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Raphinha to Arsenal transfer rumor picking up steam

There might actually be something happening here.

Brentford v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

The Raphinha to Arsenal chatter is heating up, with an official bid for the Leeds United winger likely to come soon. According to David Ornstein, the Gunners’ interest is not recent. Rather, Mikel Arteta has been interested in and targeting the Brazilian for a while.

Raphinha wouldn’t come cheap. He’s expected to cost around £50M. That feels a bit expensive, honestly. He’s scored 17 goals in 65 Premier League appearances, which is a solid haul. Goals cost more, I suppose. That said, it’s not my money. I trust the Arsenal brass to properly evaluate and price players, and I trust them to budget their transfer spends to ensure they’ve allocated enough to fill most or all of the club’s other needs.

We’ve looked a bit at how Raphinha might fit in at Arsenal when the rumors started swirling last week, but I’ve got some thoughts to add. While Marcelo Bielsa’s unique system undoubtedly contributes to Raphinha’s pressing stat totals, the analysis / general opinion is that he’s good defensively, that it isn’t a tactical artifact. That’s important. The top teams in Europe press significantly more than Arsenal do (I can’t find the graphic again, but trust me). Arsenal need to cause more problems higher up the pitch for opponents rather than retreating into their (effective) solid defensive structure in their own half.

The Gunners need to score more goals. Creating havoc that leads to turnovers in the other team’s defensive third is one way to do that. Another way is by adding strong attacking players to the roster. Raphinha fits that bill. He’s pacey and will get the ball up the pitch quickly, usually with a progressive pass. He likes to shoot, which is important when your team has just added a creator like Fabio Vieira.

My feeling is that Raphinha is a candidate for a breakout season. I don’t think we’ve seen the full extent his attacking capability because of Leeds’ style, how limited they were as a club in terms of attacking options, and their general inability to score. They rarely had the ball, and when they did, Raphinha was the guy opposing defenses focused on shutting down. In the Arsenal attack, he’ll have more time and space to operate, which should help increase his output significantly.

He has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona this summer. Xavi reportedly wants him at Camp Nou, and some reports have personal terms agreed (read: Raphinha wants the move, too). I don’t see it happening. They want to sign Robert Lewandowski. They’re targeting Bernardo Silva. They reportedly have to sell Frenkie de Jong to generate funds because they are cash-strapped, carrying significant debts, and under financial restrictions. In other words, Raphinha is likely too far down the list of priorities for it to get done.

I initially dismissed the links to Raphinha as part of the transfer rumor mill churning through #content. But this one is starting to feel as if it has legs. There could be significant movement here in the next few days to a week. As always, we’ll keep you posted!