There is a reason Arsenal were so desperate to avoid having an obligation to buy, and why Barcelona were so eager to include one. Denis Suarez has traded one bench in Spain for another in England.
He has been Arsenal’s false-economy signing, a player pitched by Unai Emery as a winger, but who used his first interview after joining to declare his preferred position as “a midfielder…in a similar position” to Andres Iniesta. His old club didn’t want him, and his new one never really needed him.
It was the panicked action of a club whose own financial negligence had forced them into a corner. The Gunners closed their eyes and flailed their arms, spending January leaking rumours of interest in Ivan Perisic, Yannick Carrasco, Christopher Nkunku, Idrissa Gueye, Youri Tielemans and Malcom, seemingly without the intention – or ability – to actually act on it.
They created anticipation and excitement where previously there was none, and thus had to sign someone to appease a fanbase who had their expectations raised for no reason.
Suarez has made four substitute appearances since, each no more than 24 minutes, as he has predictably failed to find a way past Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
It is not that the 25-year-old has been poor – he has not had the chance to be. Rather, he has understandably struggled to blow off the cobwebs that formed after barely playing for his former club, having been given just five months to settle in a new country and establish himself in a new team with new teammates.
There is sympathy on a personal and professional level. If he does not start against Bournemouth on Wednesday, it really is difficult to see a way back for a player who could be stuck in purgatory by the summer.
It is always difficult to measure the impact of a player signed first and foremost for his experience. Sean Dyche noted the “hunger”, “character” and “edge” that Peter Crouch could offer Burnley when he made the move from Stoke in January.
The 38-year-old made quite the impact on his debut as a second-half substitute against Southampton, but has not been seen since. Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes have both scored in subsequent wins over Brighton and Tottenham as Burnley’s phenomenal form has continued.
Therein lies the problem: Dyche and Burnley rely so heavily on the most English pairing of a New Zealand international and hopeful Austrian striker that those asked to provide back-up are forced to feed off the most unsavoury scraps. Sam Vokes traded the Clarets bench for a regular starting place at Stoke for a reason.
That may not faze Crouch, whose physical limitations would likely restrict his effectiveness if he were to play all the time. But his season has now been reduced to a battle against Matej Vydra in terms of who can play the most minutes. And that bar is so low that he can probably hop over it.
“He was in the same Brazil U20 side two years ago as Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta who’s now gone to AC Milan for big money,” said South American football expert Tim Vickery last month. “We’re two years down the line and he hasn’t got close, not even a sniff of a first-team place at Sao Paulo.”
That was no exaggeration. The 21-year-old arrived at Selhurst Park yet to make his senior first-team debut, and has come no closer in south London. At least he made the Sao Paulo bench 12 times as their third-choice keeper; he is behind Julian Speroni in the Palace pecking order.
The deal did make initial sense, with Vicente Guaita and Wayne Hennessey both injured when Perri joined. But both have since returned and rendered the loan signing of a young back-up practically pointless.
Roy Hodgson hardly sounded enthused last month. “I was told we brought in two players but I don’t really count the young goalkeeper who is here with a view to the future,” he said, adding that Palace will “assess him over the next six months” as they consider activating their option to buy. Perri had better be bloody sensational in training, because he’s not getting anywhere near a squad any time soon.
Shuffling through a side door as Miguel Almiron was treated to the red-carpet treatment for his grand entrance, Antonio Barreca always seemed destined to spend his Newcastle spell out of the limelight. Shortly after his arrival it was suggested that he was the club’s fifth-choice target, joining on loan only when a move for Jordan Lukaku fell through.
The 23-year-old was only ever intended to provide temporary cover at left-back, but Newcastle’s switch to a three-man central defence has pretty much rendered that position moot. Matt Ritchie has started 11 of the club’s last 12 Premier League games at left wing-back, with Kenedy given the nod in the other.
Barreca has played four minutes of Premier League football, failing to even make the match-day squads against Wolves and Huddersfield. Even Javier Manquillo has been allowed to sit on the sodding bench.
Claudio Ranieri wanted “leaders”. He was given a player quite literally signed on the “very good recommendations” of his best striker.
Lazar Markovic was always the smallest of square pegs at a point when Fulham needed something or someone to fill the gaping circle at the heart of their defence. Having conceded by far the most goals of any side, the Cottagers sought to rectify the problem by signing a winger last seen in the Premier League during Hull’s relegation season in 2016/17. It was a novel approach.
After failing to make the squad against both Crystal Palace and Manchester United, the Serbian finally came on with Fulham already two goals down to West Ham on Friday. He actually fared well, creating one chance and misplacing just one of his 29 passes. But he has solved an equation no-one was posing: forward options were already there in Ryan Sessegnon, Andre Schurrle, Ryan Babel and Luciano Vietto.
Perhaps we are underestimating the effect Markovic has on a dressing room? Liverpool have won just one of the four games they have played since he left.