Who will Arsenal turn to if they miss out on Declan Rice or Moises Caicedo

Before we crack on with todays thoughts, a public service announcement:

The deadline to renew your season ticket is 2pm TODAY (Wednesday, 7 June).

We are chasing two new central midfielders. This is not exactly breaking news.

Nor is is particularly groundbreaking to announce that our main two targets are Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo.

The pair have been long term targets of Arsenal, and Edu and Mikel Arteta will be hopeful that deals for both can be done. But it will not be easy.

There will be competition from at home and abroad for both – with the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all keeping a tab on the pair.

Arsenal will do well to sign both, but there could be a multitude of reasons why we only get one – transfer fee being the main one.

We have other transfer business to do. West Ham are reportedly holding out for £120m for Rice, and Brighton recently leaked that they wanted £90m for Caicedo. That would be £210m for the pair.

Arsenal are likely to be looking at investing around £150m in the two new central midfielders – estimating Rice at £80-90m and Caicedo £60-70m. Anything above the £150m will take funds out of a new attacker and defender.

So if we do end up getting priced out of a move for both – or one of them decides a different club is the better option for their career – who are our options?

Before we list a load of players (we will soon!), the other options depends on who we will not sign.

Rice is seen as a Granit Xhaka replacement. Someone that can play in the 8 whilst covering for the 6. Caicedo is the opposite.

Caicedo will be bought as competition (and a long term replacement) for Partey in the 6, whilst also being able to cover the 8 if need be.

Alternative 8’s

Ilkay Gundogan – It is crazy that Manchester City might be letting Gundogan leave. But like with Xhaka and Arsenal, it might not be the clubs choice.

Gundogan is 33 in October, and City might be reluctant to offer him the 3-4 year deal he wants. Instead (like many clubs with older players), it might just be a 1 or 2 year deal on the table.

The German is a class player, and as Luka Modric has shown, when you have the fantastic vision, technique and reading of the game, age does not really matter. Gundogan could keep playing at the top level for another 3-4 years.

The big concern is we already have Thomas Partey (30-years-old) and Jorginho (31). 3 central midfielders over 30 just pushes that investment down the road a year or two. We need to be looking at longer term options.

Gabri Veiga – At the other end of the spectrum is 21-year-old Gabri Veiga.

The Spainard has had his breakthrough season, scoring twice in Celta Vigo’s final game of the season against Barcelona to keep his home town club up.

Veiga reminds me a lot of a young Aaron Ramsey; plenty of energy and goals, capable of pressing from the front and doing some great defensive work at the top end of the pitch.

But Veiga is someone with potential. He is certainly not at the level of Declan Rice or Ilkay Gundogan. Nor Granit Xhaka or Mason Mount. He will not be Premier League ready from day one.

A sensible option could be to sign Gundogan for that instant impact, and also sign Veiga for the long term. Dovetail the pair, slowly building Veiga up to take over that position long term in 1-2 seasons time.

Mason Mount – I have always liked Mason Mount. And there is a reason why the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City are looking at him.

He ticks a lot of those boxes to replace Xhaka on the left side of our central midfield – a hard worker with an eye for a pass and a goal. He would certainly be more of a threat in the final 3rd than Xhaka was.

I honestly think those Chelsea fans that do not rate him do so because he is English. We have seen similar with Jack Wilshere at Arsenal. Certain sections of fanbase take a dislike to home-grown players that match-going fans rate.

Mount bridges that gap between Gundogan and Veiga, in that at 24 he has the youth on his side, but also has the experience and leadership that comes with nearly 200 appearances for Chelsea.

Transfer fee and wages will be the huge stubmling block. If we are priced out of Declan Rice, Mount will not come much cheaper…

Conclusion – If we miss out on Declan Rice, the double signing of Gundogan and Veiga could be an alternative option. The pair would be affordable and give us the instant impact and leadership of Gundogan and the long-term option of Veiga.

Alternative 6’s

Martin Zubimendi – I probably could have put Zubimendi in either the 6 or 8. A bit like Rice and Caicedo, he can play in both positions. But throughout his career he has played more in the deeper role.

Zubimendi has a release clause around £50m depending on the exchange rate of the day. This would mean if we do end up paying £100m for Rice, and Brighton hold firm on their Caicedo price, Zubimendi allows you to recruit the two for £150m.

