Arsenal’s acquisition of Fabio Vieira is a major indication of the deal they are aiming for this summer as a player’s profile and positioning hasn’t necessarily been a priority. This suggests the Portuguese youngster was just too good to miss unless they changed their minds completely (which is not typical of manager Mikel Arteta).
Signing him doesn’t necessarily mean Arsenal stop pursuing other goals or that Vieira’s arrival replaces others in their sights, such as Raphinha, Gabriel Jesus or Lisandro Martinez. Rather, they want to keep going. The plan, ideally, is to recruit them all.
Vieira’s transfer went very quickly. There were other names on the list but ultimately the extent to which Arteta wanted that particular player dramatically accelerated the deal, which ran for five years and was valued at up to £35million. Although Vieira has played in several positions in his career and can also play as a second striker or winger, the 22-year-old is primarily viewed by Arsenal as a No 10 or No 8 option. Arsenal expect him to need some time to adjust after his move from Portuguese football but there is great excitement in camp that he can develop into an exceptional player.
It’s something that remains central to their strategy — spotting high-quality talent while it’s still affordable. 19-year-old Brazilian winger Marquinhos, who recently arrived from Sao Paulo, is another indicator and his integration is forward-looking.
With so much focus on creative players, it is not forgotten that Arsenal still have work to do defensively. USA international goalkeeper Matt Turner will soon be meeting up with his new teammates following his move from New England Revolution to MLS France centre-back William Saliba is set to resume his career at London Colney after his post-Nations League leave.
Arsenal would like Martinez to join the defensive block – the Ajax left centre-back would add depth to the position Gabriel made his own last season. Sources point out that Arsenal had already turned down an offer – in the region of €30m. The 24-year-old, who is reportedly keen to join Arteta’s side, would also cover for Kieran Tierney at left-back, similar to how Takehiro Tomiyasu can also play both positions at right-back.
A deal would increase the likelihood of a loan for Nuno Tavares, although the player is happy at London having endured a sometimes difficult debut season and is keen to stay.
Arsenal are also now trying to secure a deal for Jesus as soon as possible. Manchester City are targeting £50m and don’t need the money, but there are hopes an agreement can be reached between the clubs, with the Brazilian striker ready to join and personal terms not an issue. Youri Tielemans is another name high on Arsenal’s list but that’s a more nuanced situation. It should depend on further movements in central midfield. Granit Xhaka remains an enigmatic presence but if there were a deal for him to do it would open the door further for Tielemans with a fee around £25million that would be required for deals with Leicester.
Tielemans were close to returning late last season when Arsenal looked like they could return to Champions League football, but the move became less certain as their fifth-place finish only provided Europa League football in 2022-23. The Belgian isn’t opposed to staying at Leicester for the final year of his contract hoping to impress halfway through the World Cup and then having his choice of clubs on a free transfer next summer.
Arsenal clearly need to generate some money from expenses and will welcome the money that could be raised by selling a group of first-team players who have some value but are unlikely to get playing time under Arteta – like Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno and Nicolas Pepe.
A deal for Leeds United’s Raphinha is believed to be conditional on a Pepe exit and Arsenal and the Ivorian are believed to be keen – but the club would like to see a decent return on his record signing. Barcelona’s interest in the Brazilian took a hit when Leeds survived relegation on the final day of last season and were less vulnerable to a cheap sale, giving Arsenal a way to show how ambitious and aggressive they are in the market this summer want.
It’s a difficult balancing act: spending money without first recovering is a gamble, but at the same time they don’t want to miss their top targets and are acutely aware of the dangers of waiting until the end of a window to close too many deals .
Last season’s lesson is fresh.
Arsenal were clear in their recruitment pattern a year ago, with young, developing potential at the heart of their rebuild. But due to the delay of key signings, the team were not ready when the action began and the club endured their worst start ever in the Premier League with three straight defeats, no goals scored and nine goals conceded. Nine months later, they were three points short of Champions League qualification.
Arteta wants his squad to be both well-stocked this time around and set up well for the kick-off.
Other contributors: Adam Crafton and James McNicholas
(Top Photo: Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)