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Keerthi Krishna writes a detailed scout report about the Arsenal and Spain midfielder, Jon Toral.
The summer of 2011 saw wholesale changes in the Arsenal squad. Club captain Cesc Fabregas, long serving Frenchman Gael Clichy and star player Samir Nasri left the club for greener pastures. Arsene Wenger brought in players like Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and a host of other players, most of whom were signed in a transfer deadline frenzy. Many youth players were also signed for the academy. The two most striking players signed for the academy were Hector Bellerin and his close friend Jon Toral. The pair, aged 16 at that time, were signed from Barcelona. The pair have had mixed fortunes since then with Bellerin having established himself as one of the best right backs in the world. However things haven’t panned out so well for Toral who will be analysed below.
Toral was born on 5th February 1995 to Spanish father and an English mother in Reus, in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia. He began playing football as a child with his local club, UE Barri Santes Creus, and signed for Barcelona in 2003, after being discovered by youth football coordinator Albert Puig. At Barcelona, Toral quickly forged a midfield partnership with Sergi Samper. The pair would play together for eight years and were referred to as the “Samper & Toral Limited Company” in the Spanish media. Toral was a part of the under-15 team which won the 2009–10 Manchester United Premier Cup. In 2011, he signed up for the Gunners along with Hector Bellerin for a fee around 300,000 euros which was described as “immoral” by then Barcelona President Sandro Rossell. Toral had to wait till November end to make his debut for the Arsenal reserves due to injury, with his debut ending in a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa. He played regularly for the Reserves despite being on the sidelines due to injuries. It was in 2013-14 season where he made an impact by scoring 6 goals in 20 appearances for the reserves. He spent the 2014-15 season at Brentford where he came into the limelight with consistent performances as the Bees pushed for promotion. He ended the season with a respectable 6 goals in 37 appearances. 2015-16 saw him being loaned to Birmingham City where he ended up with the Player of the Season award. Toral ended up with 8 goals in 37 appearances for Birmingham City. Spanish club Granada signed him on loan for the 2016-17 season where he will be sporting the No 11. However his impact and output have been poor this season and he has struggled to get appearances.
An elegant central midfielder who has been blessed with a wonderful touch and a supreme range of passing. The 17-year-old spent eight years perfecting his craft in the famous Barcelona youth ranks before being tempted to move to Arsenal along with his good friend Hector Bellerin. Toral has the unique ability to constantly be an outlet for players all over the field. The lad is consistently on the move and is always a release valve for his teammates whenever they get caught in a dead-end. This is something that cannot be overstated, as it is a skill that not many possess. Toral facilitates this ability with his capacity to hold onto the ball in tight spaces and often with an opposition player right on top of him. He looks very cool and composed on the ball always passing and then moving. Due to these attributes he is often utilized as a deep lying midfielder and is often partnered by a defensive midfielder who helps to cover him and do the dirty work. In short he controls the play from central midfield.
Like so many Spanish midfielders, Toral has that rare ability to find space and never appear rushed when on the ball. His vision and ability to play a pass means that he can dictate proceedings from the centre of the pitch and he has a real desire to get forward. He has also been blessed with instant control and a wonderful left foot. He is technically very good, elegant on the ball, has a range of passes and an eye for goal. His eye for goals is something that needs to be mentioned. In a match against Nottingham Forest, he scored by shooting through a crowd of players and he also bagged a hat trick for the Bees against Blackpool. His goal against Ipswich Town where he scored a dipping volley from 25 yards bagged the Goal of the Season in Birmingham City awards. He is also known to be a hard worker.
Toral must work on his right foot. His slight build may also make it difficult for him to adapt to the physical nature of first team football in the Premier League and he may well have to work hard on developing his strength in order to hold of players, much in the same way Jack Wilshere was able to do from a very young age. He is slowly but surely adapting himself to the physical nature of the game. He must improve the defensive side of his game and needs to play alongside someone does the dirty work and gives him freedom to play. Toral himself is no stranger to injuries, with his academy days at Arsenal having been blighted by a succession of setbacks. As he has demonstrated over the past couple of seasons, however, the prospect is capable of making a substantial impact when he is fully fit.
With his close friend and fellow La Masia graduate Hector Bellerin having thrived in the first-team at Arsenal, Toral will be eager to follow suit. He certainly has the natural ability and stresses the importance of having the right attitude to go alongside his talent. Learning from his fellow Spaniard Santi Cazorla will only help him develop and there is a genuine chance that Arsenal have unearthed a talent similar to that of Fabregas.
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