The Wonderkid Files: Iván Fresneda - Arsenal’s next great right-back?

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A scouting report on Iván Fresneda, the wonderkid right-back who could be making a move to Arsenal.

Arsenal are in for him, Borussia Dortmund are considering a bid as well, and a big decision awaits young Iván Fresneda this summer. The 18-year-old Real Valladolid right-back has impressed this season despite his side’s struggles in La Liga, and The Wonderkid Files are here to give you the full scouting report on the talented teen who could be strutting his stuff at the Emirates very soon.

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Having spent four years at Real Madrid’s legendary La Fábrica academy between the ages of 10 and 14, Fresneda went on to spend two years with lower-league side CD Leganés before eventually signing for Valladolid in 2020 – making his full debut a year or so later at the tail end of the club’s promotion season from La Segunda.

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With Valladolid back in La Liga this season, Fresneda has impressed and played 22 senior games as well as representing Spain at both Under-18 and Under-19 levels – and now, with Valladolid one part of a six-way battle to avoid taking the last relegation spot, Europe’s big boys are circling.

A powerful player, six foot tall and with plenty of strength and speed to work with, Fresneda has had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his defensive chops at a club who spend plenty of time under fire from their opponents – and he has plenty of ability to work with. He’s a strong tackler with impeccable judgement, closes down space remarkably quickly and shows superb positional awareness, rarely letting attackers past him. He makes 1.65 blocks per game, an impressive mark, and has won 61.7% of his tackles over the course of the campaign. For an 18-year-old, his ability to be in the right place to cut down an opposing winger’s options is remarkable.

That marks him out as a young full-back who has a more defensive mind-set than many modern right-backs, but he offers a fair amount in the final third as well. He’s a good crosser of the ball and his passes and balls into the box lead to two shooting chances per game – a good number, albeit about half as many as, say, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

It should be borne in mind, of course, that a team who spend most of their game behind the ball will allow fewer chances to pad out the creative stats, so the numbers are still very solid indeed, but Arsenal fans shouldn’t expect him to be scything through opposing defences at will – he’s not the worst dribbler in the world but he gets tackled more often than he beats his man. He can add value to an offence, mainly as a passing or crossing option on the overlap, but Fresneda is a player who leans first and foremost on his defensive qualities.

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He hasn’t yet scored a senior goal, either, not that he’s the type of full-back who gets into many goal-scoring areas – and while his balls into the box show some promise, there’s still plenty of room for development, and he doesn’t have any assists in the league this season, although he has created plenty of knock-down opportunities. Valladolid don’t break the line high up the field very often, so his crosses are seldom the last ball to be played before a chance presents itself.

In the era of attack-minded full-backs then, Fresneda may end up being something of a throw-back, and quite a few bigger clubs may be put off by his comparative lack of an all-round game – but his defensive work has been so impressive that teams who don’t lean too heavily on their full-backs as an attacking outlet will certainly be taking detailed notes. Mikel Arteta’s men have reportedly already made an offer, with Dortmund expected to follow suit soon.

While he may be a developmental prospect, he’s already demonstrated the skills to play as a first-choice in a top-tier league, and all reports suggest that he has the mentality to back up his talent – he’s calm, composed and almost never throws himself into challenges needlessly. He picked up just three yellow cards this season, a testament to his judgement under regular pressure from superior teams.

He’s unlikely to be an immediate starter at a club like Arsenal, especially with Ben White having made the right-back position his own at the Emirates, but could realistically challenge for some number of minutes right from the off – and he could easily be impressed by Arsenal’s recent track record at developing young talents and giving them time to learn their trade, whether it’s in the first-team squad or off on loan, like William Saliba. That said, if Dortmund do indeed decide to rival the Gunners for Fresneda’s signature, they too offer a lot for a young player looking to take a big step up.

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None of the reports in the press have yet come through with any numbers for the transfer, and it’s likely that his price will be substantially higher if Valladolid – currently 18th – survive the final day showdown. There is also no word on whether the player himself would be keen on a move if his side do stay up, and one would be hard-pressed to blame him for ensuring he gets continued first-team action rather than making an early move to a bigger team. Whether he stays or goes, however – and whether he ends up at Arsenal or not – he’s a player worth keeping a very keen eye on.

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