A quick one today. First up, Gabriel Jesus was at London Colney yesterday to do his media duties, hug Edu and his blue shirt, and complete his move to Arsenal. It could well be announced today, and for all the reasons already stated it’s an exciting deal – and in the light of other events it’s a reminder that it’s one we shouldn’t take for granted even if it’s been in the post for some time.
Last night, it was reported that Raphinha was close to agreeing a move to Chelsea after they came close to Leeds’ valuation of around £65m, and understandably there was some disappointment among the Arsenal fanbase because we’d been linked so strongly with him. Personally speaking, I think it’s a bit of a shame because he is a player I would really have liked to see here, but this is what can happen when you’re pursuing top tier talent – there is always going to be interest from other clubs.
You win some (Gabriel Jesus), you lose some (Raphinha). It’s worth pointing out that Jesus had options this summer, there was definite interest from Sp*rs and from Chelsea, but he chose to come here. With Raphinha, whose first preference was always Barcelona, I think Chelsea have probably just blown us out of the water on a financial basis with regards to the fee, and they can offer Champions League football too. They have a new owner who is probably more interested in making a statement than driving a hard bargain, so he’s paid what Leeds want and I suspect the salary on offer is gigantic too.
When you think about last summer and the players we brought in, there wasn’t really much competition, which isn’t to dismiss the quality of those players, but it’s true. Beyond some Sp*rs interest in Takehiro Tomiyasu, we had more or less a free run at the likes of Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares. Some have worked out better than others, obviously.
But when Mikel Arteta talked about going to a ‘new level’ this summer, it means you’re targetting more established talent, and there will be competition for those players. I think Raphinha is a perfect case in point. There was probably a limit as to how far we could go with a transfer fee and wages because we still have other things to do this summer, and ultimately even if you match the opposition, it’s down to the player himself to choose where he wants to go.
The question now is what we might do having, seemingly, missed out on a player we really wanted. If you read regularly you’ll know that I think it’s very important we bring in a player who can compete with and deputise for Bukayo Saka who, lest we forget, is a hell of a talent and a player coveted by many. It makes his contract renewal more important, and perhaps there’s an element in Raphinha’s decision making that he didn’t fancy that competition with someone like Saka who is first choice in that position. For me, at least, it’s a shame we couldn’t get this done, but I’d be far more worried if we’d missed out on a signing for a position where there is an obvious gap in the squad.
But clearly we wanted the Brazilian, so what now? Do we find another player of a similar profile, but maybe a bit less ‘on the market’ or someone slightly younger? Does it reignite interest in someone like Youri Tielemans, which might allow new boy Fabio Vieira to play games in that right hand space? I’m very interested to see how we cope with this ‘setback’, if you want to call it that, and I do wonder if our interest in Raphinha was more specific to the player than the position, if that makes sense.
He would have brought goals and assists to this team, which suggests that’s still an area where we feel a bit short, so I’m curious to see what we do next. We remain very interested in Lisandro Martinez, with Ajax holding out for more than we’re offering, so maybe the money allocated for Raphinha might allow us to push harder for that if he’s a player we really, really want. After that, you continue the search for another attacking addition, whether that’s another winger like Raphinha, or maybe even a different kind of forward which would allow you to use players like Martinelli, Jesus, Smith Rowe and Saka in a slightly different way.
It is a bit of a shame we’re missing out on him, because there’s a lot to like about how he plays and what he would have brought to the team, but you can’t wallow in disappointment – you have keep working. And as I said above, I hope the fact one Brazilian going somewhere else (and somewhere rotten, let’s remember) doesn’t overshadow the fact that there’s another one about to be made official who himself will bring a lot to Arsenal in the seasons to come – because we’ve done very well to get that deal done and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
Right, let’s leave it there for this morning. Till tomorrow.