With Bayer Leverkusen’s transfer policy more often than not coming up trumps, the question as to whether new signing Santiago Arias will solve their problem right back position seems to answer itself- yes, he will.
The Werkself have long identified the right full back slot as one that needed an additional player of quality with cover/ competition needed for Lars Bender. The 31-year-old twin brother of central defender Sven is no spring chicken and injuries are starting to lessen his impact across a whole season. Last season saw the right sided defender miss around 20 matches with thigh, foot, and hamstring injuries.
With his contract expiring at the end of next season, Bender recently hinted that retirement could be an option, giving Leverkusen even more reason to dip into the market for a new right-sided fullback. “There are thoughts in many directions, but I don’t want to go into them in detail,” Bender said recently. “Injuries create stitches in the heart. One or the other scar has also been created or torn open. Of course, you think about the consequences of them” he added cryptically.
Leverkusen’s other right back Mitchell Weiser has not fully convinced in the Dutch coach Peter Bosz’s preferred playing style. He requires his right fullback in his system to provide an attacking impulse- something that 26-year-old Weiser has struggled to do in his two years at the club. In 69 appearances thus far, he has only scored three times and provided four assists. In comparison to Bender, he only provides a goal or assist every 708 minutes, whereas the former does so every 411 minutes.
Arias the answer
Leverkusen have signed the 28-year-old Colombian on an initial season-long loan from Atletico Madrid with the option to buy. He moved to Europe as a 19-year-old with Sporting Lisbon after impressing with the Colombian U-20 side and club side La Equidad. Arias however struggled to break into the first team and moved to the Netherlands with Jong PSV before progressing to the first team.
He blossomed in Eindhoven making 172 appearances for the Dutch side and winning three Eredivisie titles in four years. His consistently high-quality performances brought the attention of Atletico and he moved to La Liga in the summer of 2018.
Arias is just what Leverkusen were looking for. He may not be the biggest, but he has a tigerish attitude and never shies away from a challenge be that on the ground or in the air- think of a Diego Simeone trained player and you get the picture. He is energetic and his awareness and concentration give him impressive tackle and interception stats.
“We have signed a very experienced player in Santiago Arias who will quickly be able to help us,” sporting managing director Rudi Völler explained. “This transfer is important for the structure of our team due to the large number of fixtures over the coming weeks.”
Peter Bosz has also spoken of his pleasure regarding the new arrival. “I already knew Santiago Arias as an opponent in the Netherlands, where he played for one of the top teams and was used quite offensively. At Atletico, he played a more defensive role. This combination makes him a very complete player, who will help us.
“He has only trained with us for the first time. We will go day by day and decide when the time is right for him to play. But my first impression is that he’s a good fit.”