Brazil's cautionary tale for Arsenal target Danilo

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Having lost Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny to the Africa Cup of Nations, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has acknowledged that the club is short of cover in midfield. There are also rumours that the Gunners are interested in signing Danilo from current South American champions Palmeiras.

It would, however, surely be an error to link the two. The 20-year-old Brazilian would not be a short-term fix -- Danilo would be a long term investment. It is hard to imagine making him an immediate impact, which should not be interpreted as a criticism of a very promising player.

Many have wondered why Fred of Manchester United gets a regular game for Brazil. The attacks he receives in England are surely excessive -- his absence only seemed to worsen the United side in the recent 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves. And his displays for his country have been solid and satisfactory. It is a position, though, where Brazil coach Tite would like to have a little more at his disposal. But who are the options?

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It is striking that almost all the Brazilian central midfielders who have come to Europe in the last few years have been disappointments. Some of them have been alarmingly so. Lucas Silva, for example, crossed the Atlantic after playing a key role in Cruzeiro's Brazilian league title. There were hopes that he might be a Brazilian Xabi Alonso. But he made no impact at Real Madrid or Marseille. The busy Elias won a number of international caps, but could not thrive in Spain or Portugal. Gerson's move did not come off with AS Roma, and has made a frustrating start to his second European adventure with Marseille. The big hope was Arthur, who looked a sure thing when he joined Barcelona, but the 25-year-old now spends much of his time on the bench at Juventus. Even Olympic gold medalist Bruno Guimaraes has not convinced, though he has settled in well enough at Lyon.

All this is not a coincidence. Right in the thick of the action, the central midfielders are at the heart of the way that the game in Europe and South America has diverged in recent times.

Europe has quicker pitches, more compact teams and better players. In an important interview, New York City FC striker Talles Magno revealed how he suffered with this when he left Vasco da Gama. He headed north assuming that he was going to be one of the best players, found himself alarmingly off the pace and had to work extra hard to make a contribution -- and that was Major League Soccer.

The step up to Europe is steeper, and hits the midfielders hard. Often they are heavily reliant on one foot, and back in Brazil they pick up the ball in zones of the field where they have time to maneuver it onto their strong side before making the pass. Across the Atlantic, they are put under pressure much earlier and not all of them can cope. In the knockout rounds of the 2020 Champions League, for example, the very right-footed Guimaraes found it impossible to play against the ultra-pressing of Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Lyon withdrew him early in both games because he simply was not finding the time to set himself into a position to make a pass.

A strong and competitive player, Guimaraes has plenty to offer. He will have learned from the experience, and he has been another player linked with Arsenal in the last few days. But he is 24. Danilo is just 20, and therein lies his appeal.

He has already won the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, on two occasions. Last time, in November's 2-1 win over Flamengo, he was by some distance the youngest player on either starting line up, and he had a magnificent game. When he first got into the team in 2020 he struggled with the defensive side of his duties, but in under two years and just over 80 games he has made huge strides as a dynamic left-footed midfielder who snaps into tackles, links the play, is always on the move and increasingly provides attacking options as well with his willingness to burst beyond the strikers.

Once he has grown accustomed to the need to up the rhythm of his game he looks well equipped to do well in Europe. But Palmeiras have a good reason for hoping that the move does not go through in this transfer window. They have no urgent need to make a sale, and at the start of next month they have the Club World Cup. This tournament is massive in South America, and after their dreadful displays in the last version, Palmeiras are anxious to leave a better impression this time.

So Danilo may be facing Chelsea in the green of Palmeiras before he takes them on in the red and white of Arsenal.