No Champions League, no Partey? Arsenal transfer window conundrums explained

Thomas Partey Atletico Madrid Mikel Arteta Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal GFXGoal

In just under two weeks' time, Arsenal will restart their Premier League campaign with a trip to the reigning champions.

The game at Manchester City on Wednesday, June 17 will be the first of 10 remaining league fixtures for Mikel Arteta’s side, who currently sit ninth in the table ahead of the league's resumption.

Arsenal sit eight points adrift of the top four, which guarantees a Champions League spot, but crucially they are just five adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United. A top-five finish would be enough to secure entry back into Europe’s elite club competition next season should City’s impending European ban be upheld at their appeal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The next 10 games will be key with the Gunners in desperate need of the riches that qualification for the Champions League would bring.

The financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic are massive and will be felt right across the football world at all levels, with the crisis having a huge knock-on effect when it comes to the summer transfer window.

Analysis by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) shows that the club is currently set for a loss of £19m ($23m) for the year ending May 2020. Prior to the pandemic, Arsenal had been on course for a small profit of £4m.

That change has been put down to Arsenal having to refund fans for the four remaining Premier League home games of the season, as well as a drop in commercial and retail revenue.

The AST also predicts that the north London club will lose approximately £144m ($177m) for the year 2020-21, if all games next season are staged behind closed doors.

The stark figures are a clear indication of the immense impact Covid-19 has had and will continue to have on clubs over the coming months.

Mikel Arteta Arsenal 2019-20

Prior to the pandemic, Arsenal had been planning for a busy summer, with Arteta keen to start reshaping what he had inherited and putting his own mark on his squad.

That could still happen, even with the financial issues brought on by the pandemic, but it’s going to be far more difficult to get deals done, with clubs across Europe expected to get more creative in the market due to a lack of cash.

With two months of the 2019-20 season still to be completed, Arsenal are currently working towards different transfer scenarios. It’s unlikely they will know which one they will follow until they play their final game of the current campaign and find out whether they will be playing European football next season and in what competition.

"I'm planning two or three different scenarios that we can face,” head coach Arteta revealed while speaking to Sky Sports. “Depending on one of those three, we will be able to do more, less or nothing.

"We have to react daily. We don't know what the financial situation is going to be, we don't know the rules, the timing, the window. There are so many things we cannot control at the moment."

Do more

For Arsenal, the best possible outcome for the 2019-20 season is to finish in the Champions League places.

They have played a game less than Man United and their game in hand will be the trip to the Etihad.

Should they qualify for the Champions League, it would make a massive difference to their summer transfer kitty. In 2019, Arsenal earned just £34m ($43m) from their run to the Europa League final, yet Manchester United and Manchester City earned £82m ($103m) just from reaching the quarter-finals in the Champions League.

The difference in money on offer in the two competitions is huge and the guaranteed income that qualification for next season’s Champions League would bring would allow Arsenal to be far more bold in the summer window.

Thomas Partey Atletico Madrid 2019-20Getty Images

Arteta’s priority is to bring in at least one centre-back, a box-to-box midfielder and a right-back. A striker is also viewed as key, should either of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette leave.

Arsenal want to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, who has a £44m ($54m) release clause, and that deal would be far easier to do with Champions League football secured.

Atletico are well aware of Arsenal’s interest in the 26-year-old, who is believed to be keen on a move to England, and have offered him a new contract to try and keep him in the Spanish capital.

Partey has yet to sign the contract, however, and is waiting to see how the summer window unfolds. Even if Arsenal don’t qualify for the Champions League, they will still look to sign the Ghana international and could try to tempt Madrid into a swap deal - with Diego Simeone a long-term admirer of Lacazette.

Elsewhere, Pablo Mari’s loan move from Flamengo is expected to be turned permanent and William Saliba will arrive following his season-long loan at Saint-Etienne. A fifth-placed finish could see Arsenal look to add another centre-back in the summer, should they move one of their current defenders on.

