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Report: Chelsea beat Arsenal to Mykhaylo Mudryk transfer

Arsenal GAZUMPED by Chelsea! The Gunners in the mud? I have...thoughts.

Celtic v Shakhtar Donetsk - UEFA Champions League - Group F - Celtic Park Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images

Chelsea are close to an agreement with Shakhtar Donetsk for Mykhaylo Mudryk. Arsenal made three bids for the 21-year old winger, but the Blues came over the top of the Gunners’ final offer to reportedly secure the transfer. GAZUMPED! Chelsea will pay £62M upfront plus £26.6M in add-ons. They’re also offering Mudryk a 7-year contract, whereas Arsenal have only ever offered 5-year deals to players.

According to ESPN UK, Chelsea “swiftly agreed to most of Shakhtar’s demands,” which I’m on record saying were ludicrously high. It’s not difficult to see how they got the deal across the line so quickly, and how Mudryk, who had been openly and unashamedly angling for a move to Arsenal, suddenly agreed to a move to a different London club.

This is speculation on my part, but I’d wager the structure of the Chelsea deal includes more money up-front as opposed to spread over installments and that the add-on triggers are likelier to be met. Additionally, the speculation was that Arsenal were going to pay Mudryk £40-50K per week. I would bet dollars to donuts Chelsea are offering more.

The reports were that Arsenal had a valuation in mind for Mudryk and weren’t going to go beyond it. That’s the correct way to go about transfers. Getting into bidding wars is not smart. Mikel Arteta and Edu stuck to their guns and avoided doing just that. It wasn’t their aim in the Mudryk transfer saga — they clearly wanted the player at the right price — but they’ve demonstrated to the football world and future transfer partners that they aren’t going to mess about or let you jerk them around.

Arsenal paid the asking price for Ben White, Gabriel Jesus, and Alex Zinchenko because they thought the numbers were fair. They didn’t think the Mudryk ask was reasonable. They tried to negotiate it down. It looked like they were making progress on that front, but Chelsea came along.

Todd Boehly did the opposite of what Arsenal have been doing. He showed everyone that he’s going to pay what you ask, regardless. And he’s going to get taken for a ride on every transfer deal for the next few years for his troubles. It’s possible that’s where Chelsea value Mudryk, but I doubt it. More likely is that Boehly wants to make a splash at any cost, and he saw that opportunity here. I mean, look at Chelsea’s squad building. They’ve got no midfield and a bunch of attacking pieces that may or may not fit together and not enough spaces in the formation to deploy them all.

Buying young, exciting prospects is fun. The Gunners need attacking reinforcements. Seeing Mudryk go to a rival stings. But the deal got to a place where it didn’t make sense. So Arsenal bowed out. I wasn’t sold on Mudryk, but I was inclined to trust Mikel Arteta and Edu’s evaluation of his talent and Arsenal’s needs. I am therefore going to trust their decision to walk away, too.

Perhaps more annoying is that as with the Dusan Vlahovic transfer saga last January, Arsenal seem to have spent half of a transfer window pursuing a player they didn’t end up buying. Hopefully Edu and Arteta have a Plan B in mind because Arsenal have a legitimate shot to win the Premier League, but they likely need reinforcements to do it.

I’ll stop short of saying “hopefully they learned their lesson,” however. The Arsenal braintrust took a calculated risk not buying last January because the right deal wasn’t there. The risk almost paid off! For a good portion of the stretch run, Arsenal were the odds-on favorite to finish in a Champions League place. Unfortunately, we wound up in the unlikely world where they didn’t manage that.

A bad outcome is not a good reason to change a solid process. The plan is to build a perennial contender. Arsenal seem well on their way to doing that. The wrong deal made out of desperation to do something can do more harm than good.

At the same time, Arsenal last had a shot at the title in 2015-16. There comes a point at which you have to throw caution to the wind and go for it. Do we really want to risk waiting another 8 years for another bite at the apple?

The Mudryk deal got to a place where it didn’t make sense, even if you want Arsenal to go for it. Almost £90M is an absurd amount of money to pay for a player with thirty 90s to his name in the Ukrainian Premier League and a handful of highlights from the Champions League. Chelsea have paid nailed-on, Premier League-ready, instant-impact money for a player who absolutely isn’t that right now.

He has loads of potential. He could turn out to be a solid Premier League player. If he adds more to his game, specifically improving his touch and passing, he has some of the tools to become a star. But England is several steps up in quality from Ukraine. Even if he improves his game, he might not succeed.

Mudryk has a higher ceiling than Nicolas Pépé, but Pépé came to the PL from a “better” league with more of a track record. And he still flopped. So yeah, sure. Mudryk might pop off and become a player Arsenal regret missing out on. There is as much of a chance that he flops and Arsenal are relieved they dodged a bullet. We just don’t know.

Think about it this way: How much would Gabriel Martinelli fetch if he were for sale? Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of what Chelsea are paying for Mudryk. So Mudryk has to be another Martinelli for the transfer not to be a bust. And he has to turn out better than Gabriel Martinelli for Chelsea to have gotten a good deal.

What are the odds that he gets to that level? Are they even 50%?

You expect to get something off the price when you’re buying that much risk. That’s something that Todd Boehly, who made his money in finance, should know. But Chelsea have paid full price and are shouldering the risk. They better be darn sure in their projections of what Mudryk is going to become. And a scouting and transfer strategy that doesn’t appear to be more complex than “see who Arsenal are interested in and copy them” doesn’t inspire confidence.

If Mudryk develops into an impact player, it’ll be disappointing that Arsenal missed out and frustrating that Chelsea, a rival, beat them to him. But I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. You can’t miss what you never had. Arsenal are still top of the Premier League.