Loan moves often come down to what is needed for an individual’s development – Arsenal’s Charlie Patino found that in Blackpool. Players are rarely sent to teams where they will have it easy, they will be sent to places where they can come to terms with the reality of professional football and where they will be pushed to improve.
Arsenal have cultivated informal relationships with several English Football League clubs to help their young players mature. Blackpool are one of them, taking three Arsenal players on loan in three successive seasons, with Patino the latest to try his hand at Tangerine after defender Dan Ballard and forward Tyrese John-Jules.
The initial plan was for the 19-year-old to stay with Arsenal this season with the possibility of Europa League and Carabao Cup minutes. Instead, his first loan provided a platform to become more rounded than if he spent most of the year playing academy football again. The midfielder made 24 appearances for Blackpool and faced different, but more rewarding challenges than he would have had if he had stayed put.
The England under-20 international has been used in a variety of midfield roles. He was used as a No. 6 and a No. 8 where his natural qualities shone through, but there was a steep learning curve with the demands of senior football.
The FA Cup trip to Premier League Southampton provided a glimpse into the challenges and was well timed by the athletic, With the highly-rated junior scoring Blackpool’s goal, his third of the season, in a 2-1 defeat.
Patino’s contributions without the ball are the most eye-opening about his loan. There is no hiding place in the Blackpool midfield and while there will be room for improvement, he has shown he is ready during their struggles at the bottom of the Championship.
The area of his game has been evident in his game since his academy days. Most will remember the goal against Manchester United Under 23s last season.
Simply stunning @CharliePatino10 🤩 pic.twitter.com/fqi6pXMqCV
— Arsenal Academy (@ArsenalAcademy) September 12, 2021
What may not be mentioned is that Patino charged to the touchline minutes later to win a 50-50 on the halfway line. Similarly, his goal against Sunderland will go down as the most memorable moment of his Arsenal debut, but it can be forgotten that his first touch came from winning a header in midfield.
Being ready needs to be matched with being capable, which is a big part of what the loan is about. At the start of the year, his 27 interceptions were the most by any English teenager in Europe this season.
He doesn’t win every challenge he goes into, but is willing to hurt the ball which he did several times at Southampton and helps build trust with managers.
“He has a right to do that, Charlie,” Mick McCarthy, who had just replaced Michael Appleton as manager, said after his first game in charge.
“He is a young man and sometimes he does not always get it right. He can press and get played, but in the first half he lost it in front of us about 20 yards in their half and won it back in the 18-yard Box on the other side of the field. I said, ‘If you can do it, you’ll do it for me.’
“The willingness to do it is great. I enjoyed working with him the last few days, he will be a very good player.”
Patino’s slopping runs have always been a feature of his game in possession. He managed to pull that off when used in more advanced areas, but was met by more resistance as teams became more familiar with him.
Early in the season, it was not unusual to see him slide past challenges and slide passes in the final third. Opposition midfielders have started taking a more practical approach to stopping him, as in Blackpool’s away defeat to Watford this month.
After Patino spun off Mario Gaspar’s initial print…
… His opponent responded by almost pulling the shirt off his back.
The need to be faster on the ball was present against Premier League opposition at St Mary’s. He moved the ball with as few as one or two touches for the most part, but as Blackpool were willing to attack Southampton on the break rather than build their way up the pitch, finding consistent rhythm through passing proved difficult.
Given Blackpool’s approach in their first game under McCarthy (who used Patino on the left of a midfield three in a 3-5-2), making the box with off-the-ball runs in the quick attacks was key.
He did so in the first half to get on the end of a quick move down the right but his shot was blocked. When a similar chance came in the second half, he was well positioned to score Blackpool’s first goal under their new manager which was to be his first Arsenal goal.
He is @CharliePatino10 🎶🍊
The @Arsenal Man on loan at @BlackpoolFC With a neat finish#EmiratesFAQUP pic.twitter.com/SfR8dOrPt1
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 28, 2023
Patino showed positive glimpses when used deeper by Appleton but his game naturally lends itself to having permission to connect/drive attacks and the signing of defensive midfielder Tom Tribull could give him more opportunity to do so. McCarthy endeared himself to supporters with a goal against arch-rivals Preston North End and will hope more will follow.
Arsenal’s Charlie Patino is certainly giving Mikel Arteta something to think about with his performances on loan at Blackpool 🤩@Arsenal | @BlackpoolFC | @EFL pic.twitter.com/rHu2hfuJg5
– ITV Football (@itvfootball) October 22, 2022
Exposure to all the facets of midfield play was essential.
“You need to be able to play multiple roles in multiple systems,” Arsenal Under-23s head coach Kevin Betsy said last season. The athletic. “We are asking him to be the all-round midfield player.
“This demands, he has to get the ball and build attacks for us, he has to be able – when he plays in advanced positions – to be creative with his forward pass or join the attack and create the box. This is the complete game of a midfield player And defensively he must be able to press and screen.
“His understanding of the game is high and we can work him in different roles, because when the opportunity comes to play – whether it is in our first team (or elsewhere) – the manager can ask him in a midfield two, or with three In midfield, as a holder or more advanced.
“When you get the opportunity, you need to be able to play in that role and if you just fixate on ‘you’re a midfield player’ or ‘you’re an attacking midfield player’ that limits you, so that’s the thinking behind what we do.”
If he can continue to impress McCarthy, Patino, Blackpool and Arsenal all reap the benefits.
(Photo: Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images)