Born and bred in San Sebastian (the same as Mikel Arteta), Zubimendi must be tempted to play one more year for his home town club having been key in Real Sociedad qualifying for the Champions League for the frist time since 2013.

With his release clause, there is also the concern that another club might swoop him and snatch him whilst we are still trying to negotiate for Caicedo (or Rice).

And then if we go in too early for him, we might end up losing out on one of our top two targets if their price does drop towards the end of the window.

Eduardo Camavinga – Last season we were heavily linked with a move for Camavinga on loan.

The Frenchman has been fantastic for Real Madrid this season, having seen his position switch from defensive midfield to a similar inverted full back role that Olexsandr Zinchenko plays.

Recruiting Camavinga would give Arteta cover for both Partey in the middle and Zinchenko at full-back. With the Frenchman having the potential that he could be Partey’s replacement for the long-term.

Transfer fee (as always) will be the big issue. Real Madrid will surely demand the same as (or more than) what Brighton end up getting for Caicedo.

Romeo Lavia – If you were looking for a like-for-like alternative to Moises Caicedo, then Romeo Lavia will be high on the list.

Lavia was the only bright spark in Southampton’s failed relegation battle. He has the energy, tactical awareness and passing to become a superstar in that 6 role.

Manchester City have a buy-back clause for £40m, but this does not come into play until 2024. Southampton will see any offer above £45m as a good deal.

If we have to spend north of £100m to get Rice over the line, than Lavia is a realistic cheaper alternative than Caicedo.

Declan Rice – Yes, he is not yet an Arsenal player, but we are discussing what we could do if we only signed one of Rice or Caicedo. So if we got Rice but not Caicedo, he could be that option as the deeper 6.

Rice is comfortably the best defensive midfielder on this list, and only behind Rodri in the Premier League.

One solution could be that we utilise Rice in the deeper position, and then go out and sign someone like Gabri Veiga in that more advanced position.

Rice then either plays in the 6 or 8 depending on opponent and Thomas Partey’s fitness, with Veiga or Jorginho being the alternative option in both positions depending on where Rice is playing.

It would give us the option of (8/6) Rice/Parety, Rice/Jorginho or Veiga/Rice.

Conculsion – If we secure Declan Rice and not Caicedo, the decision on who else to sign will be dictated as to how Arteta wants the play the Englishman.

If he wants Rice as a dedicted 8, then Lavia or Zubimendi is the likely choice. If he is thinking Rice can play 6, then drop deeper if Partey is out, then Veiga comes into the equation.

Rice and Caicedo as a duo is clearly our ultimate transfer aim this summer. But we should not over pay for either and, as long as we get one of them, there are alternative options out there!

Finally, keep an eye on Veiga. We might be tempted to make a move even if we sign Rice and Caicedo if finances allow…



Could Arsenal be back in for Chelsea reject?

Should Arsenal re-ignite their interest in Joao Felix?

I originally wrote much of this blog in the January transfer window.

Arsenal were linked heavily with a 6 month loan move for Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix. He ended up at Chelsea.

Felix’s Chelsea career go off to the worst start possible – sent off after just 58 minutes on debut. Up to that point he was easily the best player on the pitch v Fulham.

He would be suspensed for the next 3 Premier League games, before returning against West Ham and grabbing his first goal.

The Portuguese midfielder would end up with 4 league goals and 0 assists from 16 games.

He would start just once in the final 8 league games of his loan spell Frank Lampard. And only complete 90 minutes on 3 occassions.

Felix performed poorly in a Chelsea team that was performing poorly, managed by one of the worst managers the Premier League has ever seen. Chelsea decided not to make the loan deal permanent.

Having missed out on Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk in January, Arsenl recruited Leandro Trossard.

Trossard has turned out to be a solid acqusition. But the door is still open for us to make a “mega” attacking signing this summer. Could Felix still be on the target list?

Joao Felix is still just 23-years-old, and he should not be judged on his team at Chelsea. Lampard would have made Thierry Henry look like Yaya Sanogo.

His loan deal at Chelsea still would have given Arsenal some fantastic scouting data when considering whether to move for him this summer.

He showed glimpses of his natural talent whilst playing for Chelsea, and he would certainly tick that box of being able to play out wide and up top. Both Edu and Mikel Arteta are known to highly rate the Portuguese attacker.

Felix’s career has not quite ignited since his €126million move to Atletico Madrid.

This shouldn’t be a surprise considering the free flowing attacker joined the most defensive team the world has ever seen.

