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