On the 31st of January this year (Winter Transfer Deadline Day), the majority of Arsenal fans were, quite understandably, underwhelmed by the signing of the 19 year old German midfielder, Thomas Eisfeld for a reported £475,000 (which was the due compensation for training him as an academy player). Whilst Wenger justified the signing of Eisfeld from Borussia Dortmund by typically praising the youngster, us Gooners, myself included, reacted to the transfer with a sense of apprehensive frustration. Not for the first time, Wenger had not brought in a world-class player, but rather a relatively unproven teenager. But, also not for the first time, Wenger had successfully spotted and recruited an extremely talented prospect. Now, almost a year on from his signature, Eisfeld has Arsenal fans singing his praises and is being hailed as one of our best young talents, and quite rightly so! I believe that the young German has huge potential, but it will only be fulfilled if he is ‘groomed’ and ‘nurtured’, so to speak, in the right way. I also think that Eisfeld can be extremely useful as a squad member. His talent is such that he is definitely able to provide cover and depth in midfield and attack.
Turning Heads, Catching Eis:
The recent attention that Eisfeld has received hasn’t arisen out of nothing. He first properly announced himself to fans during the Asia Tour in pre-season, where he scored 2 goals in as many appearances. This season the German has put in some fantastic performances for the Arsenal Under-21’s, as well as impressing in his first team debut in that unforgettable game vs Reading in the Capital One Cup. Eisfeld has played 11 matches for the Under-21’s in the U21 Premier League this term, scoring 7 goals (a goal every 108 minutes) and providing 2 assists. Not bad for a midfielder, regardless of the level they’re playing at. These statistics are also backed up by high praise from the likes of Jack Wilshere and the Under-21’s coach Terry Burton:
“He’s a very intelligent footballer … He gets in good positions … he’s got excellent technique and can finish things off.” – Terry Burton
His debut vs Reading was a match in which Eisfeld proved that he is capable of performing on bigger stages than the rather low-key settings of the training ground and Underhill. He showed flashes of brilliance in his substitute appearance, displaying a hunger to perform and helping finish off a famous comeback, driven by the passion and desire of youth. Thomas beat his man on more than one occasion, passed both accurately and confidently and played at least one great ball into the box, which Giroud got his head to and narrowly missed the target. He played with a composed assertiveness usually associated with a player well beyond his own years, whilst also displaying just the right amount of youthful flare and adventurousness.
“When the ball goes to him, you always feel that something positive will happen.” – Arsène Wenger (Post Reading Match)
Real-eis-ing the Potential:
Eisfeld told the official Arsenal Magazine that he believes he has improved an awful lot since joining the club in January:
“Since I’ve been at Arsenal I’ve learnt how to play the ball quicker and to pass and move with more effectiveness. I have become stronger too.” – Thomas Eisfeld
I firmly believe that Eisfeld has the makings of a world-class attacking midfielder, however it is entirely up to Arsenal to make sure that his development continues in the optimal way. In my opinion that means starting to include the 19 year old in more and more first team matches so that he can start to get used to the top level of the game and the pressures that come with it. This will also give Thomas the opportunity to play alongside, and learn from, first team players who already have that experience, just like his hero and namesake, Thomas Rosicky.
” [Eisfeld] arguably plays better with better players because he is intelligent.” – Terry Burton
We have seen before that young players improve when given the game-time and first team experience. Examples of this are players such as a younger Jack Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and more recently, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson. I think that the upcoming Capital One Cup quarter-final against Bradford (and hopefully beyond) is a great opportunity to begin easing Eisfeld into the first team set-up. Wenger himself has said that we should expect to see Eisfeld in the Premier League at some point this season:
“He is a very interesting player and I think he will feature in the Premier League before the end of the season.” – Arsène Wenger
How Can He Be of Serv-Eis?
In my opinion, Eisfeld has proven that he is of a high enough level to at least warrant a place on the Arsenal bench. He can provide cover and rotational options for a relatively over-worked midfield. His preferred position is CAM but he says he doesn’t mind playing on the wing:
“My favourite position is the No 10 role, so attacking midfield. I don’t mind the wings either.” – Thomas Eisfeld
His positional preferences mean that Eisfeld could be an ideal back-up, alongside the returning Rosicky, for the likes of Cazorla and Wilshere in the midfield. Cazorla, despite his majestic ability, has looked tired and lethargic on occasion this season, and Wilshere only returned from a long-term injury a few weeks ago. Both players sometimes look like they could use some rest, but we’ve lacked the top quality replacements in that area that Wenger can bring on to the pitch. This forces him to keep those players out for longer than he may want, even if they are under performing. The return of Rosicky should aid the problem, but by promoting Eisfeld as well, Wenger could have the choice between Rosicky’s experience and Eisfeld’s speedier, more adventurous youth coming off the bench. Added to this, Eisfeld’s versatility means that he could even provide another, emergency wing option, instead of playing Ramsey there, who tends to suffer when out of position.
What L-Eis Ahead?
I have always felt that since the likes of Nasri and Fabregas left, we have lacked a real attacking game-changer in our midfield. To be fair however, this season, Santi Cazorla has filled those boots to a certain extent. But as much as we all love Santi and watching him play, he is nearly 28 and, although it may sound ludicrous to start thinking about possible ‘heirs’ at the moment, he won’t be able to keep playing week-in, week-out over the next couple of years. That’s where Eisfeld comes in. Eisfeld, I believe, will be a regular starter in our midfield within the next three years, if not sooner. His intelligence, quick passing, dangerous movement and eye for goal make him a well-rounded, complete package in the making. In the last couple of days, amidst rumours in the media, many fans have been calling for Wenger to splash £30 million on meeting Mario Götze’s buy-out clause to bring him to the Emirates. Even though I already see this as a very unlikely signing, I retain the belief that actually Götze’s ex-teamate, Eisfeld, can be our little German superstar instead. So for once, if I were Wenger, I’d save the cash (or more likely spend it on other players) and turn my attention to making sure that Thomas Eisfeld fulfils his potential and becomes something very special indeed.