Phillipe Coutinho has been a name that has flitted in and out of Arsenal's transfer rumors in the past few months the way half rumors tend to go. Hot and cold, hot then cold. Throughout the ebb and flow, opinions on the matter have seemed to be quite split. But with yesterday's suggestion that a portion of his wages may be covered by Barcelona, many were even more persuaded by the opportunity it presented.
There are quite a few arguments to be made and plenty to cover, so with a divisive topic, it may just be best to get it all out there early.
If Arsenal open up their transfer window with a one-year loan deal for Philippe Coutinho as their first move, it will demand that they follow it in a major, major way. It sets the tone, it dictates the intent, and it throws out the idea that building toward a team in two or three years is the correct route back to the Champions League in lieu of winning now - this year. A strategy that some will argue is partially to blame for getting us into this mess.
Honestly, it's the type of move that would be more comfortable for Arsenal to complete at the end of their window. You know, after they found a way to sell some of their 7 center backs, have shifted their dead weight, solved the mystery of Aubameyang and Lacazette's futures, done something about Ozil, and overhauled their midfield while maybe adding in an additional center back. When they have successfully managed to add in the additional pieces needed to arm Arteta with a complete team or failed, and know where they stand.
Because, truthfully, I have a hard time believing Arsenal are simply a Coutinho away from leaping 4 places knowing next year's point amount needed to achieve this will likely be higher than 66, if historical consistencies are correct. I'm not even sure Arsenal are simply one Coutinho away from being capable of playing in a 4-3-3 dangerously while protecting their porous backline.
Many will look at the situation and say, "Coutinho would make our team better and offers the creativity we are missing. Get him" and he does. Arguing he isn't better than everything we have in the midfield isn't just silly - it's wrong. Of course he is better. The problem is, he only offers Arsenal that creativity for one year and it comes with a hefty one-year price tag if it all goes wrong.
Even if Barcelona agree to cover 50% of his salary and split it evenly with Arsenal, the Gunners are staring at a £7m loan fee, roughly £7m more in salary, plus any agent and intermediary fees for a total of somewhere between £15-20 million. While some may not bat an eye at that amount, it is a large enough sum that it could be used toward permanent, solid, long-term pillars for Arsenal to build around rather than a spin of lady luck's wheel with slightly better chances. Because as soon as you agree to bring him in, anything less than Champions League is a waste of £15-20m, spent too early, on the wrong asset.
It's a massive gamble. It truly is. And it's one that, by all accounts, Arsenal can hardly afford to have go wrong. Which means they will need to back up this move in full and leave all doubt behind. We are talking about a large amount of spending and sales, with close to 100% certainty or getting the top-4 reward, to complement it. It's something that fans will like to hear, but something this skeptic isn't sure the club can actually promise.
Selling Arsenal's deadwood, holding onto their quality, and plugging the gaping holes in Arsenal's side is a job that many had speculated would take 3-4 windows, yet signing Coutinho would demand it all be done in just one or two, and that Arteta can take the new pieces and plug them in quickly to great effect.
We are talking about pulling off a window that sees Coutinho added, adds another very complete central midfielder, handles Arsenal's forward situation that remains shrouded in mystery by hanging onto Aubameyang or finding a convincing replacement or two, and likely adding another very self-sufficient central defender to open up the midfield and allow them to expand their roles. Is that impossible to do? No, not necessarily, but certainly costly.
Only the club will know the full extent of their capabilities in a world that won't have the safety net of matchday revenues or Champions League funding, but it's a move the club cannot afford to get wrong. If it's the path that is taken, I expect fireworks in the coming days to back it up comprehensively. So step up to the table Raul and company, place you £20m bet and spin the wheel. Hope you know what you're doing because a miss could set back Arsenal another year or two.
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