Arsenal are still interested in signing Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, and O Jogo claim the north London outfit will table a new bid at the end of the season.
The Portuguese publication claim the Gunners had an offer of €30 million rejected last summer, but will attempt to offload unwanted forward Joel Campbell on the Primeira Liga side to make their proposal more enticing.
There’s an obvious vacancy for Carvalho within the Arsenal team. Senior defensive midfield options Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are at least in the twilight of their careers, while as good as Francis Coquelin has looked upon earning his chance in December, it’s hard not to acknowledge that he clearly wasn’t Arsene Wenger’s first choice for the role.
Coquelin was recalled from a loan spell at Charlton due to an injury crisis in the heart of the Gunners midfield, with Arteta, Flamini, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Aaron Ramsey all sidelined at the same time. The 23 year-old Frenchman has certainly taken his chance, but Arsene Wenger will need competition for the position – or even an upgrade.
Portuguese star Carvalho could be that player. A confident passer who ought to relish the more physical style of English football, he has a big game mentality too – his international debut notably came in the high pressure scenario of the World Cup qualification playoff against Sweden. Portugal were 2-1 down at the time, with the Swedes running rampant through the centre. Carvalho patrolled the edge of his team’s box, restricting Portugal’s opponents to shots from range, and reducing the threat. He also helped build his own team’s attacks, and Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat-trick with two superb late strikes to give Portugal a 3-2 victory.
Having been linked with a transfer for much of last summer, Carvalho’s form dipped considerably at the beginning of the season, and Sporting drew two and lost one of their opening four games. He vastly improved once he got his head together though, and has been greatly influential in the second half of this season – his club have only lost once in the league since November.
At 6’1″, Carvalho’s a more physical presence than Coquelin, but plays less of an all-action style than the Frenchman. Coquelin averages 3.6 tackles per game in the Premier League, but Carvalho’s game is more built on positioning and anticipation, closing off attacks before they build. If Coquelin is Flamini’s heir in the Arsenal team, Carvalho would be more akin to Arteta’s style – but tall and strong enough to dominate the likes of Nemanja Matic at Chelsea and Marouane Fellaini at Manchester United.
The exchange of Joel Campbell could be the sticking point of the deal though, as the Costa Rican’s stock has fallen since the summer.
Campbell signed for Arsenal in 2011, but has spent each season since on loan – at Lorient, Real Betis and Olympiacos. Despite beginning this term at Emirates Stadium after a positive World Cup with Costa Rica, Wenger cannot have been overly impressed, for he only granted him 39 minutes across four Premier League appearances before sending him out on loan again in January – this time to Villarreal.
His spell in La Liga hasn’t proved too fruitful either, with zero goals in 19 matches for the Spanish outfit, and it’s not difficult to see why Arsenal are keen to offload. Campbell is a very direct player, rarely involved in build up play but constantly trying use his pace to break beyond defensive lines – and therefore is often caught offside.
While this season hasn’t gone to plan for the 22 year-old, he did manage 11 goals and 12 assists for Olympiacos in 2013-14, and given the uncertainty about the future of Nani, on loan to Sporting from Manchester United this season, Campbell could be a decent replacement.
Swap deals are exceptionally rare in football though, and as much as Arsenal may want Carvalho, hinging a prospective transfer on Campbell would be a risky move.