It makes a pleasant change to be discussing Arsenal’s completed transfer business early in the window, with three signings already in the bag, and several more being hotly tipped. Certainly, with an earlier start to the 22/23 campaign due to the World Cup in the autumn, we fans will hope the club can finalize more incomings before the season starts and ideally in time to integrate them with the existing squad.
I believe the most urgent deal in the minds of the supporters is that of Gabriel Jesus, the club’s main striker target, now that Nketiah has signed on to compete for that honour. Tielemans and Martinez certainly are strongly linked, but with Saliba returning, perhaps the Belgian central midfielder is a more pressing signing. However, the link that has surprised and excited the fanbase is with Raphinha from Leeds United. Indeed, as we have reported, Arsenal has already submitted one bid for the Brazilian which has been rejected by the Yorkshire club.
It surprises me to be linked with another attacking playmaker, wide or otherwise, having just completed the signing of Vieira from Porto, and with Saka, Smith Rowe, Odegaard and Martinelli in situ.. However, we must bear in mind, the need for a larger more competitive squad now that Arsenal are back fighting on four fronts.
Whilst we fans do talk about rotation, keeping players fresh and having genuine competition for all positions, we equally know that we all have a favoured first eleven and in truth, often the manager does too. I mention this because the position in which we are accustomed to seeing Raphinha play is the position occupied currently by Bukayo Saka, our own Player of the Season for 2 seasons in a row.
The young Englishman played in all 38 Premier League matches last season and in the majority in 20/21 and certainly hit form that has made him undroppable since he switched permanently to the right wing. Yes, Saka was tired by the end of the campaign, and I am sure Arteta would have liked to be able to rest him on occasion. Not trusting Pepe made that difficult of course, but the Brazilian will simply not come to North London, a few months before a World Cup for which he hopes to be selected, to play a secondary role to Saka.
If that is the case, one wonders what the plan is for Raphinha if Arsenal do decide to raise their bid? As a left footer Saka could be switched to the left but our talisman is entirely relaxed and happy cutting in from and linking with Odegaard on the right. As he is also a leftie, perhaps the Brazilian might be seen on the left wing. That, on the face of it sounds extremely exciting, given his ability to attack fullbacks and beat them, but is it more exciting than Martinelli on the left? For me, the honest answer is no. I am totally invested in Smith Rowe and Martinelli and we have already added Vieira, and if he impresses in pre-season even Marquinhos could feature on the flanks. Consequently, we have huge competition in the wide attacking areas and that is without considering Nelson or Hutchison.
I am very aware that many will feel that Saka should be played less and at only 20 the club are asking too much of him but sometimes a player is just too important even at a tender age as Fabregas was between 2006 and 2011. It is all too easy to cite Man City who are rotating weekly with Mahrez, Silva, Foden, Jesus and Foden, but it is far easier to keep top players content under rotation whilst accumulating medals and Arsenal are not in that position just yet.
It is easy to get excited when our team is linked to top players and whilst Raphinha is such a player I am not convinced he improves the team that much and not in the areas where it needs improving. I would sooner we firstly secure the services of our new Number 9 swiftly and then look at the left 8 position to compete with Xhaka in the coming weeks. If we can secure those two signings and with outgoings, there is still cash available, then perhaps the exciting Brazilian could be the icing on the cake.
This article first appeared in my column for THE SUN – reprinted here, unedited.
Passionate 50+ ST holder who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since. He set up up his own site 1 Nil Down 2 One Up which he has now sold and since the summer of 2013 with a friend he launched a new project to offer new and aspiring Arsenal writers a home. Gunners Town is that platform and Dave writes here too. He is also the author of 2 Arsenal related books.