise coming from Portsmouth fans suggest its more his attitude that’s holding him back at the moment. His loan at Fratton Park was cut short early after Azeez failed to make an impression under Danny Cowley and many rumours suggest his head, or perhaps more specifically his eyes, were focused on things off the pitch.
Technically there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have been a success at both his loan spells. His set piece delivery is superb and that’s always a good judge of a players raw technique, and he possesses a really good range of passing too. Despite his slight frame he puts himself about well defensively too but I wouldn’t label him a ball winner like Naylor/Cousins.
He’s somewhere between a ‘luxury player’ play making type CM and a box to box player. He’s handy at most aspects of the game without excelling at any but I’d suggest he’d be best employed in a midfield 3 as the most advanced CM. He has an eye for a pass like a creative midfielder and that’s certainly something we lack.
He’s really impressive defensively which might surprise you for a player some seem to be labelling with attitude problems. It looks very much like any issues he may have come off the pitch as on it there’s so much talent in him that is ready to be released. Quick, strong, good on the ball and a willingness to effect the game in both boxes.
Azeez has always had hype around him and his arrival will undoubtedly bring excitement to the club. There’s a Premier League player in him somewhere and the addition of a talented young midfielder will push the more experienced CMs further and give them something to think about.
Where might he play?
This is Azeez’s heat map from the first half of the season at Ibiza. As you can see he’s a pretty all action midfielder who gets up and down the pitch well and, interestingly, sticks to the left side of the pitch more often.
That’s very interesting for Latics as we are in need of a player who favours playing on the left of midfield. Naylor does it a lot and Cousins has too but if given the choice they’d both prefer to be on the right in place of Max Power. Azeez probably replaces Power stylistically so to have him comfortable playing on the left is good.
I wouldn’t use him as a number 10 personally, I think he’s much better in deeper midfield areas. From the 8 role he can affect the game in attacking areas still but isn’t the fulcrum on which our attacks are built which I think will help him. In a midfield 3 he could play as one of the two number 8s or as the deeper number 6, although I think there are more suitable players in our squad for the 6 role.
It’s an interesting move for all parties. For Latics we’re getting a clearly talented young midfielder on loan till the end of the season and can offer him the chance to play for the coach he performed best under in youth football.
But part of me is slightly underwhelmed that it’s only on loan. He’s not quite the finished product yet, in fact you could argue he isn’t even a Championship standard player yet, so to use a loan spot on him is a big risk.
A permanent would’ve been ideal but the loan still offers him the chance to impress and you get the feeling it’s now or never for his Arsenal career. If he does well here he’s got a chance, if not he knows it’s probably over for him at the Gunners. Let’s see how things play out! Welcome to Wigan Athletic Miguel Azeez!