Mustafi started 38 times in all competitions for the Gunners last season, but he’s remembered for many miscues and blunders that cost the Gunners points, even if he did help take Arsenal to the Europa League final. Elneny meanwhile played in just 17 games last season. Both players are not in Emery’s plans.
“They are very big players but for one circumstance or another they are going to have fewer chances to show their capacity or to be happy with us and the minutes they play in matches,” Emery told reporters in London, via the Guardian. “But they know the situation and really I am wishing the best for them. I think now the best for them is to be protagonists in another team and to get another challenge for themselves.”
It’s a huge fall from grace for Mustafi, who just a few years ago was a major signing for the Gunners and was coming off playing three times on Germany’s way to winning the 2014 World Cup. However, that was then, and Mustafi’s form has dropped off enough that he hasn’t been called up by Joachim Low since 2017. It’s hard to realize that Mustafi is only 27, but it appears that he either peaked much earlier, or injuries have kept him from realizing his past form.
Elneny meanwhile came in 2016 as a mid-season, January signing for Arsene Wenger. However, he was always used as a depth piece, and never truly blossomed to become a main player.
For some coaches knowing they’ll be playing a taxing schedule in four competitions, they might have done whatever it took to keep players like Mustafi and Elneny, both comfortable at Arsenal, for at least depth and help in the cup competitions. But to Emery’s credit, his honesty to the players will surely be appreciated, and allow them to look elsewhere for more playing time.
Ultimately, Elneny and Mustafi will play at Arsenal if they don’t leave, but it just won’t be in as many games as they hope, unless there’s some sort of crazy injury crisis.
Arsenal eye Coutinho, defenders ahead of transfer deadline
The Barcelona and Brazil star, 27, has struggled since swapping Anfield for the Nou Camp and the former Liverpool superstar is reportedly keen on a move back to the Premier League.
Per the report, Coutinho will spend the season on loan at Arsenal and will not be heading to Paris Saint-Germain, the club he has been linked to on numerous occasions as Neymar has been linked with a move back to Barcelona all summer long.
After signing Nicolas Pepe for $87 million, adding Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid and still having Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on board, quite why Arsenal would want another mercurial playmaker is beyond pretty much everyone.
Except, most importantly, Arsenal.
The Gunners finally appear to be willing to sign a new central defender. But is it too late?
With just over 48 hours to go until the transfer window shuts for Premier League clubs, Arsenal have been linked with moves for two center backs.
The former would be a tricky deal given the fact that Leipzig want $85 million for their 20-year-old central defender, plus Upamecano is keen to play in the UEFA Champions League for the Bundesliga side this season.
As for Rugani, it is believed Juve are open to an initial loan deal and then selling him next summer which could suit the Gunners as they reportedly have just over $50 million to spend this summer. Those reports broke before a record-breaking $87 million move for winger Pepe, but remember, that deal is to be paid in several instalments.
One thing is certain: Arsenal need help defensively. And they have done for about a decade now.
Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin will return from injury this season to boost Unai Emery‘s options but with Laurent Koscielny heading to Bordeaux and the likes of Shkodran Mustafi still around, Arsenal are looking at the likes of Sokratis and Callum Chambers to step up in defense this season. They did buy William Saliba, 18, this summer but he has gone back on loan to Saint-Etienne for the upcoming campaign, so they are no better off than least season when their leaky defense cost them finishing in the top four.
Like Manchester United, it has been pretty comical to see Arsenal blatantly ignore their need to sign new defenders in recent seasons and instead prioritize buying attacking player after attacking player.
Rugani, 25, would seem more likely to arrive and if that does happen, all of a sudden the Gunners are in the conversation for having one of the best transfer windows for PL clubs this summer.
Just two measly weeks ago, Arsenal board member Josh Korenke – son of owner Stan Kroenke – told the public, “It’s no secret that we have a Champions League wage bill on a Europa League budget right now. That’s a fact. And one that we’re figuring out how to face internally at the moment.”
