Player of Week 35: Youssef El-Arabi

Granada’s visit to Getafe wasn’t quite do-or-die but it felt like it. The Andalusians, having sacked Abel Resino following the midweek defeat to Espanyol, went to Coliseum Alfonso Perez second bottom, in danger of losing touch at the foot of the Primera. They came away from the Madrid suburb still second bottom but with three points, the picture a much rosier one for Jose Ramon Sandoval’s new team.

Sandoval then inherited a deeply imperilled team, but also one containing Youssef El-Arabi, last year named among the best African players in La Liga but his form this season not quite reflected his status. Prior to Sunday El-Arabi had only four goals to his name, a tally he reached by early November last season, and if he has finally hit form it’s a case of better late than never.

The France-born Morocco international has been at Los Carmenes since a summer 2012 move from Al-Hilal, having come through the ranks at Caen. Sevilla were said to be in the running for his services when El-Arabi chose to leave France but it was to Saudi Arabia he headed, spending a year in Riyadh before a €4.5m switch to Spain.

It was at Granada that El-Arabi flourished, along with Yacine Brahimi, now of Porto, and the man who beat El-Arabi to the African players’ award. Brahimi, also born in France but an international for an African nation, in this case Algeria, left Granada for Portugal and hasn’t looked back, catching the eye with impressive Champions League performances under Julen Lopetegui.

Should El-Arabi follow a similar trajectory it wouldn’t be a huge surprise, although the timing could offer new opportunities. Granada are owned by the Pozzo family, who also control Serie A Udinese and Watford, bound for next season’s Premier League. A productive spell in England’s top flight with the Hornets would see El-Arabi’s value skyrocket and, no doubt, the Premier League vultures would circle after 12 months.

First things first, though, with the matter of Granada’s future yet to be settled. There are three games to go – a crunch home game with already-relegated Cordoba, a trip to Real Sociedad and the visit of Atletico Madrid. Anoeta under David Moyes is not an easy place to go and Atletico are likely to need a victory to stave of the third-place challenge of Valencia and Sevilla on the final day. If Granada fail to beat Cordoba it could be a long goodbye.

El-Arabi needs to be on song and Sandoval has recognised his importance to the team, despite having only been in office a few days. He described El-Arabi as ‘Granada’s franchise,’ and promised the team would create enough chances, if he could put them away. He did against Getafe and now needs to repeat the trick three more times to keep Granada up, even if there’s a fair chance he’ll be on the move regardless.