“I joined Arsenal to get a lot of playing time, to be an important player and feel important.”
Unfortunately for Denis Suarez, all three of his hopes have thus far failed to materialise since arriving at the Emirates at the end of the January transfer window.
As the only player Arsenal boss Unai Emery brought in during the transfer window, expectations were unsurprisingly high for the Barcelona midfielder.
However, Suarez, who has yet to start a single game and has been restricted to just 95 minutes of game time, simply hasn’t been given the chance to impress, with fans left thoroughly underwhelmed by his arrival.
Competing with the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets at Camp Nou, Suarez is no stranger to the sidelines having been used more as a substitute than a starter in Spain over the past few years.
Even under Emery at Sevilla, the midfielder was an unused substitute as the Rojiblancos defeated Dnipro in the 2014-15 Europa League final in Warsaw.
Now in north London, eyeing regular football at the age of 25, Suarez continues to struggle to seal his transformation from substitute to starter.
It’s one the Spaniard was no doubt hoping Emery could help him complete considering the important role he played in his initial development.
“I think Unai made me a football player – when I joined [Sevilla] I was a prospect,” Suarez said in March.
“I was coming off the back of a great season in the second division with Barca B. But it was a big step up to the elite level. He really helped me.”
Suarez’s time at Sevilla was a small turning point of sorts as he sealed a move to Villarreal, where regular first-team football beckoned before Barcelona once again came calling in 2016 as they activated his buy-back clause.
Back at Camp Nou, Suarez unsurprisingly found starts hard to come by and in the 2017-18 season was deployed in a constant rotation of either central midfield or along the left flank.
Though making him versatile, the constant positional changes mean he’s failed to establish himself fully in either role – a fact that’s made it difficult for him to demand a start at Arsenal.
Despite barely playing there prior, Suarez has found himself deployed primarily as a right midfielder during his brief forays for the Gunners so far.
Out of position and given just minutes to turn heads, it’s no real surprise the Spaniard has failed to inspire much fanfare.
Emery for his part is simply in no rush to bring Suarez into a side he isn’t afraid to tinker with.
“My philosophy is that adaptation needs time and after, little by little, he will grow confidence and know his team-mates in training and after playing matches,” Emery said in late February.
“For him, all the minutes he can get to help us are very important.”
But, as Suarez approaches his third month in London, a lack of game time is becoming a problem with his future at Barcelona up in the air.
The Catalans aren’t happy with the midfielder’s minutes at the Emirates to date and won’t exactly be welcoming him back to Camp Nou with open arms.
Though Suarez did sign a contract renewal before going out on loan to Arsenal, it’s understood Barcelona were hoping to profit from the Spaniard in the summer.
While the midfielder himself dreams of success at Camp Nou, there will simply be no place for Suarez in this Barca side next season, as underlined by the recent acquisition of Ajax ace Frenkie de Jong – making the next few months vital.
Arsenal do have the option to buy the 25-year-old at the end of the season, but that’s not looking a likely prospect as it stands, with Emery refusing to bite when asked about it last month.
“For me, it’s so far away,” he said.
“The football, each match, each week, can change a lot. We are in every match, we are doing a test on everybody. My test like a coach is tomorrow and the players are the same.”
Unfortunately for Suarez, he hasn’t been handed a genuine test at the Emirates so far, meaning he’s neither passed or failed but rather flown right under the radar at a time when he was expected, and indeed needed, to shine.
However, he could be granted an overdue chance to impress against Newcastle on Monday night.
It will be a big game for the Gunners in their pursuit of a top-four finish but it could well be just as important for Suarez and his hopes of convincing Emery that he is a player worth keeping.