Arsenal missed out on the signing of Mykhaylo Mudryk last month, with the dynamic and fleet-footed winger instead joining heated London rivals Chelsea at the eleventh hour despite months of negotiation with the Gunners, but another deal that went under the radar could have been equally beneficial to the club as they seek glory in the Premier League.
Indeed, Mikel Arteta‘s outfit are two points clear at the top of the English top-flight after 23 matches, holding a game in hand on nearest title rivals and current champions Manchester City, and despite a long-term injury suffered to £45m summer signing and star talisman Gabriel Jesus while the Brazilian forward was on duty at the World Cup, there is hope that the push can be maintained.
Did Raphinha nearly join Arsenal?
However, Gunners supporters with trepidation that the wheels will fall off as the term approaches the business end would have rested far easier had technical director Edu succeeded in the January pursuit of FC Barcelona phenom, Raphinha.
According to Spanish outlet Sport, the Gunners offered €70m (£62m) for La Blaugrana for their Brazilian ace, who signed for the prestigious outfit from Leeds United for £55m, and while he hasn’t quite hit the expected heights, the proposal was swiftly rejected and Arsenal failed to secure their man, having also bid for him in the summer.
Across 67 appearances for the Whites, Raphinha scored 17 goals and served 12 assists, distinguishing himself as a first-rate talent last season as he plundered 11 goals in the Premier League as his outfit staved off relegation.
How has Raphinha done since?
This season, the 26-year-old has scored seven goals and registered nine assists from 33 outings, although he has only started on 12 occasions in La Liga.
While Arsenal’s established wingers Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have been superlative examples of the dynamic capabilities required to forge a successful title bid in the English top-flight, Raphinha’s presence within the Gunner ranks could have paid dividends.
With an away trip to Man City’s Etihad Stadium still looming – the Gunners have lost their only home match in the league this term to Pep Guardiola’s side – there are concerns that another loss could swing the odds in the Sky Blues’ favour.
And with Raphinha ranking among the top 4% for blocks and 10% for interceptions per 90, when compared to attacking midfielders and wingers, as per FBref, his grit and determination might’ve been invaluable in such a clash.
The statistical site also lists Saka as a comparable player, and given Arsenal’s finely balanced system paying off resoundingly under Arteta’s wing, a tailor-made replacement to ease the burden could indeed have been a coveted asset at such a pivotal stage.
And given Jesus’ eventual return to provide a dynamic presence up front, Raphinha himself might be somewhat disappointed not to forge a cohesive bond with his compatriot.
The 25-year-old ranks among the top 6% of forwards for non-penalty goals, top 3% for pass completion and successful take-ons, and the top 15% for progressive carries per 90, and it is this illuminating level of selfless ingenuity from the talismanic role that has been integral for Arsenal, something the goal-seeking Raphinha could’ve certainly benefited from.
Once hailed as a “magician” by former Leeds team-mate Dan James, the 16-cap South American star is a player clearly scouted at an extensive level by the north London side’s hierarchy, and they might just rue the failure to secure his signature.
Granted, the Gunners completed the shrewd £27m signing of Leandro Trossard from Brighton and Hove Albion after failing on their primary targets, and Arsenal have satisfactorily bolstered the wide lines, but given Raphinha’s stature and his past exploits in the Premier League with Leeds, Edu might feel that he has missed a trick.
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