Persistent injuries and the return of Antoine Griezmann – who he was signed to replace.

The Portuguese attacked has the technical ability and work rate to play in Arteta’s Arsenal. And you would like to think that Arteta and his coaching team’s renowned one-to-one training will help him reach his potential.

Felix has been around a long time, and some fans are already writing him off. This is crazy when you compare it to the hype Rafael Leao gets as one of Europe’s best young attacking talents. Felix is younger than his Portuguese team mate.

There will be some questioning how Felix would fit in at Arsenal. That should not be a question.

It would give us the option of Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Trossard, Eddie Nketiah and Felix as the primary options in the front 3 positions. 2 players for every position.

I have excluded Emile Smith Rowe as I imagine if we bring someone like Felix in, he will be sold.

His recruitment would allow Arteta to rest and rotate his front 3, and give us more options on the bench.

The issue with Felix has always been Atletico’s huge asking price.

In January, Atletico were been demanding a €15million loan fee for the 4-5 month period, and for loaning club to pay his full wages for the period. This would have taken the deal to over €21million. A huge outlay for a few months work.

Arsenal decided not to go for the deal whilst Chelsea jumped at the chance. Felix’s red against Fulham increased the “cost per game” for Chelsea.

Before loaning Felix to Chelsea, Atletico extended his deal to 2027, inserting a €350million. Of course, we will not be spending anywhere near this amount on him.

Transfermarkt currently value Felix at €50.00m (£43m), and you feel this would be the figure that would interest Arsenal.

But that would see Atletico make a €76m loss on him.

My gut is Atletico would want to get a lot closer to €100m. A fee that no one would agree to considering his stagnation over the last 24 months.

With 4-years left on his deal, Felix could become one of these “fore hire” players, spending 2-3 years out on loan. Each loan coming with a €15m loan fee. Atletico then recoup must of their expenditure through those fees (note: €15m a year is the amortised yearly equivalent of signing a €75m player).

In the not to distant future, when Felix either has 1 or 2 years left on his deal, Atletico then cash in. Sell him for the €50m he is currently value at – with those loan fees being added to their final income for him.

Would I take Felix on loan for a year for €15m? Probably not. But if we could get him at €50m transfer fee, then we should have a conversation.

If the maths work out, we could end up recruiting Trossard and Felix for the total potential price Chelsea are paying for Mudryk.

Do not write this one off.


Arsenal set to welcome two new “signings”

Morning all! A later than normal blog this morning from me. Took a little longer than usual to get the engine started. Bit too much sunshine and rum at the weekend!

The only real Arsenal news floating about right now is that we are set to welcome two new Gooners into the Arsenal family – both Aaron Ramsdale and Fabio Vieira announcing over the weekend they were going to become father’s for the first time. Congratulation to both of them.

Uusual morning of transfer speculation. Things will not begin to move until after the international break so stop stressing! The Harry Kane to Real Madrid stuff is interesting though…

A quick mention on leagues finishing across Europe. It has been an interesting see.

Arsenal put the pressure on Manchester City for much of the season, with City coming out eventual winners, and winning their 5th title in 6 seasons.

Over in Germany, Borussia Dortmund really should have won the Bundesliga, but could only draw at home on the last day of the season. That opened the door for Bayern Munich to win their 11th title in a row. Munich winning the league on goal difference.

And then in France, Lens finished just a single point behind PSG, having push them all the way. It was PSG’s 9th in 11 years.

It is good to see teams pushing the likes of Manchester City, PSG and Bayern Munich so far. But it is also a concern that once again the predictable 3 won the title.

All 3 can vastly outspend (on transfers and wages) every other team in the league. The French and German leagues are already an uncompetitive borefest, and the Premier League could end that way.

At least over in Italy, Napoli held their nerve and won Serie A at a canter. The worry now is that “bigger boys” across Europe will be circling them like hawks looking to grab Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Min-jae Kim, and Napoli will be back to being a challenger rather than champion.

Football has always been about “those who spend the most”, but I have never known a time when top leagues like Germany and France have had the same winner 11 times in a row.

Manchester United won 5 in 6 in the 90s/00s, but looking into my crystal ball City could easily go on to win the next 5/6 league titles.

One thing that has always made football great is the story a league season tells. The game will not be the game if the end of the story is always predictable.

Enjoy your Monday. I am off to grab a 4th coffee.