His words were in response to an open letter from Arsenal supporter groups that claimed the club’s “approach to both buying players and paying wages looks uncoordinated and appears to lack strategy.” Days later, despite media claims that the club is operating on a summer budget of just $50 million, the Gunners were reportedly smashing the club transfer record for Lille winger Nicolas Pepe. So what gives?
There’s no other conclusion: the club is betting on itself. The Pepe transfer tells the story, as the club has deferred much of the payments to installments over the course of the year, hoping to ease the immediate financial burden with the budget currently strapped.
The decision to spend future funds now is a dangerous risk, but could pay off should the club reach the Champions League. Kroenke explicitly said the team is currently operating on a Champions League wage budget, despite beginning a third consecutive season outside Europe’s top competition. It’s clear that three Europa League seasons in a row is beginning to have an effect on the operating costs at the Emirates. Adding a club-record transfer fee plus wages competitive to lure Pepe to the Emirates seems counter to a logical resolution, but by betting on the team, the front office is pushing the team forward in an ambitious and positive direction.
Undoubtedly, there’s huge risk involved with such a push. Should the Gunners yet again miss out on the Champions League either by a top four finish in Premier League play or by winning the Europa League, there could be disastrous consequences. The Premier League television money is free-flowing, but going another year without Champions League prize money and media rights could be disastrous for the current financial structure.
One questionable decision is the choice to bolster the attack rather than patch up the defensive line, an area the club struggled mightily with at times last year. With captain Laurent Koscielny pushing to leave the club, it leaves Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi, and Konstantinos Mavorpanos as the only healthy central defenders, with Rob Holding still recovering from his ACL tear suffered, although he is expected to return soon. On the flanks are Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, Ainsley Maintland-Niles, and Hector Bellerin, with Calum Chambers versatile enough to play anywhere along the back or in midfield.
Is that a Champions League defensive unit? It’s hard to see how it would be, yet Arsenal has decided to splash the cash up front and hope they can outscore teams enough to reach the promised land. Other than Pepe, the Gunners spent money on winger Gabriel Martinelli, an 18-year-old Brazilian, and young defender William Saliba who was sent back on loan to St. Etienne.
The Gunners have taken a calculated risk, one they believe to be beneficial to the long-term health of the club. Should it pay off, Arsenal could be set up for a long stay near the top of the Premier League with a young attacking core and some youth at the back as well. But if they miss, the financial detriment to the club could be even more devastating than what they are set to potentially gain, as Financial Fair Play could be a factor down the road if Champions League riches never arrive.
Below is a look at the top 10 names who could be moving, and why, with some huge transfer fees involved.
1. Paul Pogba (Man United) Transfer fee: $150 million Reason: Pogba wants a new challenge and his inconsistent displays and fact he has an initial two years left on his current contract means United can now make a profit on him. United have said that want to keep him, but that is probably just to keep his transfer value high. Things haven’t worked out for Pogba at United, and everybody should now go their separate ways. Possible destination(s): Real Madrid, Juventus Will it happen? 90 percent chance
2. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace) Transfer fee: $70 million Reason: Wan-Bissaka has told Palace he wants to move on, and at 21 years of age he will see this move as being a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. Palace will loathe to sell him, but realize that after a stunning first full season in the PL, his value may never be higher than it is right now. A future England international, Wan-Bissaka’s pace and power make him the perfect modern full back. Possible destination(s): Manchester United Will it happen? 90 percent chance
3. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) Transfer fee: $60 million Reason: Eriksen is another player who has come out and said now feels like the right time for a change. And he has excelled at Spurs over the past six seasons, with many believing he is underrated when it comes to Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son getting the plaudits at Spurs. A move to Spain beckons as he has just one year left on his current contract, hence the relatively low transfer value. Possible destination(s): Real Madrid, Barcelona Will it happen? 95 percent chance
