The latest transfer news sees Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez linked with shock moves to Arsenal from Manchester City.
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With the duo playing a key role for City this season, and over the last several campaigns under Pep Guardiola, this report is a shock.
But should we be that surprised?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Sterling, Mahrez set for City departure?
We all know that Pep Guardiola is a ruthless operator. From Joe Hart to Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero to Yaya Toure, he has made some big calls to move on or leave out Man City legends since he arrived at the club in 2016.
But this report from The Daily Mail is quite surprising.
1) because Mahrez is involved.
2) because Arsenal could be the destination.
When you look at Sterling’s named being linked with a move away, that may not be as surprising as it initially seems. The 26-year-old has suffered a huge drop-off in form over the second half of this season and the England international has struggled to get into City’s starting lineup in recent weeks.
Maybe Guardiola wants to move Sterling on now before his form dips over a longer period of time? His contract runs out two years from now, so this summer would see his transfer value at its highest. Sterling was also reportedly in contract talks with City, but those have stalled.
As for Mahrez, he’s had a fine campaign and offers City something very different in their attack, but he is now 30 years old and Guardiola has the likes of Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and other young attackers coming through, plus Kevin de Bruyne has just signed a new long-term deal. Still, Mahrez moving on would be a surprise but he also has two years left on his current City deal.
Moving on Sterling and Mahrez, or planning to at least, could suggest that City are trying to make a big move for Harry Kane, Jack Grealish or Erling Haaland this summer. With their main need a central striker, they could probably afford to get rid of a couple of attacking midfielders. The report suggests that Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte could be moved on too.
Can Arsenal afford either of Sterling or Mahrez?
And that is the biggest red flag here.
However, this report popping up just before the Champions League final could suggest that Sterling and Mahrez will not start against Chelsea and could see the writing is on the wall and push for a move away from City this summer.
Arsenal want to make big moves this summer and Mikel Arteta, Pep’s former assistant at the Etihad, knows these players very well and is about to demolish his Gunners squad.
With Willian reportedly on his way out, Granit Xhaka leaving, David Luiz gone and the futures of Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and many others uncertain, there could be extra cash for transfer fees and wages floating around. Arsenal aren’t in Europe next season, which probably helps Arteta as he can nurture his young squad and work with them more often on the training ground.
Is Sterling and Mahrez to Arsenal a long shot? Yes. Is one of them heading to the Emirates Stadium unlikely? No. Right now, you’d think Mahrez is the most likely to make the move.