From Jesus to Saliba - How Arsenal’s summer transfer plans could be impacted by Champions League blow

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Gabriel Jesus Manchester City 2022Getty Images

The fallout from Arsenal’s calamitous performances at Spurs and Newcastle has been predictably brutal.

Social media has been its usual sea of toxicity, while pundits and rival fans have been lining up to take shots at Mikel Arteta’s side.

There is still of course a small chance that Arsenal could qualify for the Champions League, but they would need to beat Everton on Sunday and hope relegated Norwich can claim all three points when they host Tottenham at Carrow Road.

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Mikel Arteta has already told his side that they must be ready to take advantage of any slip-up by Spurs, but deep down he will know that Arsenal’s chances of finishing fourth are over following those bruising back-to-back defeats.

Should results go as expected this weekend, Arsenal will finish fifth and return to the Europa League next season following a year away from Europe’s second-tier competition.

That is far from a failure, given the Gunners have finished eighth during the past two Premier League campaigns, but having had Champions League qualification within their grasp for so long, it will take some time for the sense of disappointment to dissipate.

But what will missing out on the top four do to Arsenal’s plans for the summer?

The Gunners spent more money than any other Premier League side during last year’s transfer window, bringing in six additions at a cost of around £145 million ($180m).

And they plan to be busy again this time around, with Arteta keen to continue the rebuild that has been ongoing since he first arrived at the club in 2019 as Unai Emery's replacement.

The primary objective is to strengthen the attack.

Gabriel Jesus

Arteta is yet to sign a single forward since taking over at Arsenal, but that will certainly change during the coming transfer window.

Gabriel Jesus is a priority target and talks have been ongoing with the Brazilian’s representatives for some time now.

The versatile attacker has just one year left on his contract at Manchester City and with Erling Haaland having already been signed for next season, the Premier League leaders will not stand in Jesus' way should he decide to move on,

“We had talks with Arsenal,” Jesus’ agent Marcelo Pettinati confirmed earlier this month. “We like the project – it’s a possibility we’re discussing.”

Pettinati also confirmed, however, that there were "six more" clubs interested in signing Jesus and one would presume at least some of those will be playing Champions League football next season.

So, if Arsenal can only offer the 25-year-old Europa League football, that could be an issue.

However, the Gunners are still expected to try to sign Jesus this summer, even if they do miss out on the top four.

While Arsenal will not have as much money coming in as they would have had with Champions League football, the plan remains to invest in the team and to continue the progress they believe they have made over the past year.

Indeed, even if they win the race for Jesus, they are still expected to target another forward, with both Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah due to leave on free transfers when their respective contracts expire this summer.

Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been a long-term target, while there remains interest in Roma’s Tammy Abraham and Lille’s Jonathan David.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Arsenal have also been linked with Darwin Nunez at Benfica, but with so many clubs eyeing the Uruguayan, failure to quality for the Champions League makes a potential move highly unlikely.

Nonetheless, there is a determination at Arsenal to give Arteta the tools he believes can help the team kick on again.

The club are aware that the squad needs to be both improved and expanded, with European competition returning to the Emirates next season, and the decision not to invest during the January window means that there is money to spend this summer – even without Champions League cash.

At least one new midfielder is expected to arrive and talks have been ongoing with the representatives of Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans about a potential move to North London.

Tielemans has just one year left on his contract at Leicester and is attracting the attention of several clubs across Europe.

Arteta is keen to land the 25-year-old, but a lack of Champions League football could be crucial in this case, with the Belgium International understood to be keen on competing in Europe’s premier cup competition.

Ruben Neves at Wolves is another player Arsenal are looking at and the Portugal international is expected to leave Molineux during the summer window.

A new full-back is also on Arsenal’s radar over the coming months and there have been multiple reports from Italy that Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal for Aaron Hickey at Bologna, although GOAL has been told that is not the case.

Elsewhere, the future of William Saliba will be decided in coming weeks.

Talks between Arsenal and Saliba’ representatives will accelerate at the end of the season as the club weighs up whether he will remain at the club next season.

The centre-back has yet to make a single competitive appearance for the Gunners since signing from Saint Etienne in the summer of 2019.

William Saliba

He now has just two years left on his contract and has just enjoyed a superb season on loan with Marseille, with his performances seeing him named the Ligue 1 young player of the year.

So, Arsenal are facing a big decision when it comes to the 21-year-old this summer, as they will not want a player they spent £27m ($33.5m) on just three years ago going into the final year of his contract.

Finishing outside the top four will not influence their thinking, however. 

In fact, Mikel Arteta would need to rotate his players far more next season during the early stages of the Europa League and that could give Saliba several opportunities to start games, even if he does stay and begin the season behind Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes in the pecking order.

However, if Arsenal don't nick fourth this weekend, they will be looking to add to their transfer budget by cashing in on a number of players, particularly those that have spent the past 12 months out on loan.

Matteo Guendouzi will join Marseille on a permanent basis, while Konstantinos Mavropanos will stay at Stuttgart. Arsenal will receive around £15m ($18.5m) for both players.

Talks will also take place with Fiorentina over Lucas Torreira, who has enjoyed a fine campaign in Florence, while Udinese are keen on making Pablo Mari’s loan move permanent and Hector Bellerin is expected to sign for Real Betis.

Arsenal will also look to find buyers for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, while record signing Nicolas Pepe’s future looks increasingly likely to be away from North London, although the Gunners could find it difficult to find a club willing to take on the winger's £140,000-a-week ($175,000) wages.