The transfer window is closed, signalling the end of our transfer business for the 22/23 Premier League season. In terms of outgoings, Josh Onomah and Nathaniel Chalobah were both shown the door, while Anthony Knockaert and Connor McAvoy left on loan deals until the end of the season. In this article, I will look at new additions Saša Lukić and Cédric Soares, analysing their strengths and weaknesses before determining if they will be good signings.
Born in Šabac, modern-day Serbia, Saša Lukić is a 26-year-old central midfielder who graduated through Partizan’s academy, signing a professional contract in 2013. After a two-year loan spell at Teleoptik, Lukić broke into the first team making 33 appearances across two seasons, winning both the Serbian SuperLiga and the Serbian Cup. His technical qualities did not go unnoticed, with Siniša Mihajlović signing him for Torino where, bar a one-year loan at Levante, he stayed until we picked him up for a reported €9.10 million. He represents Serbia at international level alongside a certain Aleksandar Mitrović, racking up 35 caps, including playing in last year’s World Cup.
Strengths and Weaknesses
When looking at Lukić’s profile, there are a lot of similarities to Harrison Reed. Both players are very hard-working and make similar forward runs into the channels. There are some differences, though, that set both players apart. Lukic stands 6 feet tall, which he uses to his advantage, winning 1.55 aerial duels per 90. His passing range and ball striking are also noticeable positives, both of which look better than Reed’s. Looking at the negative side of the Serbian’s game, he does commit a lot of fouls, many of which are pretty needless. He can be relatively slow to close down players in the defensive third, giving opposition players room to make a pass or shoot.
The Serbian Perspective: Tristan Poturicic
Fulham Focus’ Tristan Poturicic is a lifelong Fulham fan and follows his country of heritage passionately. We asked for his perspective on the signing of Saša Lukić…
“Essentially, Lukic is at his best as a box-to-box number 8. Although he can cover both the 6 and 10 positions as well, he’s been at his best for Partizan, Torino and the Serbian national team in that box-to-box role. In terms of attributes, he is decent from a physical point of view – fairly athletic, reasonably strong, and another 6-footer – but it’s the more technical side of his game that will stand out. He has a very nice range of passing on him, reasonably good control and reading of the game, and, although he doesn’t score as often as he should, he can hit a long ranger, too.
He’ll pick up a fair share of bookings and is more than capable of getting stuck in, but he should compliment Palhinha nicely. I certainly believe he’ll adapt well to the premier league and will likely pair nicely with Mitrovic – most of his appearances for the national team would have been alongside AM. I’d also say the best results Serbia have had over the last 3 years (victories v Norway, Sweden, and Portugal, and draw with Germany, for example) have come with Lukic in a box-to-box role.”
Overall I like this deal, we lacked quality in the central midfield position, and Saša Lukić bolsters our options. Marco Silva has made it clear that he favours hard-working players, and he fits the bill. His work on the ball cannot be overlooked either, being very technically secure with his passing and ball striking. We will give away a lot of free-kicks with him and João Palhinha in midfield, but we have the height to deal with most of them. At 26 years old, he has his best years ahead of him, so to get him for €9.10 million looks like smart business.
Sam’s Verdict: 8/10
Cédric Soares is a 31-year-old right-back, born in Germany to Portuguese parents who moved back to Portugal when he was two. He came through the Sporting academy, where he debuted in May 2011 before going out on loan to Académica the following season. He had his first taste of success there, winning the Taça de Portugal and beating his parent club in the final. He would win this competition again in 2015, this time for Sporting under the management of Marco Silva. Following the sacking of Silva that summer for not wearing their official suit in one of their 53 games, Cédric moved to Southampton, where he would stay for five years, going on loan to Inter Milan and Arsenal before joining the latter club permanently. At the ‘Gunners’, he won his third and final piece of silverware at club level, the Community Shield. He joins us on loan until the end of the season with no option to buy. Internationally, he has 34 caps for Portugal, starting the final of their 2016 European Championship triumph against France.
Strengths and Weaknesses
It is hard to assess Cédric’s current ability as he has a combined 33 minutes played in the league and Europe this season. He is a very conventional full-back, capable of playing on both sides of defence, and he likes to stick to wide areas where he overlaps his wide partner. At his best, he is a technically proficient player with a good passing range and defensive awareness. His weaknesses are his inconsistent end product in the final third and his one-on-one defending, which, if targeted, could leave us vulnerable. He also isn’t very tall at 5’7, but his stocky build allows him to compete better than other players his size for aerial duels.
The Arsenal Perspective: Dan George
Dan George is a writer for Vavel Uk Arsenal, we asked him to share his thoughts on Cédric Soares and the Portuguese internationals loan move to SW6…
Cedric is a vastly experienced pro with bags of exposure at the highest level of international football. He has 34 caps for Portugal and started in the 2016 Euros final when they beat France 1-0 to top off an impressive international cameo.
Unfortunately, the 31 year old’s move to Arsenal wasn’t one that turned out to be as impressive as originally hoped. Back in 2020 Arsenal confirmed Soares’ signature on a four-year contract, a length that many Arsenal fans were slightly surprised by. Originally brought in for cover behind Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland Niles, Cedric’s debut was marked with an impressive long-range effort in a 4-0 thrashing of Norwich at Emirates Stadium in July 2020.
In more recent times the Portuguese international has had a fairly underwhelming career for Arsenal. A good rotation player for Arsenal but ultimately not possessing the quality to push Arsenal forward and stake a claim to be the regular long-term right back for Mikel Arteta’s team.
Cedric’s long-term ambitions do involve coaching as many of his Arsenal teammates have been quoted saying he has prolonged technical discussions with current boss Mikel Arteta. Soares is currently completing his coaching badges at Arsenal alongside other teammates Granit Xhaka and Mo Elneny.
A loan move was in my opinion the best outcome for Cedric in this winter transfer window with Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu above the Portuguese international in the current pecking order at the club. I think Cedric will be a solid addition for Fulham, his experience and knowledge of the premier league is a big bonus for Marco Silva’s side and if the club are interested I could imagine Arsenal would be opening to exploring a permanent sale in the summer if all goes to plan.
To conclude, I am not the biggest fan of this signing. While it is only a loan for the rest of the season, we are reportedly paying his 100K weekly wages, which puts him as our highest-paid player. This would be fine if he were going to start, but in my eyes, Kenny Tete is better at every aspect of the game. We need depth in the right-back position since Kevin Mbabu dropped off the face of the earth, and Marco Silva got the best out of him at Sporting, so there is reason to be hopeful. I can’t shake that we are signing a player I labelled one of the worst in the Premier League not too many years ago. I hope I am proved wrong.
Sam’s Verdict: 4/10