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How the Jack Grealish transfer could affect Arsenal

Let’s play with some hypothetical dominoes.

Manchester City Unveil New Signing Jack Grealish Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

Manchester City just spent an obscene sum of money to purchase Jack Grealish from Aston Villa. The £100M they paid makes him the most expensive English player ever. Villa have already spent some of that money, acquiring Emi Buendia from Norwich earlier this summer, and more recently, Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen and Danny Ings from Southampton.

And oh, some guy named Leo Messi will not rejoin Barcelona due to La Liga financial regulations and the dire financial situation at the club.

So how, if at all, does any of that affect Arsenal?

As I’m writing this, it’s seeming increasingly likely that Messi is going to sign with Paris Saint-Germain, which pretty much eliminates any ripple effect that bit of news might have had on the Gunners. But for a hot second, Manchester City were in the running for the Argentine’s signature, which, if nothing else, would have foreclosed a potential Harry Kane-to-City deal.

Seeing both Kane and Tottenham left holding the bag trying to mend their broken relationship would have been endlessly amusing. And I would have been much happier if Arsenal’s North London rivals categorically were not going to get a similarly obscene amount of money as Aston Villa to reinvest, but I think there is still a decent chance that Kane doesn’t move. He released an (incredibly poor) statement today that he’ll be back in training tomorrow.

Much more intriguing is the potential trickle-down effect of City’s cash in Villa’s pocket. They’ve already spent some of it on Danny Ings, which means the Saints may be in the market for a striker. I think they’ll look to transfer in a replacement for Ings’ contribution. He scored 12 goals in an injury-hampered 29 appearances last year, and 22 in 38 the season before last. That’s a lot of goals to replace.

I don’t think think they can do it from within. They currently have Ché Adams, who scored just 9 goals in 36 PL appearances last year, as their starting striker. Or maybe Ralph Hasenhüttl is (insanely) planning to let Shane Long or Theo Walcott lead the line. At this point in both of their careers, they’re more suited to be backups / energy subs. The Saints have also got 21-year old Michael Obafemi, but 4 goals in 32 league appearances over four seasons seems a bridge too far, even for Southampton who do like to play young players.

You know who has a glut of strikers? Arsenal. I doubt Southampton would be in for Alexandre Lacazette — the price and age don’t match. But Eddie Nketiah might be a fit. He’s young (22), homegrown, has a decent scoring record in cup competitions, and could blossom into a useful player to sell-on in two or three seasons, which very much fits the Southampton modus operandi. Heck, I’d even consider selling them Folarin Balogun if they offered enough. If I were Edu, I would have already rung the south coast.

Beyond that, Aston Villa may splash the cash elsewhere in the Premier League, which would shift things around, open up roster spots, and give some of the mid-table clubs more money to spend. Arsenal have several players — Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock, maybe even Callum Chambers — that might be attractive, useful additions to the Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Crystal Palace types should any of their ilk suddenly find themselves with more cash-in-hand than expected.

Another interesting possibility: Manchester City selling some players in favor of their shiny, new, Jack Grealish-shaped toy / some of their guys being concerned about playing time and wanting out. Pep Guardiola said today that Bernardo Silva is among “two or three” players who might want to leave. Silva has been linked with a move to Spain rather than in the Premier League, but he’s of the type of player, position-wise, that Arsenal still need. Raheem Sterling has long been mentioned as a guy who could leave City under the right conditions. Maybe he’d like to reunite with the coach credited with being instrumental to his transformation into a superstar (Arteta). To be clear on Sterling, that’s all me — no basis other than speculation and wishful thinking.

It’s been a weird summer for transfers, undoubtedly attributable to the impact of COVID on the balance sheets. But City’s cash injection might prove the first domino that knocks over the bunch, jumpstarting the Premier League transfer market.