Well, it seemed as though yesterday we got our first properly credible link to the Shaktar winger Mykhaylo Mudryk, as David Ornstein reported yesterday mid morning that he was our number one priority. Ornstein doesn’t touch rumours unless they have some kind of credibility to him so on the basis of that and years of us seeing the type of journo he is, I think it is safe to say that he’s a guy that is very much on the watch list and we’re doing a little bit more than just watching, it seems.
I do find this a curious one though. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly in the camp in which we need more attacking support and certainly with Gabriel Jesus being out for at least three months we need to ensure that everything doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the current front three of Martinelli, Nketiah and Saka. But having had a quick look at Mudryk, he looks like quite a specific player for a specific position: left wing. I’ve just had a look at WhoScored and it seems he’s played nine of his games on the left, then one in the centre (of the data for which they have coverage for). That’s a position – left wing – which is currently covered by Martinelli and isn’t a position that I’d expect the player to be slotting in to. And given that he seems such a specific player, I’m also questioning why he is our number one priority. Mikel Arteta has proven himself to be a fan of players that can play in multiple positions. He’s talked about that from an attacking point of view as well and whilst Raphinha in the summer was a guy who predominantly played on the right, he’s also popped up on the left, so you could see why we might want somebody like that. I think I saw some noises in the summer about Raphinha playing through the middle in some games as well, although I can’t corroborate those as I’m just trying to go from my admittedly poor memory. But my point remains that in the summer that versatility was something that I think Arsenal were looking for, but Mudryk doesn’t seem to have as much of it.
There’s also the supposed fee. Shaktar laughed off £25million from Brentford in the summer. He’s since starred in the Champions League and has been bagging goals in all comps since that bid. At 21 he’s really kicking his profile up a notch and Shaktar will be happy with the fact that he’s on a long term deal until apparently December 2026. That’s a solid four years left and Shaktar therefore have a lot more bargaining power to drive up the price. If £25million wasn’t enough in the summer, if they were looking closer to £40million, for example, then they won’t even entertain anything less than probably what we paid for Pepe. And herein lies another concern. Pepe was a star in a Lille team that played on the counter attack in a league that is clearly not as technically and physically as strong as the Premier League. He was a star; a big fish in a small French pond and when he came to The Arsenal we saw only flashes of that. But he was a good player in the wrong system; Arsenal don’t play teams on the counter and so rarely do we have space and time to get in behind teams who high press us and give us a high line. Mudryk is rapid, he looks very good and is a great finisher by the looks of some of his goals. But that’s what we all said about Pepe. Scoring goals in the Ukrainian league is very different from the English Premier League.
Could Arsenal be making the same mistake?
I don’t want to seem completely down on this signing though and the fact he’s been mixing it with teams in the Champions League and performing well is a very good sign. He scored three goals in the Champions League and that calibre of opposition shouldn’t be sniffed at. If you can do it in the CL then you are a good player and I’d have no doubt that we’d be getting a good one if he joined us. I just think it’s ok to have some reservations on a player with whom I’m not sure whether or not his exact skillset is precisely what we need. We also need to remember that Emile Smith Rowe has also delivered the goods on that left hand side, so we do in fact have cover. Perhaps one could argue that Fabio Vieira on the right hand side provides cover for Bukayo Saka and for sure, based on the one game that he’s played in pre season 2 there could be a case for it. There’s a game on today and that’ll surely give him another opportunity to prove how he’s kicked on with a bit more of a pre season under his belt, so perhaps it isn’t as much of a concern as I think.
We also need to remember that there are people saying Martinelli has the attributes to play if Nketiah isn’t available at all, or that ESR has the faith from the manager to play as a ‘false nine’. I’m not sure about either of those options as cover, not least because Martinelli already plays in the first XI and so it is hardly cover for a player that is playing all the time. Plus, on the ESR point, we tried that once and it didn’t exactly look great, which doesn’t fill me with the greatest of confidence. So my question still remains: who covers Eddie if he needs a rest? Mudryk isn’t that player I don’t think. Perhaps Arsenal are looking at it as getting Martinelli, Mudryk, ESR, Nketiah and Saka as a regular rotating three, which then shares the minutes? That’s a possibility and perhaps lightens the load from a fatigue point of view. But it still feels a little clunky in terms of decision making on an expensive player to me.
I don’t want you to leave today’s ramblings thinking that I have a massive Debbie Downer on this player though. Fast, scores goals, would improve our team, would also be a sign of intent in January. If he rocks up in an Arsenal shirt in the near future he’ll be afford the same love as everyone else. We’ll have to wait and see how this rumour shakes out, but for now, I’ll leave it there and say one more final positive thing: at least it looks like we’re aiming to move in the January window. And with there still just under three weeks until it opens, there is time to lay the groundwork for a deal.
Catch you all tomorrow.