Arsenal’s Own Cedric The Entertainer
“Marcus, he cannot defend. He cannot defend. Take him on if you want.” Came the cry of a frustrated Norwegian in North London, no not our Ødegaard, Ole Gunnar.
Funny how at full time it wasn’t Rashford completing the match.
Starting out with Sporting CP aged 7, Cedric Soares progressed through the academy. His first team debut was marked with an assist against Gent in the Europa League, but he would struggle to progress any further, making a light impact on his first team’s season. He would ultimately get loaned off to Liga NOS side Académica Coimbra, where he would be part of the side that won the Taça de Portugal. After featuring prominently for Académica, he returned to Sporting where he managed to earn a spot in their first team setup.
During his time there he would earn the reputation as a dogged full back, who would score with the occasional screamer.
In 2014 Cedric earned his first cap for Portuguese national team and in his debut the team would experience a 2-1 friendly loss to France. Two years later he’d avenge that friendly loss with Portugal winning Euro 2016.
On the club level, 2015 came around and Soares had done enough to have secured a move to the Premier League. He would wind up being signed by Southampton as a replacement for Liverpool-bound Nathaniel Clyne, Soares was seen as an exciting talent.
Going on to capture the Southampton RB position, he would contribute both assists and offerings at both ends of the pitch. January 2019 saw Ralph Hasenhuttl’s appointment, and as is often the case a squad shake up followed, with Soares departing for Inter Milan on an end of season loan, with option to buy at £9.5 Million.
Ultimately, it was a move that did little for either party, with the Portuguese international appearing just a handful of times in Serie A. Back to St Mary’s and into the final year of his deal, we find ourselves all caught up in time for the Winter shopping wonderland of the January 2020 sales.
In the winter transfer window of 2020, a loan-cum-transfer was approved by Edu. Well this and another, both veiled in the cloak of agent baksheeshing.
Initially reported as a free signing it is uncertain of the total cost of Cedric, £6 million is the believed figure. How that breaks down is also a mystery, left to those who work wonders on Excel spreadsheets, moving pivotable slicers through financial boundaries.
Kia and Raul
Our favourite power couple from yesteryear, the dealers of Arsenal’s future, the perpetrators behind Pepe, the Luiz liaisors, Edu’s egger onners. Raul and Kia go together like Blatt and Platini, like Panama and paper. Yet for a moment, weren’t we caught up in the seduction of free-flowing signings and big money moves?
With money allegedly squandered, frittered, and/or stashed, we certainly had cause for concern behind the scenes. So the signing of Soares, was met with mute excitement. After all, this relationship was to bow out with a Willian donation.
Having donated Denis Suarez for a questionable loan the season prior, it is unsurprising that a S named player on a potentially unproductive loan, may have delivered some traumatic flashbacks for our fanbase.
Glossing over the greased palms of windows passed, it is fair to say we love football for its drama, be that a 91st minute winner, or just some water-cooler chat. The players, however, must earn their place in spite of our unfair/fair assumptions.
Fully Backed (Booked)
As we have briefly seen, the transfer was not without controversy, further extended when the squad already had Bellerin/AMN at RB, with Tierney/Kola at LB. Was Cedric just a player to serve as an offshore deposit? Fortunately not.
Now with most rotational signings Cedric has had to be content with landing game time via the traditional routes, substitution appearances, Europa League, Carabao Cup, etc.
That said, due to our wealth of wing-backs, Soares first appeared for Arsenal in a cameo role against Norwich (in last season’s denouement). Despite scoring a deflected worldie, he failed to cement his position, but did flirt with the Prem first team.
First choice Hector and Ainsley’s FA Cup form, meant that they were predominantly viewed as go to players, with LB being dominated by our favourite Scot.
Waiting in the Wings
Football is a funny old sport, often littered with unanswered conditionals, hypothetical debates, and opinions squashing stats. It is also a team game, that can side-line players due to perceived performance beliefs, in-form first teamers, and the rest.
At the highest level you must be patient, and ruthless, like a well-trained snake, a sporty serpent if you will. Our man from Portugal has been just that. Coming into this season, he may have questioned his position in the team, or perhaps he was given a quiet word about coming chances. With appearances limited to cup competitions, Cedric has been plugging away unceremoniously, ticking away with the squad of outcasts, or the out of sorters.
As is often the case, a panic arises, and as they say crisis brings opportunity. With Kola parting (presumably on a permanent basis) at the opening of the January transfer window, Tierney sustained an injury. Having had a less than promising cameo at LB, AMN has found himself out of favour in recent times (buena suerte for the loan under big Sam). Thus paving the way for Soares or Soaberto Carlos.
Now as has been the case throughout his career, Cedric is not a player who screams marquee singing, but it is with that clandestine approach, that he has managed to encroach on the first team.
His first premier league start of the season resulted in a clean sheet and assist, his second showcased his marauding nature, and eye for a cross, as he delivered an exceptional pre-assist, with his third delivering a clean sheet against our mate Ole. Not too bad for someone who can’t defend.
Season of the Soares
The approach and revival to Cedric’s performances have become emblematic of Arteta’s Arsenal of late. Under the radar, yet ticking over, with signs of promise and brilliance, yet on occasion flawed and average. It would be typical of a bizarre season of football, if Soares provided himself able to displace both Tierney and Bellerin. If not he is certainly knocking on the door to both positions, with arguably Bellerin’s up for grabs.
Stranger things have happened. At 29 years of age Cedric is well within his prime defensive years, may he be the unspectacular Milneresque player to tide us over, before we can blood a Hale Ender? After recent performances, you would have to say it’ within his power to decide.
By J F Bartley