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Arsenal to swap Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Justin Kluivert?

The Gunners are reportedly working on a swap deal with Roma.

Cagliari Calcio v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has made it clear that he would like to turn his loan move to Roma into a permanent transfer. Reports surfaced in the Italian papers last week that Arsenal and Roma may be in negotiations over a swap deal that would see Justin Kluivert head to North London. Arsenal want a straight swap. Roma want £10-15M in additional cash to balance the difference in player value as they see it.

It’s a quirky coincidence that Mkhitaryan, a player Arsenal acquired in a straight swap deal with Manchester United for Alexis Sanchez, also may leave the club on a straight swap.

Kluivert, son of well-known Dutch international and current Barcelona academy manager Patrick Kluivert joined Roma in the summer of 2018 from Ajax for just over £15M. The wide attacker has managed seven goals and two assists in 27 appearances in Italy this season. Mkhitaryan has scored six and added four assists in 20 appearances.

There’s a lot to like about this potential deal. From the Arsenal side of things, offloading the 31-year old and his £180K weekly wages would be good. He’s going to leave on a free transfer at the end of next season, so getting something in return would be nice.

Kluivert could be a useful player. I don’t think he’s a bona-fide superstar in the making, but that isn’t a dealbreaker. Arsenal need true wide players and may soon be in the market for attacking talent depending on where things end up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. He’s 21-years old — even if he doesn’t pan out in the Premier League, he would have sell-on value that Mkhitaryan does not have. Arsenal would probably be able to recoup some or all of the cash they spend to get this transfer over the line.

The more cash Arsenal include in the deal, the less exciting it becomes. I don’t love the idea of giving Roma what they paid for Kluivert plus Mkhitaryan. But when the alternative is paying Mkhitaryan’s significant wages for another year, slowing down the rebuild, having him leave on a free, and the other opportunity costs of having him at the club for a lame-duck season, getting a player with upside is a pretty good exchange. I’ve talked myself into this one.