After Arsenal’s worst season in 25 years, their summer of rebuild has got off to an awful start as they have missed out on a top transfer target to Aston Villa.
The Gunners ended the season in eighth place, meaning no European football at all for the first time since 1996 when Arsene Wenger eventually took over. Despite that, manager Mikel Arteta has been given a chance to rebuild the team in his image.
Brazilians David Luiz and Willian will leave this summer, while right-back Hector Bellerin is also on the list of players who could depart along with strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and midfielders Dani Ceballos and Martin Ødegaard who’s loans expired.
It’s believed that one of the names at the top of Arteta’s wishlist this summer was Norwich City playmaker Emi Buendia.
The Argentine was relegated with the Canaries in 2020 but was instrumental this past season as he scored 15 goals and assisted 16 goals to earn them immediate promotion back to the Premier League.
With that though, the club agreed to honour a gentleman’s agreement to let him leave this summer should their asking price of around £30m be met. That gave Arsenal encouragement that a deal could be done, however the player won’t be heading to the Emirates.
Aston Villa were also interested in the 24-year-old’s signature and after hearing of Arsenal’s interest and subsequent bid, they have moved quickly to seal the deal.
Villa will pay a club record £33m up front, with incentive based add-ons taking the total fee up to a club-record £40m. After speaking with international teammate and former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, Buendia made the decision that a move to Villa Park would be more beneficial for his career.
It plunges the future of Jack Grealish into further doubt, with the England international linked with a move to Manchester City and Manchester United this summer after a sensational season. Buendia operates at his best in the attack from the right-wing, cutting in on his left foot.
But he also is at his best when the team runs through him as we have seen with Norwich, and that won’t be the case if Grealish is at the club. The likelihood remains that both will be at the club next season and will find a way to play with each other, while the attacking burden on Grealish will be somewhat relieved with some quality help alongside him.
For Arsenal, their summer plans are in trouble now. Ødegaard currently looks out of reach, with Real Madrid placing a £50m value on him and newly-appointed boss Carlo Ancelotti name-checking him as someone who can help refresh an ageing squad.
With creativity an issue throughout the season last year and obviously an area they want to strengthen they will now need to look at alternatives, which could include keeping players on that they didn’t originally plan to.
West Brom’s Matheus Pereira is surely a target if they are intent on bringing new faces in, with the club relegated and needing to sell. Pereira shone in the Premier League last season with 11 goals and six assists and has a similar skillset to that of Buendia and his asking price is likely to be pretty similar too.
But the fact that Arsenal made Buendia a ‘top target’ and were not only blown out of the water by Aston Villa financially but also deemed to be a worse project by the player himself tells you a lot about where they stand currently.