The Scout Report: Joao Mario

The Scout Report

According to reports, Arsenal were planning to ship out Mesut Ozil during the January transfer window, but the club saw their proposed exchange deal with Inter Milan rejected by the Italian club.

So who was the player Arsene Wenger wanted you may ask?

None other than Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario. However, Inter were keen to retain the services of the 24-year-old and the deal looks unlikely.

But, who is Joao Mario and why would the Gunners want him to replace Ozil?

Despite starting his professional career with Sporting Lisbon, the midfielder actually spent time at rivals Porto as a youngster between 2002 and 2004.

Mario made his debut for Sporting on December 14th, 2011 when he came on a 78th-minute substitute in a 2-0 away defeat to Lazio.

That would be the only game that he played during the 2011/12 season before becoming a regular with the club’s B side the following season, playing 31 games, scoring once and helping himself to a very impressive 11 assists.

The 2013/14 season saw Mario make the step up to the first-team during the second half of the season as he made 15 appearances and picked up six assists without scoring.

The following campaign saw the Portuguese play 45 times in all competitions, scoring seven goals and assisting a further five. He would make the same number of appearances and score the same amount of goals in 2015/16 while he racked up 12 assists from a number of positions.

That form – coupled with some impressive displays as Portugal won Euro 2016 – convinced fallen Italian giants Inter Milan to fork out £34 million to bring him to the capital and he had a decent first season as he settled into his new surroundings, scoring three goals and assisting eight in 33 appearances.

The new season has seen him start brightly, picking up four assists in just six Serie A appearances.

Watching Joao Mario and looking at his stats, he would appear to be the perfect fit for Arsenal.

The 24-year-old is capable of playing anywhere across midfield, providing the important versatility that Arsenal need with the crammed fixture schedule for the remainder of this season.

The quality he brings would also be very welcome.

Confident and composed on the ball, his passing in the final third is always accurate and full of quality, evident in his 89% pass accuracy in Italy’s top flight this season.

The Portuguese also likes to run at defenders. He is happy to bring the ball from deep with his powerful running – despite his small 5ft 10in frame – or using his quick feet, good spatial awareness and is tricky to work his way out of tight spaces.

A hugely impressive 78% take on percentage highlights his ability with the ball at his feet.

Eight key passes and 11 chances created in just six games this season also show his quality in the final third.

One of the main reasons why Arsene Wenger would want to swap Mesut Ozil for Joao Mario is the energy that the latter brings compared to the former.

The Inter man is an all-action midfield player who’s running and energy are the key to his success while Ozil is often criticised for his lack of effort.

While I am a big fan of Joao Mario, I would love to see him and Ozil in the same team rather than a swap deal take place due to the quality both have despite their similarities and differences.

However, Inter do not appear keen on selling and you can understand why. If they were to sell, they would probably want to make a profit on the £34 million they paid in the summer of 2016.

With the way the transfer market is going, it is hard to make a prediction on how much Joao Mario would cost but I can guarantee it would not be cheap.

Saying this, Arsenal would be paying for a quality talent with his best years ahead.

Personally, this is a signing that would put a smile on my face, what about yours?

About the Author

Dan Mountney
Hi, I'm Dan and I'm currently studying Sports Journalism at the University for the Creative Art in Farnham, Surrey. I have supported Arsenal all my life and grew up watching arguably the greatest generation of players the club has ever had. I hope my love for the club comes across in my writing and that you enjoy what you've read from me!