“We will do the deals that we can do.”
Those were the words of Mikel Arteta when asked for his thoughts on Arsenal’s failure to land Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.
The winger was Arsenal’s priority target during the January window, with the Premier League leaders submitting multiple offers for the 22-year-old.
Negotiations with Shaktar were lengthy and complicated, but at the end of last week there was a growing chance that the deal could finally get over the line as talks began to focus on the add-ons, rather than the initial overall fee.
But then Chelsea pounced, promptly signing Mudryk for £88 million ($107.5m).
They had trumped Arsenal at the last moment by offering a package with the type of appealing and achievable bonus payments that Shakhtar were demanding, and, less than 24 hours later, Mudryk was unveiled on the Stamford Bridge pitch during the half-time interval of the Blues’ 1-0 win against Crystal Palace.
For Arsenal, it was a big blow.
Mudryk was the player they wanted to come in to bolster Arteta’s attack during the second half of the season and they had put a lot of time and effort into trying to get a deal done.
But now they have to go back to square one.
Understandably, there is frustration at the outcome. But there is no sense of panic.
Arsenal were adamant from the start that they were not going to get sucked into a bidding war with Chelsea or anyone when it came to Mudryk.
They took the exact same approach as they did when they were in discussions with Leeds over Raphinha in the summer.
Technical director Edu had a number in mind and if it became clear that that number would not be enough to seal the deal, they would bow out.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Arsenal were left with a simple decision to make when Chelsea arrived at the last minute with a more attractive proposition in terms of add-ons.
The Gunners still knew that Mudryk wanted to join, they knew that if the player had the choice, he would favour a move to north London rather than south.
It was up to them, then, to match Chelsea’s overall offer and meet Shakhtar's demands. They decided that was not going to happen, though. So, they walked away, feeling what they had offered was a fair and strong bid for such an inexperienced player with no Premier League experience.
“We have excellent players,” Arteta said following Sunday’s victory at Tottenham, when he was asked about Mudryk’s move to Stamford Bridge.
“We want to improve our squad in this transfer window and when I say we, myself, the coaching staff, the staff, the players, the board, and ownership. We are all in this together.
“But we will do the deals that we can do and that we believe are right for the football club.”
On this occasion, Arsenal felt the numbers involved meant that the deal was not right for the club.
And as frustrating as it was to miss out on a priority target, the Gunners now have a strict way of operating in the transfer market.Getty
Edu, Arteta, director of football operations Richard Garlick and the board have a carefully mapped out plan that has served them well in recent times.
And they won’t deviate from that and few could blame them when you look at where it has taken Arsenal in such a short space of time.
While Mudryk was being unveiled at tenth-placed Chelsea on Sunday, Arsenal were about to move eight points clear at the top of the Premier League by beating Spurs comfortably on their patch.
There is a willingness to improve the squad this month, as Arteta has stated several times since the window opened.
And they will continue to try.
The disappointment of missing out on Mudryk will not stop Arsenal from looking elsewhere. Just as it didn’t in the summer when Manchester United beat them to Lisandro Martinez.
On that occasion the Gunners turned to Oleksandr Zinchenko, who demonstrated against Spurs on Sunday what an impressive acquisition he has been.
There are always other options and the return to fitness of Emile Smith Rowe also gives Arteta another attacking talent that he did not have during the first half of the season.
So, there is certainly no sense of panic at Arsenal right now.
They felt they were left with no option but to back away from the Mudryk deal, given just how much money it would have meant committing to a player with such limited experience at the top level who was not even going to arrive as a guaranteed starter.
Time will tell how that decision is ultimately viewed, but Arsenal are comfortable in themselves that they made the right call.