Do Arsenal Really Need Upamencano?
It sounds like the worst kept secret in football at this point. The rumours have been long and pronounced. We have videos of fans asking Raul Sanllehi when Upamencano would be arriving. RB Leipzig reportedly rejected a 55 million euros bid in the summer. The 21-year-old’s contract is running out and his club will have to cash in. Like Kylian Mbappé to Real Madrid, Dayot Upamencano to Arsenal sounds like destiny at this point. It would be a disappointing summer for many if the Frenchman does not arrive at the end of the season.
But no has paused to ask the question: even if Dayot Upamencano is available, should Arsenal get him? The answer seems obvious. Yes! You do! You get one of the best defensive talents on the continent if you can!
But at what cost? At 60 million euros? Really? The highest fee ever paid for a centreback is 75 million euros. That would be a centreback good enough to almost win the Ballon d’Or.
The fee wouldn’t be a problem if Upamencano was going to be the finishing addition to what is already a great team like Van Dijk to Liverpool. It wouldn’t be a problem if Arsenal had a shortage of defenders. But when you will likely have Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, David Luiz, William Saliba, Pablo Mari and Konstantinos Mavropanos next season (assuming Mustafi and Sokratis are sold), then the efficiency of spending such a huge amount on a prospect is to be questioned. All the more so when the player in question has only one more season left on his contract.
Blowing 50-60 million euros on a 21-year-old with one year left on his contract is not the Arsenal Way. And it is not a guarantee that the signing will work out. At the risk of sounding like a Kroenke shrill, it must be said that Arsenal should be more hesitant with Upamencano. If the transfer fee were more reasonable, say, 35-45 million euros, all things considered, then why not? But we are talking about a huge sum of money here that would directly affect how much we’ve left for other areas.
Ultimately, this is a matter of perspective. What is more important to Arteta’s Arsenal now? A shiny young centreback for one of the biggest sums in football history or two very quality midfielders who would replace Ozil?
Let’s say our transfer budget before sales is 50 million euros. Let’s assume that this swells up to 100 million euros after sales. Let’s assume that we want two 8s who can also play like 10s (Houssem Aouar, Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Abdoulaye Duocore, Bernado Silva). Getting two high quality midfielders would probably eat up the entire budget and leave no room to sign a big-name central defender. If we do otherwise and sign Dayot Upamencano at all costs, we would probably be left with very little to sign even one high quality midfielder. Instead of Jack Grealish, for example, we might get a Todd Cantwell. This is what a team with an expensive Upamencano would likely look like next season:
Bellerin; Saliba; Upamencano; Tierney
Torreira; Xhaka; Cantwell
Pépé; Lacazette; Aubameyang
Without Upamencano, we might have:
Bellerin; Saliba; Luiz; Tierney
Torreira; Grealish; Aouar
Pépé; Lacazette; Aubameyang
Of course this is not definitive. Who knows, the Kroenkes might decide to invest more money into the club so that we might end up with a budget closer to that of Chelsea’s than Wolverhampton Wanderers’. Or we might get Upamencano for cheaper than we imagine. Or we might sell Xhaka and/or either of Lacazette and Aubameyang. Many possibilities exist and I am not denying them. But the truth is that we’ve been defensively solid under Arteta’s coaching.
Since Mikel Arteta came in, we’ve conceded only 7 goals in 9 games. Mustafi and a Bernd Leno mistake has been directly responsible for 3 out of these goals and deflections feature majorly among the rest. In other words, we have conceded less than Manchester City and Chelsea over the same time period and we would have conceded even less without Mustafi. This is an outstanding improvement, considering that Mikel Arteta’s achieved this without even a full preseason of training to get the team acclimated to his tactics.
Luiz and Saliba is a very capable partnership on paper. Under Arteta’s guidance, it would be an excellent one with Holding, Chambers and Mari as backups. Our midfield currently needs a creativity boost. Getting two Jack Grealish’s would improve the whole squad to a Champions League quality level.
It’s all a question of perspective and priorities. Fix the midfield once or fix the defence? Give a chance to Holding and Chambers or take a big risk on Upamencano?