Former Arsenal academy prospect Donyell Malen looks set to join Borussia Dortmund. This will trigger the idiots on Twitter who say “Arsenal let go a superstar again” without actually having seem him play either for Arsenal or in Holland.
We have seen it before with the revisionism of Serge Gnabry’s departure (short version: Arsenal wanted to keep him. He wanted to return to Germany) and I imagine we will see the same happen with Malen.
Malen left Arsenal back in 2017. Joining PSV for less than £1million.
The then 18-year-old engineered a move out of the club under the guidance of his agent – Mino Raiola.
Many Arsenal fans who saw him play were disappointed that he left, as he was clearly a talent. But they also understood the situation.
Here was a player who had come to Arsenal at 16-years-old from Ajax. Within 2 years of being at the club refused to sign a new contract and decided to move back to his native Holland to find 1st team football.
It actually took him a season to find that 1st team football as he spent a year at Jong PSV – the reserve team of PSV Eindhoven.
He was a talent within Arsenal’s youth team, but he was by no means the brightest star.
Capable of playing across the front 3, Malen was in direct competition with the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Stephy Mavididi.
Malen often found himself playing 2nd fiddle to those 3 players. Usually only playing within his age group when they moved up a group or were involved in the senior team.
Only Mavididi – who has since joined Juventus and now at Montpellier – was older than Malen.
Back in 2017, Malen was down the pecking order for the 1st team action he demanded.
2016/17 none of Nelson, Mavididi or Nketiah got any senior game time as Chris Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Chuba Akpom were the youngsters given the chances in the cup games.
So Arsenal had a talented young player; who was not more talented than players the same age. Whilst the club did not want him to leave; they also did not stand in his way.
Malen has now been in Holland for 4 years, scoring 40 goals in 81 Eredivisie games.
So in the most basic of terms, it has taken him 4 years to develop a game good enough for Dortmund to be interested in him. So 4 years previous he was no where near good enough to be involved in first team action.
Most will consider Nelson and Nketiah as “not good enough”. However how many goals would the pair of got had they gone to Holland? Probably not to dissimilar to Malen.
The Dutch league is a similar level as the Championship.
During Malen’s time in Holland, Mason Mount spent a loan period there, scoring 14 goals. The next year he was in the Championship where he scored 11 goals. Last season he scored just 6 Premier League goals, despite being 3 years old, wiser, stronger and better.
So we shouldn’t be getting our knickers in a twist of Malen scoring 5 goals against Vitesse. For every Luis Suarez that comes out of the league, you get 2017/18 top scorer Alizera Jahanbakhsh who failed to score a league goal for Brighton in 2018/19.
In his time in Holland, Malen has been outscored by the likes of Luuk de Jong (0 goals in 12 games for Newcastle), Steven Berghuis (0 goals in 9 games for Watford) and Dusan Tadic (ex-Southampton). Even the likes of Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar outscored him even though they were well past his best.
So some will cry that Dortmund are signing an ex-Arsenal trainee 4 years after he left the club. But there is a reason why it has taken him 4 years for a bigger team to come calling.
He simply was not ready for the big leagues when he left us.