Premier League • England

Why Arsenal should do everything to sign Ajax ace and confirmed target Jorrel Hato

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, Ajax defender Jorrel Hato

After Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal had two successive summers chasing an Ajax defender (Lisandro Martinez in 2022, then Jurrien Timber in 2023), it looks like they’ll make it three in a row with the chase for Jorrel Hato still very much alive.

The 17-year-old centre-back is a very mature, impressive prospect and has even captained Ajax this season, becoming their youngest ever captain. Jorrel Hato is one of the most complete technical centre-back prospects in football right now.

He reads the game well, maturity beyond his years, physically advanced for his age, excellent line breaking passing, press resistant, tight turn radius making him such a smooth dribbler able to carry out of tight areas, strong aerially. Hato has it all.

Hato is the desired product of Ajax’s total football teachings. A technically brilliant defender with not just elite ball-playing ability but high defensive IQ too.

Hato’s reading of the game means that around his own box he avoids diving into tackles despite the fact he’s a front-footed aggressive defender.

Hato’s anticipation enables him to read an attacker’s next move and intercept key passes. His technical ability is of the highest calibre.

Breaking lines with his passing, the Dutchman opens up defences and slices through their pressing structure to advance attacks.

He has a verticality that allows teams to break through stubborn mid-blocks. He’s a very progressive player who oozes composure on the ball.

The Ajax wonderkid is a skilled ball-carrier and at 6ft tall, he has a low centre of gravity and tighter turn radius.

This turn radius being smaller gives him very good agility which accredits Hato’s very quick feet. His dribbling in tight spaces helps when further forward and is exactly why he’s so versatile.

He’s comfortable at left-back and centre-back and even would be at right-back or in midfield. Hato’s technical ability and creativity from deep make him the perfect candidate for a team who play with inverted full-backs, overlapping centre-backs or centre-backs that push forward into midfield (like John Stones does for Man City).

The teen sensation made his debut last season at just 16 years of age and it’s clear to see why.

Hato already a leader of men

Hato displays great maturity and leadership at an advanced level for his age. He was a captain for Ajax’s youth teams and even became Ajax’s youngest ever captain when he’s skippered the side several times this season. That’s a testament to how much character Hato has.

A truly impressive young player who takes on a lot of responsibility and accountability. So often after games this season, he’s been the player for Ajax to give interviews, especially when Ajax lose.

After a recent 2-0 loss to AZ Alkmaar, Hato said: “The way I see it, this loss isn’t about the tactics or formation. We just lost all our duels.”

Not only does this quote show his level of understanding for the game but it shows how the blame isn’t on an external factor of on the manager/plan going into the game but the execution of the plan.

Hato’s physical capabilities are one of the many assets he has. A strong, physical, compact frame with quick top speed and brilliant jumping ability.

The strength helps him win duels, the speed helps him recover and play a high line and the jumping ability makes him aerially strong too.

Statistically, it only takes a quick glance on FBref to display just how good he is on the ball.

84.27 passes attempted (top one percent) with a pass completion of 91.1 percent (top three percent for all centre-backs outside the top 5 leagues).

“But not just a high-volume passer, he’s also a very progressive one as previously stated.

5.64 progressive passes (at the time of writing) puts him in the top seven percent for centre-backs outside the top 5 leagues.

Also 1.51 progressive carries (top six percent) and 0.91 successful take-ons (top two percent). Hato’s ability to take on players and carry the ball from deep is so rare, especially for a defender so young.

A lot of Dutch fans have also compared Jorrel Hato to compatriot Nathan Ake and this also makes a lot of sense in terms of his physicality, one-v-one defending and calmness on the ball.

Just like Ake, he’s very good when defending wide areas which is why he would be great as a left-back for a top team, just like Ake is for Manchester City.

Why Are Arsenal Looking At Hato?

The reason for Arsenal looking at Hato is very similar to their hunt for Lisandro Martinez and Jurrien Timber.

All three played at centre-back for Ajax in a front-footed, hyper-aggressive manner with elite technical ability to carry the ball out of the defence.

All three of these players are smaller for a centre-back at 5ft 9in (Martinez), 5ft 10in (Timber), 6ft (Hato), which, to do so at such a high level requires a elite levels of anticipation, intelligence and physical attributes. But they all have them all.

Interestingly, Arsenal’s alternative signing to Martinez was Oleksandr Zinchenko from Man City, who played as an inverted left-back to overload the midfield and create from deep.

Martinez being a natural defender but a highly creative one, means that may have been even better for this requirement than Zinchenko due to Zinchenko struggling defensively at times. Then came Jurrien Timber.

A more physically advanced version of Martinez with a cooler head. Timber is more ambipedal, better technically and physically.

During pre-season and the start of the season he was so impressive for Arsenal but unfortunately suffered an ACL injury that ruled him out for most of the season.

But where did he play? Right-back and left-back, not centre-back.

Arteta utilised Timber’s carrying from deep areas of the pitch to help progress play into the final third and beat the press.

Timber’s press resistance was top quality and he’d create from deep passing through the lines. On top of that he was a solid one-v-one defender due to having the defensive intelligence of a smart centre-back.

The fact Timber can play both full-back positions is also down to him being equally good with both feet at passing and dribbling, meaning he doesn’t have any angle bias.

Considering the above for Martinez and Timber, this would be how Arteta would use Jorrel Hato.

Arteta can complete defensive puzzle with Dutch full-backs

The Dutchman has mainly played at centre-back but also left-back too. But he’s played at the heart of their defence carrying the ball out from deep, passing through the lines and anticipating passes in behind.

His front-footed aggressive style is typical of how Ajax like to defend. In addition, Hato also has the weak-foot ability like Timber, meaning he could cover at right-back even though he’s left footed.

But most likely if Arsenal did sign Hato then he would play at left-back and Timber would play at right-back and both full-backs would be comfortable inverting, overlapping or dropping into centre-back. In essence, they’re the perfect all-rounder full backs with the triple threat.

With this type of versatility he’d be a valuable addition for Arsenal and enable them to continue playing their attractive attacking football whilst being defensively solid.

Hato has recently agreed a contract extension in Amsterdam, though it’s thought that Arsenal are still interested and want to make a move in the near future.

With players like Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Jakub Kiwior and Jurrien Timber all playing in the full-back positions for Arsenal despite previously being centre-backs, you can imagine Arsenal doing everything to sign the prospect made for this role – Jorrel Hato.