I’m basically an expert on Arthur. So, okay, well, I have never seen Arthur play a match, but I have read his Wikipedia page. Or, I mean, I glanced at it. It’s more than most people seem to have done. He’ll be 22 by the time the season starts, which means that on his first poor performance, the knives will come out in that most thoughtful of spaces: English-language Barça Twitter. Doesn’t really matter why the performance was bad, how many good performances came before it, or that developing a 22-year old midfielder for the rigors of the most technical league on Earth is harder than, say, typing words on the Internet.
Given that I’ve never seen him play, I’ll just say that I hope he does well, that he is as technically gifted as we have been led to believe by others that also have never seen him play, and that this time next year we’re talking about what a steal he was at 30 million euros. He has been called up to the Brazilian national team twice, both World Cup qualifiers, and has failed to make it off the bench both times, yet there are headlines in Sport that are already lauding him as the star of Brazil’s 2022 squad alongside Coutinho. Besides the absurdity of such homerism, Arthur will be 25 verging on 26 when that finally rolls around–that is, he’ll be as old as Coutinho is now. If you had predicted the stars of World Cup 2018 in the midst of World Cup 2014, you’d be unlikely to have foreseen Coutinho’s imminent rise. You may, instead, have focused on a player such as Oscar or Bernard, who at the time were at least in the World Cup squad aged 21. Coutinho was at Liverpool by then, but had several years of European football under his belt. 4 of them, to be precise.
What you need to know about Arthur is that we don’t know anything about Arthur. Theoretically he has been scouted and judged by our technical staff and now is the time we get to wait for evidence. If we rush to judge his skills–he’ll be amazing! he’ll be terrible!–we will paint ourselves into a corner, mentally. And we will stay in that corner regardless of any outside evidence.
It can be hard to remember that the most talented Brazilian player in a generation–Neymar–was no sure-fire thing when he moved to Barça at the age of 21. And Arthur comes at that same precarious age, when you develop a better understanding of your body, more control of it, and are finally leaving mental adolescence as well. It’s a crazy time and few players are able to make that transition without serious consequences of one kind or another. Couple that with an incredible step up in day-to-day competition and it could take years for Arthur to fully develop as a Barça player. In fact, it should take years.
Whatever happens, let’s just admit we don’t know anything about Arthur and accept all the new information we’re about to receive with a modicum of humility. Let the play dictate your thoughts, not your thoughts dictate how you view the play.