Was this the single most predictable outcome to an Arsenal transfer saga?
After months of making fluttery eyes and kissy faces to Thomas Partey (and his dad), reports now claim that the Ghana international has surprisingly decided that he’s better off staying at Champions League-bound Atletico Madrid.
To be fair, I wouldn’t fancy telling Diego Simeone I wanted to leave his club, either.
So whether it’s through personal preference or as a hostage, Partey may well remain in red and white, and, if he does, the Gunners will need to look elsewhere for a new midfield enforcer to add steel to a team that has all the backbone of a jellyfish currently.
But who should Arsenal bring in, it if really is no Thomas, no Partey? Well, 90min is on hand to provide a shortlist of possible names for Arteta to mull over in the coming weeks…
Now this is a guy you’d want on your side. Ismael Bennacer rose to fame in Italy with his domineering performances at the heart of Empoli’s midfield last season. Having slipped to relegation, Milan snapped up the young Algerian in one of the best pieces of business over the summer.
After winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Algeria, the 22-year-old then came back to Serie A and has been at the top of his game ever since.
A combative, disruptive, yet classy presence in the midfield, Bennacer has the ability to both halt opposition attacks, and participate meaningfully in his own team’s sorties. The Algerian star completed the most interceptions in Serie A over the 2019/20 campaign (312), but he is far from a destroyer. There is a wonderful elegance and grace to his play, and he can dictate the tempo against even the best sides.
Bennacer is a flexible midfielder, and most importantly for Arteta, he can play in any system, while seemingly possessing no weaknesses. A brilliant alternative.
Oh… and if he seems familiar, Arsenal fans, it’s because he was part of the Gunners’ youth set-up until 2017 and even made one senior appearance in the EFL Cup.
Probable Price Tag: £40m
‘But Leicester City are higher in the table than Arsenal. Why would he want to go there? LOL’
Yeah, we know, it’s not exactly an upgrade at this moment in time. But every player will believe they have the quality to lift a struggling side back to their former glories. And let’s be honest, the Foxes are hardly riding the crest of a wave anyway, and may well drop out of the Champions League places before the end of the season.
And a lot of Brendan Rodgers’ problems began with the injury Wilfred Ndidi suffered back in January. The defensive midfielder covers every blade of grass when shielding his Leicester backline, and with the right attacking players around him, can provide the perfect comfort blanket to any defence.
Even the comedy duo David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi might look a little less rubbish with Ndidi in front of them. Maybe.
The downside? he’d be expensive. Very, very expensive.
Probable Price Tag: £70m
Europe’s elite were circling around Allan like a flock of seagulls on an unsuspecting cone of chips last summer, but the Brazilian’s reputation has taken a bit of a hit over the past 12 months.
The 29-year-old was at the heart of Napoli’s rebellion against Carlo Ancelotti and the club at the start of the season, and he has been dropped from the squad by coach Gennaro Gattuso for his lack of effort in training.
It’s fair to say, Allan has probably had his heart set on a big move for some time now, and his form has suffered as a result. With his future seemingly lying away from Naples, Arsenal may fancy their chances to snatch the tireless defensive midfielder who also has an eye for the creative.
Probable Price Tag: £35m
It’s been a pretty treacherous season for Valencia, and one which has left the Spanish club determined to revolutionise their underperforming squad. And one of the victims of this mass exodus may be Geoffrey Kondogbia.
The Frenchman – a reported Arsenal target of transfer windows past – took to life back in Spain following a miserable spell with Inter, and he has continued to impress, despite Los Che’s dismal position in the league table.
Probable Price Tag: £30m
If this lad was playing in the Premier League, he’d (probably) be walking into that England squad for the next round of international fixtures. A tough-tackling, dogged footballer, Kalvin Phillips has been a class above his competitors in the Championship this season. And the proof is in the pudding, with Leeds United set to end their 16-year wait for top-flight football in the coming weeks.
Phillips is also a wonderful ball player, and he’d slot seamlessly into an Arsenal midfield in need of a bit of edge, but
Young, English and promising, this one will cost the Gunners a bob or two.
Probable Price Tag: £35m
Well, they can’t be all young, glitzy, exciting options, can they?
In fact, Arturo Vidal may be a much more realistic option for the Gunners. Arteta has plenty of talented youngsters coming through, and he may be wary of signing a long-term alternative, only to stunt the growth of his current options.
So how about a move for an ageing, experienced, but still incredibly hungry Vidal? The Barcelona star looks set to leave Camp Nou this summer, and at 33 years of age, his price tag will be a fraction of the aforementioned stars’ in this list – though his wages won’t be cheap.
Age is but a number anyway, and the Chilean still has plenty to offer at the highest level.
A player who can operate as a holding or box-to-box midfielder, his versatility would prove vital to Arteta.
Probable Price Tag: £15m
This would be very Arsenal. Once tipped as a future star of France’s midfield, and destined for big things, Adrien Rabiot has found himself banished from the national team set up, and struggling to make any impact at Juventus this season. So what better way to kickstart his career than a move to the Emirates stadium?
Frankly, considering the attitude problems and his failure to adapt quickly to football in Italy, this deal might be one to avoid for the Gunners. But Arsenal have been known to take a chance in the market before, and if they can get Rabiot firing, he would certainly be a brilliant box-to-box match-winner for the club.
Is he worth the gamble, though?
Probable Price Tag: £30m