Raphinha or Tielemans? Who should be the priority for Arsenal?
By Rob Worthington (Deputy Editor)
Arsenal have enjoyed a successful start to the summer transfer window. The club have already acquired the services of Brazilian teenager Marquinhos from São Paolo and the 22-year-old attacking midfielder Fábio Vieira from Porto.
However, as has been widely reported, Mikel Arteta and Edu’s summer business ventures won’t be stopping there.
As Edu outlined following the official announcement of the signing of Vieira, Arsenal will “continue to work hard” and want to this transfer window to be “as strong as possible.”
This means further strengthening Mikel Arteta’s squad by adding further depth and quality. Arsenal fans expect at least 3 more signings – a striker, a winger, and a versatile defender.
Up front the club appear to be close to closing a deal for Gabriel Jesus. Arsenal have been tracking the Brazil international for some time now and it would appear he will eventually be joining Arsenal in a £50+ million deal.
However, with the eventual completion of that deal increasing in likelihood as time passes, Arsenal fans are shifting their attention to other transfer rumours.
Gabriel Jesus’ compatriot, Raphinha, is the player who is being most readily discussed by Gooners at the current moment in time. He wants out of Leeds this summer, with the Yorkshire club looking to bring in £60 million for the winger.
According to a report from The Athletic, Arsenal have had an initial bid for the 25-year-old knocked back. However, Mikel Arteta is a big fan of the player, and Edu has strong relations with his agent, Deco, so many expect this deal to be completed at some point in the future.
The acquisition of Raphinha will require significant outlay from Arsenal. This in itself is something of a necessity as quality left-footed right-wingers are hot commodities in today’s transfer market. If Arteta wants genuine competition for Bukayo Saka, he’ll need his board to spend a lot of money.
That is fine. Raphinha will certainly improve the Arsenal squad and add another tasty flavour to Arsenal’s attack. However, some are questioning whether the signing of a right-winger should be as high on Arsenal’s list of priorities as it is.
Instead, some believe Arsenal should be focussing on bringing in a central midfielder before they throw the bag at Raphinha. Youri Tielemans has been heavily linked with a move to the club, but Arsenal’s interest in the Belgium international has reportedly ‘cooled.’
When Mikel Arteta deploys a 4-3-3 at Arsenal with his full squad available to him, it tends to work pretty close to perfection. However, there is one quite blatantly round peg in a square hole.
That round peg is Granit Xhaka. That’s not to discredit the fantastic job Granit Xhaka has done at Arsenal in recent times. But as a left-sided #8, he’s playing out of position. Tielemans would be much better suited to such a role.
Arsenal do have options in this role. If Lisandro Martinez joins the club from Ajax, a more offensively oriented player could be deployed as a left #8, such as Martin Ødegaard, Fábio Vieira, or Bukayo Saka.
This is because Martinez would occupy the sort of positions as a left-back that Xhaka often does as a midfielder, enabling the man in front of him to play with a bit more freedom. However, if first choice left-back Kieran Tierney’s plays, this is something of a non-option.
So, whilst it’s fantastic that Arsenal are showing such intent in the transfer market by pursuing a player of Raphinha’s calibre, they should think carefully about directing significant resources towards him instead of Youri Tielemans.
Tielemans would make Arteta’s first choice XI more complete as one of the only natural wide central midfielders on Arsenal’s books. On the other hand, Raphinha would be a like for like option on the right-flank, competing with Bukayo Saka.
Surely it’d be wiser for Arsenal to prioritise the signing of the player with a profile they simply don’t have within their squad at the moment. Raphinha is a fantastic player, and should be signed this summer if a deal can be done, but his signing shouldn’t be completed at the expense of passing up on Youri Tielemans.