Arsenal’s purchase of Fabio Vieira is a significant pointer to the business they intend for this summer, because a player of his profile and positioning was not necessarily a priority. This suggests, unless they completely changed their thinking (which is not typical of manager Mikel Arteta), the Portuguese youngster was simply too good a prospect to pass up.
Signing him does not necessarily mean Arsenal will stop chasing other targets, or that Vieira’s arrival replaces others in their sights, such as Raphinha, Gabriel Jesus or Lisandro Martinez. Rather, they are keen to press on. The plan, ideally, is to recruit them all.
Vieira’s transfer happened very quickly. There were other names on the list, but ultimately the degree to which Arteta wanted this particular player dramatically accelerated the deal, running for five years and worth up to £35 million. Although Vieira has played multiple positions in his career and can also operate as a second striker or wide player, the 22-year-old is regarded by Arsenal primarily as an option as a No 10 or No 8. Arsenal are expecting him to need some time to adapt after moving from Portuguese football but there is considerable excitement within the camp that he can develop into an exceptional player.
That is something identifying which remains key in their strategy — the promise of high-caliber talent while they are still affordable. The 19-year-old Brazilian winger Marquinhos, a recent arrival from Sao Paulo, is another indicator of that, and his integration of him is with the future in mind.
With so much focus on creative players, it is not forgotten that Arsenal still have some thinking to do defensively. USA international goalkeeper Matt Turner will soon meet up with his new team-mates following his move from New England Revolution of MLS and French centre-back William Saliba is set to restart his career at London Colney after his post-Nations League holiday.
Arsenal would like Martinez to join the defensive block — Ajax’s left-sided center-back would add more depth in the position Gabriel made his own last season. Sources indicate Arsenal have had an offer — in the region of €30 million — rejected already. The 24-year-old, who is said to be keen on joining Arteta’s side, would also provide cover at left-back for Kieran Tierney, similar to how Takehiro Tomiyasu is also able to play both positions on the right side of defence.
The deal would increase the likelihood of a loan for Nuno Tavares, though the player is happy in London after getting a sometimes testing debut season under his belt and is keen to stay.
Arsenal are also now looking to close a deal for Jesus as swiftly as possible. Manchester City are seeking £50 million and don’t need the money, but there is hope an arrangement can be reached between the clubs, with the Brazilian forward ready to join and personal terms not thought to be a problem. Youri Tielemans is another name high on Arsenal’s list but that is a more nuanced situation. It is likely to depend on other movement in central midfield. Granit Xhaka remains an enigmatic presence, but if there was a deal to be done for him, it would open the door wider for Tielemans, with a fee of around £25 million needed to do business with Leicester.
Tielemans was very close to happening late last season when Arsenal looked like they could return to Champions League football, but the move became less certain with their fifth-place finish only providing Europa League football in 2022-23. The Belgian is not against staying at Leicester for the final year of his contract, hoping to impress at the World Cup halfway through it, and then his pick of clubs on a free transfer next summer.
Arsenal clearly need to generate some funds from outgoings, and will welcome the money that could be raised from selling a cluster of first-team players who have some value but are unlikely to get any playing time under Arteta — the likes of Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno and Nicolas Pepe.
A deal for Leeds United’s Raphinha is thought to be contingent on a Pepe exit and it is believed Arsenal and the Ivorian are keen for this to happen — but the club would want to see a reasonable return on their record signing. Barcelona’s interest in the Brazilian took a hit with Leeds surviving relegation on the final day of last season and being less vulnerable to a cheap sale, which leaves a path for Arsenal to show how ambitious and aggressive they want to be in this summer’s market.
It is a difficult balancing act: spending without recouping first is a gamble, but at the same time they do not want to miss their top targets and are very aware of the dangers of waiting until the end of a window to complete too many deals.
The lesson of last season is fresh.
Arsenal were clear in their recruitment pattern a year ago, with young, developing potential at the heart of their rebuild. But due to the lateness of key signings, the team were not ready when the action began and the club hardened their worst ever Premier League start with three losses in a row, no goals scored and nine conceded. Nine months later, they finished three points short of Champions League qualification.
Arteta wants his squad to be both well-stocked and well-tuned to kick-off this time around.
Additional contributors: Adam Crafton and James McNicholas
(Top photo: Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)