In the North-West of England right now, there is only one young English midfielders name on everyones lips. Charlie Patino.
Arsenal fans have been speaking about the young midfielder for a few years.
In his sole start for the club – in last seasons FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest – he looked like a boy playing a mans game.
Technically gifted, the then 18-year-old looked like he still needed to do a lot of physical growing if he was going to fulfil his potential.
Like with many players looking to make the transition from talented youth team player to senior pro, Patino needed first team game time. Something he could not get at Arsenal (although some fans were oddly calling him to be playing in the first team despite clearly not being ready).
The club decided to loan him out to Championship side Blackpool this season, and Patino has flourished in the seaside town.
He has been one of the few shining lights for The Tangerines, who 22nd in the Championship at the time of writing.
And as if by design, 12 months after he was subtistuted in that 3rd round defeat to Nottingham Forest, he was back facing them in the FA Cup putting in a match winning performance.
His ability on the ball has never been in question. where he has grown whilst on loan is in physicality and defensive output.
Against Nottingham Forest, no player on the pitch made more successful tackles (4) than Patino, and he won more aerial duels (4) than any other Blackpool teammate. Not bad for someone considered more of a creative than defensive player.
And this was not a one off.
He has played deeper during his team fot Blackpool, often as the most defensive midfielder in the team. And Blackpool fans have not stopped talking about his defensive contributions. His physical development has been immense.
Patino is turning into more of a Xavi Alonso / Andrea Pirlo defensive midfielder (rather than a Thomas Partey replacement). And this means exciting things for Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta plays with a single defensive midfielder, and then two 8s ahead of him – Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard providing a good balance between defence and attack.
Left footed, 6ft, classy passer of the ball – short and loan, able to operate in tight spaces with an increased defensive awareness and physicality. The cool kids would probably call him a Granit Xhaka re-gen.
And he is turning exactly into that.
If Xhaka is the sourcerer, Patino is on the right track to be his apprentice.
At 30-years-old, Xhaka is playing the best football of his career.
No longer considered a liability, someone we need to sell, his leadership has been key to our rise to top of the league. Talk of Youri Tielemans to come in and repalce him has been eradicated.
He has 1-year left on his contract, with Arsenal having the option to extend by a further year. That will take Xhaka through the next two seasons. He will be just shy of his 33rd birthday.
At the same time, we have just triggered a 2-year extension in Patino’s contract, also taking him through to 2025. We now need to tie him down to a longer deal.
And to do that, we need to show Patino his path through to the Arsenal first team.
He would have been frustrated during the World Cup seeing former team mates Jude Beillingham, Jamal Musiala and Yunus Musah perform so well for their countries. I am sure this would have turned his head whilst his Arsenal career had seemingly stalled.
But there is a clear and obvious path for him to the Arsenal first team, as long as he keeps his head down and continues to improve all aspects of his game.
By the time Xhaka’s contract with us runs down in 2025, Patino will still be just 21. That gives him 2-seasons in and around the Arsenal first team, learning from Xhaka, from Partey, from Odegaard and more.
Over that two-year period, he will get enough game time as Arsenal will play 50+ games a season and continue his development. And then if he has shown he is good enough, he will become the heir to Xhaka’s spot in the team.
It will probably be a year of him playing second fiddle, coming off the bench and getting cup games. Then in the second year he should be competing with Xhaka for a starting spot.
What he needs to do is keep his head down and keep working on his game.
His transition from creative to defensive midfielder shows he is a smart player with a willingness to learn. That is always a fantastic starting point for any young player.
Hopefully he can continue to play well for Blackpool, remain fit, and kick on further.
Fabio Vieira is a “like for like” replacement for Odegaard. Patino can become that for Xhaka. And just like that we have squad depth in both the 8 positions without the need for further investment.
Onwards and upwards with Arteta’s red and white army.