Although it may seem like the 2021-22 European soccer season just ended, the summer transfer window is already in full swing. Arsenal, despite missing out on Champions League football in crushing fashion, have been aggressively seeking improvements. Thus far, they’ve brought in Marquinos, Fabio Vieira, and Matt Turner. Gabriel Jesus is within touching distance of the finish line, but the striker has yet to be officially confirmed.
Then there’s Raphinha.
While the Gunners were heavily linked to the Leeds winger, it now appears like he’s destined to join Chelsea. That may be a kick in the teeth, but the setback will test Arsenal’s offseason mettle. One failure can’t knock over the entire house of cards.
Arsenal’s Brazilian recruiting strategy seems to have hit a snag when it comes to Raphinha
Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal became known as a club that prioritized creative players. With Edu Gaspar and Mikel Arteta at the helm, the Gunners could now be targeting Brazilians.
While that’s somewhat of a joke — no club, especially one as big as Arsenal, would base their transfer strategy around having as many Gabriels in the lineup as possible — there does seem to be some reality behind the Reddit posts. Edu worked for both Corinthians and the Brazilian national team, so it’s only natural to leverage those relationships when looking for deals.
It seemed like those connections would help the North London club land Raphinha, a talented winger from Leeds. While he was reportedly on Barcelona’s radar, the Catalan giants don’t currently have the financial might to get the deal over the line. That gave Arsenal an opening, and while their bids were below Leeds’ valuation, they were reportedly leading the pack in pursuit of Raphinha’s services.
Seemingly out of nowhere, though, Chelsea entered the fray. On Tuesday, June 28, The Athletic’s David Ornstein reported that “Chelsea [were] understood to be close to agreeing a fee with Leeds United for Raphinha but the race for his signature [was] not yet closed.” Fabrizio Romano offered a similar take, noting there were still key discussions to be had before the deal was sealed.
While that theoretically leaves some opportunity for Arsenal to make a counter-offer, it’s likely that the Gunners’ race has been run. The North London club has been spending more freely, but it’s probably not advisable to get into a bidding war with Chelsea (even if Roman Abramovich is out of the picture).
That setback can’t prevent Arsenal from pursuing the rest of their transfer business
Missing out on a transfer target is tough enough. Seeing him (potentially) go to a rival is even worse. With all of that being acknowledged, though, missing out on Raphinha can’t derail Arsenal’s transfer window.
While he’s already been busy, Edu still has plenty of work to do. The Gunners have been linked to Lisandro Martinez — he could theoretically be a backup at both left-sided center-back and left-back — and midfielder Youri Tielemans. Whether reinforcements arrive in the form of those players or some different names, Arsenal need to strengthen both of those areas if they’re serious about pushing into the top four.
And, on the subject of pushing into a more elite bracket, missing out on transfer targets is simply part of sitting at the big table. If you’re chasing players who have their choice of Europe’s elite clubs, some of them will go elsewhere. Being big enough to pursue those names means you not only have to be equipped to handle disappointment, but you also have to have alternate options ready to go.
Through that lens, it’s time for Edu, Arteta, and Arsenal’s brass to show they can walk the walk. While it wasn’t exactly fair, a narrative emerged after the January transfer window that the Gunners chased Dusan Vlahovic and couldn’t pivot after he joined Juventus. With Raphinha seemingly destined for Chelsea, what’s the next move. Is it time to return to Tielemans since he was theoretically a lower-priority move? Is there another player, whether he’s a conventional winger or not, who can help give Bukayo Saka a break? Or will a combination of Jesus, Vieira, and others allow for enough rotation?
Those are the questions that Arsenal’s brass is paid the big bucks to answer.
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