4. WilfriedZaha (Crystal Palace) Transfer fee: $100 million Reason: Like Pogba and Eriksen, Zaha gave an interview after Palace’s season saying he wants to win trophies and play in the Champions League. That will alert plenty of clubs across England and Europe. Palace won’t want to lose both Zaha and Wan-Bissaka, but it seems likely both could force away moves. The Eagles weren’t as over-reliant on Zaha last season as they have been previously, but losing his pace and power to their counter-attacking play would be a huge blow. Possible destination(s): Tottenham, Liverpool Will it happen? 60 percent chance
5. Harry Maguire (Leicester City) Transfer fee: $112 million Reason: At the age of 26, Maguire is about to enter his prime and has been loyal to Leicester as Man United chased him last summer. The England international has enjoyed another stellar season for club and country and his marauding runs have continued. Both City and United want to sign him but Leicester have put a $100 million price tag on his head to try and put off potential suitors. After seeing the impact Virgil Van Dijk had at Liverpool, both Man City and Man United will be thinking Maguire could do the same for them. Possible destination(s): Man United, Man City Will it happen? 70 percent chance
6. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) Transfer fee: $75 million Reason: Not a regular starter at United anymore despite 42 goals in 96 games for them. Lukaku has been overtaken by Rashford and Martial, and he has been speaking positively about Serie A and Inter Milan’s new coach Antonio Conte. Is that a coincidence? Nope. His game would suit the Italian top-flight well, and if United want to get back the majority of the $90 million they paid Everton for him in 2017, now is the time to sell as Lukaku will spend most of next season on the bench under Solskjaer. Possible destination(s): Inter Milan Will it happen? 90 percent chance
7. James Maddison (Leicester City) Transfer fee: $75 million Reason: He flourished in his first full season in the PL after joining Leicester from Norwich for $25 million last summer, and no player created more goalscoring opportunities than Maddison. Currently with the England U21 side, Maddison’s future will be sorted out later in the summer. He may spend one more season at Leicester under Rodgers, and with Maguire a wanted man too, Leicester are unlikely to sell two of their stars this summer. Maddison, 22, will be playing for one of the top six teams very soon though. Possible destination(s): Man City, Man United, Tottenham Will it happen? 60 percent chance
8. Issa Diop (West Ham) Transfer fee: $75 million Reason: At just 22 years of age Diop’s first season in the PL went very well indeed. West Ham’s previously porous defense was shored up largely thanks to his partnership with Fabian Balbuena and Diop is now a man in demand. The French center back joined West Ham from Toulouse for $27.5 million last summer and they could be looking at a huge profit, but are under no pressure to sell. Diop knows he would be a guaranteed starter at United, which could turn his head, and his turn of pace and supreme aerial ability set him apart. Possible destination(s): Man United, PSG, Barcelona Will it happen? 60 percent chance
9. Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham) Transfer fee: $32.1 million Reason: Spurs handed him a one-year contract extension last summer, but that meant Alderweireld could leave for just $32.1 million this summer. A clause inserted into his deal stacked the cards in his favor, and at the age of 30 the Belgian international has one more big move left in his career. With Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth around, there could be a changing of the guard in Spurs’ defense this summer. Pochettino will not want to lose Alderweireld, but Spurs can’t pay him what other clubs can. Possible destination(s): Barcelona, Man United Will it happen? 80 percent chance
10. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Transfer fee: Loan Reason: This just isn’t going to work, is it? Mesut Ozil doesn’t fit into Unai Emery‘s system at Arsenal and unless Emery goes, Ozil’s future with the Gunners isn’t looking bright. The best he can hope for next season is regular run outs in the Europa League on a Thursday night. He’s the highest-earner at the club, so getting somebody else to pay all of his $440,000 per week wage is going to be tough. The best Arsenal can do is to pay a chunk of Ozil’s wages and loan him out for this season. He still has another two seasons on the monster contract he signed in January 2018 and seems happy to stay at Arsenal. On his day his talent is undoubted, but he just doesn’t fit into Arsenal’s new system at all. Possible destination(s): Besiktas, Fenerbache, Galatasaray Will it happen? 50 percent chance
Other notable PL players to keep an eye on this summer:
With the Europa League final complete and Chelsea reigning supreme, there is plenty of fallout to come with the Blues back in the Champions League and Arsenal failing to seal the deal.
For Arsenal, the blow could be heavy. The club is strapped for cash now headed for its third straight season in the Europa League, and they allowed 28-year-old Aaron Ramsey to depart this summer for free, a financial failure that could have serious consequences.
