Arsenal look set to be beaten in the race to seal the transfer of Raphinha, with Chelsea now ahead of their rivals and closing in on signing the Leeds United star.
The Gunners had been pursuing the Brazil international, but they may now have to look for alternatives as The Athletic claim Chelsea are now ahead of them in the running for this deal.
As much as their fans will be disappointed, this might not be the worst news for Arsenal, whose pursuit of Raphinha arguably never really made that much sense to begin with.
Mikel Arteta already has the excellent Bukayo Saka as a left-footed wide-forward to start on that right-hand side, and he’s hardly likely to drop the popular home-grown star any time soon, or move him to another position. Saka may have shone as a wing-back earlier in his career, but his best form came on that right-hand side last season, and the addition of Raphinha fighting for that place would likely have disrupted Arsenal’s shape, or else just left this expensive signing sitting on the bench a lot of the time.
At Chelsea, Raphinha will surely be a starter and could become a key player in the front three after the struggles of the likes of Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. From the player’s perspective, it also looks a good move for him in order to play Champions League football and compete for major honours.
So who could Arsenal turn to? There’s one alternative that immediately springs to mind…
Richarlison should now be Arsenal’s transfer priority
If Arsenal want a Brazilian forward from a team lower down in the Premier League whose name begins with ‘R’, then Raphinha is certainly not the only option; Everton star Richarlison actually makes a lot more sense.
The Toffees front-man is right footed, and can operate from the left, so wouldn’t get in the way of Saka. Instead, he could be an upgrade on youthful duo Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe on that left-hand side, whilst also providing an alternative to Gabriel Jesus in the centre, if and when that’s required.
Of course, there’s the issue of interest from Tottenham, as reported by The Athletic, with Richarlison emerging as a top target for Arsenal’s north London rivals.
Spurs have Champions League football to offer, so will surely be a tempting destination for Richarlison, but could Arsenal try to hijack this deal?
After all, Richarlison surely wouldn’t be guaranteed a lot of starts in Antonio Conte’s attack when he already has Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and now new signing Ivan Perisic, so a move to the Emirates Stadium might be better in terms of nailing down regular first-team football.
This might not be an easy deal for Arsenal to get done, but it shouldn’t be out of reach just yet, and it’s probably a more sensible move than Raphinha anyway. If Mikel Arteta, Edu and co. know what they’re doing, they’ll surely switch targets as soon as possible.