So for the second transfer window in a row, we are in late for a defensive midfielder and could potentially come out empty handed.
In the summer, we launched a bid for Douglas Luiz. A snatch and grab deal, we tried to take advantage of his contract situation by low-balling Aston Villa.
The interest in Luiz only materialised late in the window due to Mohamed Elneny’s injury.
We failed with the bid as Villa held firm. The failure to secure him has not really damaged us this season.
Then we have Moises Caicedo. Long term readers will know how much I like this guy.
We went have gone big, reportedly offering around £70million. But Brighton are refusing to sell and Arsenal are unwilling to offer a fee so large that it would be impossibile for them to turn it down.
Although I would argue that £70m for a 21 year old with 26 Premier League games to his name is already astronomical.
As I said when we walked away from Mykhailo Mudryk, we need to back Edu and his team over their valuation on players.
They have proved with the signings of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus, Martin Odegaard and Leandro Trossard that walking away from a deal is not a disaster.
So Caicedo. What is happening?
Hand forced by Chelsea
What Chelsea have done in January forced the hand of many clubs, including Arsenal.
Mudryk was clearly a long term target for us and we were prepared to negotiate a deal for him. We probably would have got him for want we wanted. But then Chelsea swopped in and “paid the asking price”.
They have now spent over half a billion in the last two transfer windows. And in most of those cases they have paid that asking price.
Not negotiating might get them the player, but also leads them to over pay and puts them in tough situations later down the line.
They attempted to negotiate with Lyon over Malo Gusto. Lyon refused to, and they ended up having to pay the asking price – £31million when their initial first bid was £15m.
This tactic is already putting them at a disadvantage in the market and could have long term repercussions.
What Chelsea also did was bring forward their summer spending to January.
6 permanent signings (7 if the Enzo Fernandez deal goes through), and over £200m spent. This “early transfer business” is what really forced our hand.
Caicedo is a long term target, and we were probably looking to sign him in the summer. But then Chelsea began discussions with him.
The result was we had to act fast, and submitted our bid. Having lost Mudryk, we did not want to lose another long term target.
If Chelsea showed no interest, I imagine our January transfer business would have been done and we would have gone in for Caicedo, or Declan Rice, or Martin Zubimendi in the summer.
Caicedo might not be on his way to Arsenal, but he is also unlikely to join someone else today.
No longer pressing
As we intensified our interest in Caicedo, Chelsea’s interest seemed to disolve. They also returned to Enzo Fernandez – their primary choice for central midfield.
Chelsea’s late pursuit of Enzo meant that they would not longer be in the market for Caicedo. And it is no longer as pressing for Arsenal to get a quick deal done.
Thomas Partey’s rib injury is also not as serious as first thought. He will likely be fit for Everton.
With our FA Cup exit, we have just 26 games left to play this season. We should be able to manage the squad through those games.
We will not bow down to social media pressure to make transfers for likes. That is not how a big club operates.
Can take a breath
If we were not sure on Caicedo’s worth, we are right to take a step back, take a breath.
Caicedo’s price was being driven up by a few factors:
- Chelsea’s interest
- Arsenal top of the league
- No other top targets on the market
A lot changes in the summer. Mainly because two additional targets will emerge – Declan Rice and Martin Zubimendi.
Rice is head and shoulders of the trio, and would probably be available for around £80million. That is less than what it would take to get a deal for Caicedo done now.
Meanwhile, Zubimendi has a £52m release clause.
Caicedo sits between the two, value wise.
So come the summer, we would have 3 options which would give us a much stronger hand at the negotiating table.
Brighton demand too much for Caicedo? Well we either spend big on Rice, or spend less on Zubimendi.
Arsenal will probably try and get Caicedo for as close to the Zubimendi price as possible, knowing that if Brighton hold out for £80m we can just move for Rice.
And we have cover
Mohamed Elneny is reportedly out until the end of the season. But we still have Thomas Partey cover.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is the most sensible option to repalce him. Then we also have Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga. New boy Jakub Kiwior has also previously played defensive midfield.
The drop off from Partey to anyone is huge. He is the best defensive midfielder in the world right now.
We will need to continue managing his time. Not playing him in the Europa League. Only seeing him in the Premiership.
That will also allow us to assess our options for his cover in Europe.
Love Caicedo. I think he is the best U21 defensive midfielder in the world right now. And could become one of the best defensive midfielders in the world in a couple of years.
I would not be surprised if we are back in for him in the summer.