According to a report by The Mirror, manager Unai Emery is hoping to overhaul the squad this summer, but his job will be difficult given the financial constraints of failing to reach the Champions League. He could be forced to sell assets to generate cash, and while Arsenal fans may be happy to see the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Mesut Ozil on the list of players who could depart this summer, Henrikh Mkhitaryan could reportedly also be sacrificed in the process. The report states that the wage bill may actually be a bigger obstacle to the club’s acquisition power than transfer funds, yet still there may only be around $50 million for Emery to play with this summer.
Players like Ozil and Mustafi could generate a decent cash flow, but they have underperformed the last few seasons, and Ozil especially has wages that could limit the club’s ability to shop him. The report states that Inter Milan could be a possible destination with possible new manager Antonio Conte hoping to boost the attack.
For Chelsea, their summer is also in question, despite securing Champions League play. The Blues have a potential transfer ban hanging over their heads, and the impending decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport will have an enormous impact on their proceedings over the next few months.
Regardless of the decision, however, it looks as if Eden Hazard has played his final game in Chelsea blue, and the rumors continue to churn of his departure for Real Madrid. English tabloids have stated that Hazard is off to Real Madrid for an enormous $145 million fee, although that seems unlikely as reports consistently stated over the last few weeks that Los Blancos were holding firm to their $125 million ceiling and that Chelsea would likely concede to that amount due to Hazard’s contract situation.
Should Chelsea be able to replace Hazard this summer and the ban is lifted or delayed, the Blues could look to a former Premier League star to take over. Philippe Coutinho has had a horrible first year at Barcelona, and it seems the club is shopping him to various interested parties. Chelsea could be a perfect landing spot for Coutinho and they could secure him far below market value after his disastrous season at the Camp Nou. Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo claims that Chelsea would be in pole position to secure Coutinho should the CAS allow the club to sign players this summer, and while Manchester United is interested, their lack of Champions League play this season sees them at a serious disadvantage.
Chelsea could also secure the permanent signatures of current loanees Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain whether the club is banned from transfer acquisitions or not, as they are both already registered with the club. Kovacic, a Real Madrid player out on loan, could likely be secured on a permanent deal separate from the Hazard negotiation. Higuain, meanwhile, may wait to see if Maurizio Sarri is confirmed as the Chelsea manager next season before he commits his future to Stamford Bridge.
According to Mundo Deportivo in a report that corroborates earlier reporting in the English tabloids, Manchester United is seriously considering a massive offer to free agent midfielder Adrien Rabiot. The Red Devils are reportedly set to offer Rabiot an $12.5 million signing bonus and wages of around $220,000 a week or about $11.5 million a season, which would match the demands he’s stuck to in negotiations over the past few months.
The report states that with other top clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus unwilling to meet his high financial demands, Rabiot could find United’s offer intriguing. Rabiot, a 24-year-old French midfielder, has had major character issues in the past at both the club and country levels, but his play on the field as a top box-to-box midfielder is helping offset the questions about his personality. Should Manchester United bring Rabiot on, he could directly challenge Paul Pogba for a spot in the team, or even serve as a Pogba replacement should he depart this summer as rumors have suggested over the past few months.
24-year-old Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe is a wanted man this summer, and while he has been linked with a move to Manchester United in recent weeks, Liverpool has also entered the fray, according to Sunday Times reporter Duncan Castles on the Team Talk podcast. Castles said that Liverpool “has been in contact” with Lille still waiting on anything official to come through. Castles says that Lille has been quite public about an asking price in the range of $89 million for the Ivory Coast international who just appears to be entering his prime.
Pepe scored 22 Ligue 1 goals this season which put him second on the campaign behind PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe. He helped Lille finish a stunning second in the league table, qualifying the club for Champions League play for the first time since 2012. Manchester United is in desperate need of reinforcements all over the pitch, but could miss out if Champions League play is a priority to Pepe who has never played in the competition. Still, Liverpool may pass on any players that cost such a hefty amount, as their squad is already one of the strongest in Europe and may not require such a massive cost to add missing pieces.