They have watched Axel Disasi, a centre-back at Stade de Reims, closely this season and have informed the Ligue 1 side of their interest in the 22-year-old. Disasi would be available for around £13m ($16m).

Arteta is keen to add another right-back to challenge Hector Bellerin and Norwich’s Max Aarons is a player Arsenal have admired for some time, but he is likely to prove too expensive, even if his club are relegated back to the Championship as expected.

It’s far more likely that Arsenal will look to sign Cedric Soares on a permanent basis, or look to promote Jordi Osei-Tutu into the first-team squad following his loan spell this season in Germany with Bochum.

The big question mark surrounding Arsenal this summer centres around Aubameyang’s future. If the club decide to sell their captain, who has just one year left on his contract, they will have to bring in a replacement.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal 2019-20Getty Images

Ideally, the club would like to bring in a younger forward and have been watching Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard this season. Genk’s young Canadian attacker Jonathan David is also a player on Arsenal’s shortlist, while Lyon’s Moussa Dembele is a player the Gunners have long admired.

One potential wildcard for Arsenal this summer is Philippe Coutinho, the Barcelona playmaker who is keen on a move back to England.

A permanent deal is almost certainly out of the equation given the finances involved, but with Barcelona desperate to move him on this summer and given the close links between Coutinho’s agent Kia Joorabchian and Arsenal’s head of football Raul Sanllehi and technical director Edu, some sort of loan deal can’t be entirely ruled out, although it remains highly unlikely given the player’s £240,000-a-week wages.

The far more likely option for Arsenal is a move for Feyenoord's attacking midfielder Orkun Kokcu.

Gunners scouts have regularly been in attendance at De Kuip to watch Kokcu in action this season, with the 19-year-old making 31 appearances in all competitions, scoring three goals and registering six assists. 

Feyenoord are aware of Arsenal’s interest and Kokcu could be available at around £20m ($25m).

Do less

Should Arsenal miss out on the Champions League and once again secure a Europa League spot, they will see their transfer budget diminish dramatically, although that could obviously be boosted by any significant sales.

Partey would remain a priority, although any deal for the midfielder would more than likely have to involve a player heading in the opposite direction given Arsenal's lack of available cash. Valued at around £20m, a move for Feyenoord's Kokcu would still be possible.

Mari would still be expected to sign, but it is unlikely that he would be followed by another centre-back, other than Saliba.

Layvin Kurzawa PSG Paris Saint-Germain 2019-20Getty Images

Free transfer options would be even more appealing. A deal for Soares could still be done, while moves for the likes of Ryan Fraser at Bournemouth and Paris Saint-Germain full-back Layvin Kurzawa are possible.

Arsenal discussed a move for Kurzawa in January, but he remained in the French capital. He is certain to move on in the summer, however, with clubs from across Europe interested.

Do nothing

Nonetheless, there remains a very real possibility that Arsenal could miss out on European qualification for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

Although the Europa League does not provide the level of riches generated by the Champions League, it still brings in valuable revenue - with Arsenal pocketing £34m ($43m) from their run to the final in 2018-19 and £33.5m during their 2017-18 campaign, which ended at the semi-final stage.

Missing out on Europe altogether would leave a huge hole in the club’s finances, at a time which is already incredibly challenging due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Any significant transfer dealings would be very difficult in the summer without the guaranteed cash brought in by European football, unless swap or loan deals could be agreed for targets. Again, Arsenal could still look to tempt Atletico with a swap deal for Partey.

Players could also be sold to raise funds, with Arsenal open to offers for the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis, Rob Holding and Sead Kolasinac, but with so much uncertainty surrounding the transfer market at present, the type of bids Arsenal would have been hoping to receive for some of their players may not materialise.

This is very much the worst-case scenario for Arsenal and it’s one they will be desperately hoping to avoid. Securing European football next season, even if it is just the Europa League, is vitally important to Arteta’s plans.

Without it, relatively low-fee deals for the likes of Mari and Soares could be the best that Arsenal could hope for amid such a difficult financial climate.

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