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Why Arsenal shouldn’t pursue Kylian Mbappe

As exciting as the possibility of him in Arsenal colors is, is it the best option?

Juventus v AS Monaco - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

In the last week, a series of bombshell reports have revealed that Arsenal has serious interest in Monaco wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, most recently in the form of a €100 million offer for the young man’s services. While big clubs often show interest in big names, this was fairly surprising given that Arsenal has historically shied away from chasing the newest shiny toy, and especially at such enormous prices.

Though many fans of the club saw this as a serious statement from the club to go big in the market for one of Europe’s most exciting players, I believe that Arsenal should keep its interest at just this point, and avoid wading into too deep of waters with regards to Mbappe.

This isn’t to say that I think Mbappe isn’t a good player (of course he is) or that it wouldn’t be extremely fun to see him at Arsenal (of course it would be). I’m simply of the opinion that there are other more pressing needs for Arsenal to attend to than a star teenager. I just don’t see how Arsenal, rich as it is, can compete in the market with the top tier of superpowers.

My first objection to this potential transfer is, frankly, the ludicrous price attached to Mbappe. Mbappe is a gem, there’s no doubt about that, but we have to consider the circumstances of his rise. Though he does many things inherently and individually well enough to warrant praise, he does ply his trade in a defensively questionable league, for a club whose roster is second only to PSG, and in a system designed to maximize its offensive players. Mbappe did light up the Champions League, but his elite play only consisted of roughly one half of a season. Is that enough to warrant a nine digit transfer fee even with the rapidly expanding TV and prize money awarded to Premier League sides? For me, the answer is no.

I may be in the minority, but I don’t think Arsenal is one player away from competing for titles on multiple fronts, and especially not in long slogs like the domestic league. If this club needed one missing piece to push them over the edge I would be all for this transfer, but by my estimation this club will need to sign 2-3 starter-level players this summer and dropping nine digits on one player could stand in the way of that. However and to that point, if this club feels that it’s one starting striker away from being a genuine contender, why opt for Mbappe at over €100 million instead of Alvaro Morata, for example? Mbappe is the flashier of the two, I admit that, but Morata’s rumored price is anywhere from €30-40 million less than Mbappe’s and for that price you’d get a much more proven striker who has produced at the highest level and in high pressure situations as well. Signing Sead Kolasinac on a free and utilizing some players returning on a loan makes spending such big money on a teenager more palatable, but I still can’t see Arsene Wenger fully signing off on this deal.

Speaking of which, much has been made of Arsene Wenger’s clout potentially playing a role in Mbappe’s recruitment, but if we’re considering Real Madrid as the main competitor, which we can given that they are one of the three reported clubs to have made an offer on the player and offers larger than Arsenal’s, the same virtues applied to Wenger also work in Zinedine Zidane’s favor.

Both are French, both have tried to recruit Mbappe to their respective club in the past, both have given important minutes to youth in their career. Yes, Arsene Wenger has a better head of hair than Zidane and Arsenal can perhaps offer more starting minutes right now, but Karim Benzema will be on the last year of his deal next summer and will likely be sold, thus opening up major minutes for someone like Mbappe in 2018 (Mbappe has even stated that he’d prefer to stay at Monaco for another season).

However, the two things Zidane unquestionably has over Wenger are the immense resources he’s backed with and the allure of being a Champions League contender each and every year. Perhaps this doesn’t mean much to Mbappe right now, but we do have to consider those advantages when it comes to tiebreakers.

Additionally, while Madrid is the furthest thing from a manager’s haven given the rash immense managerial turnover displayed there, Zidane, someone Mbappe has openly admired as both player and manager, does seem to have the position locked down for the foreseeable future whereas Wenger will likely call it quits in two years. Would a player want to commit to a project knowing that the person who lured them in will be gone in 2019? Perhaps! But it might take something else to compensate for that, something like an enormous salary or the promise of titles.

Now, I don’t think this offer is all bad. I admire the club quickly moving in the market in order to show intent to purchase top, top players for top, top prices. It might not be the most prudent of moves but damn it, it’s so nice for this club to go big in the summer. Additionally, if Wenger is just gaming the market, that’s good enough for me.

Consider this: perhaps the club isn’t truly interested in Mbappe, perhaps it’s doing Monaco a favor by creating a bidding war among other suitors which will, in turn, allow Monaco to give Arsenal a discount on other players such as Thomas Lemar (a more sensible addition). Yes, this seems a bit conspiracy theory-y but nothing makes sense in the transfer market anymore and Wenger is smart and wily enough to pull off something like this.

Again, all this isn’t to say that Mbappe in Arsenal colors wouldn’t be absolutely thrilling because it certainly would be, not to mention that his arrival would shut up the “spend more money, Wenger!” and “Arsenal can’t attract top players” camps, I just don’t see how it’s a realistic move or the best use of the club’s resources.

Use this substantial budget to firm up a number of positions, both starting and bench, while adding as many blue chip prospects as you can. Mbappe is thrilling, but at the end of the day he is just one player for a club that simply needs more than a single individual.