Arsenal included in five Premier League deals that seem as predictable as Matic’s Mourinho reunion

Date published: Monday 6th June 2022 9:23 - Matthew Stead

Jose Mourinho is expected to sign Nemanja Matic again, but Arsenal are involved in these deals that seem just as predictable and inevitable.

Oh and you know Jose will be back for more


Youri Tielemans to Arsenal
It is to Mikel Arteta’s credit that Arsenal’s summer transfer window can be accurately mapped out months ahead of schedule. A full-back, central midfielder and centre-forward have been prioritised; Aaron Hickey, Youri Tielemans and Gabriel Jesus have quickly emerged as the optimal targets in those positions. William Saliba will return from an overwhelmingly successful loan to bolster a first team expected to compete on the European front, with Charlie Patino promoted from the academy. Bernd Leno, Hector Bellerin, Pablo Mari, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson, as a bare minimum, are free to explore their options. A once obscured and cloudy vision is pretty clear.

The short and long-term prosperity of those plans will rely on the incomings, of which Tielemans seems most likely. Arsenal signing all three of the aforementioned players is eminently possible. But Bologna’s reported £21.3m demands leave Hickey’s future in the balance and Manchester City will not smooth the sale of any player to a rival. The Tielemans scenario is different: he has a year remaining on a Leicester contract that is unlikely to be renewed, and his behaviour despite such uncertainty has impressed both the Foxes and Arsenal to the extent that negotiations should be more straightforward. The final obstacle is a fee between £25m and £30m, which the Gunners should have no problem countenancing when it comes to a midfielder with an absolute intangible and unteachable Arsenal quality; he conceded the most penalties of any player this past Premier League season.


James Tarkowski
Frank Lampard once sacrificed his dream job through an infatuation with Declan Rice. It is entirely plausible that he might surrender another Premier League managerial post over something as trivial as failing to win the race for free agent James Tarkowski. The ball is therefore in Everton’s court.

The Toffees conceded more times in the Premier League than every club bar Southampton, Leeds, Watford and Norwich this past season. Tarkowski, even in relegation, was the fulcrum of a Burnley defence that allowed 13 fewer goals. His experience, consistency, experience, aerial strength, experience, passing ability, experience, instincts, experience and experience would absolutely be held up as key traits by Lampard in a quick assessment of the signing given to Everton’s official website. It all makes sense.

The top flight can be split into three categories: teams who might embrace Tarkowski as a reliable back-up; sides who could use the 29-year-old in a centre-half rotation policy; and clubs who would welcome him as a guaranteed starter. He would be a great addition for anyone but Lampard and Everton know the potentially transformative impact he could have. Although if Richarlison is fighting people in Brazil training, he might not exactly greet this particular new teammate with open arms.


Marc Cucurella to Manchester City
Julian Alvarez is through the door. Erling Haaland has strolled through the brick wall next to it. Kalvin Phillips is on the radar. Nine figures have probably already been raised through the exorbitant sales of some absolute randoms who were contracted to the club for years without ever stepping foot inside the Etihad or meeting Pep Guardiola. Manchester City’s transfer department is clearly a mess in need of a complete overhaul.

“I can confirm that there will be more players coming in,” said chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak during a recent in-house interview. “We are looking to strengthen the team in areas that we need strengthening. I think we made two very important additions already and I anticipate we will be doing a couple more.” From many other club chiefs, that last line might be an inconsequential mangling of the language. But Manchester City are too precise, too detailed for that “couple more” to be ignored. Another two signings is the expectation and while Phillips would fulfil the defensive midfield demand, Guardiola has to satisfy his perennial full-back craving. Marc Cucurella spent his debut Premier League season essentially proving himself to be the ideal candidate and as despondent as Brighton would be to lose their Player of the Season, they acknowledge, accept and thrive in their place in football’s transfer food chain – provided the asking price is met.

Chelsea target Cucurella


Jurrien Timber to Manchester United
It has always seemed likely that Erik ten Hag would bring at least one comfort blanket with him to Manchester United. When the new manager arrives at Old Trafford he will encounter one familiar face in Donny van de Beek, but there is a perceived need to kickstart this reign with a fresh, untainted signing for whom Ten Hag’s tactical demands and professional prerequisites are second nature.

Jurrien Timber, as a centre-half, could kill two birds with one stone by also strengthening one of the club’s main areas of weaknesses. There will be chances for Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof to put feeble seasons behind them. Raphael Varane remains physically dubious. Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe are expected to vacate their squad places. So Manchester United probably need to put on some Timber. The 20-year-old only made his senior debut just over two years ago but has lost three times in 45 Eredivisie starts, is a two-time title winner, has experienced disappointment in the Champions League and was voted Ajax Talent of the Year by the club’s technical staff in May. Ten Hag himself described that award as a “no-brainer”.


Djed Spence to Tottenham
When Neil Warnock decided to @ great ex, Spence, it closed a chapter of the right-back’s career. “I let him go,” the manager said. “He needed to sort himself out, really. I basically said to him that you can go to the top or you can go non-league.” It was to the 21-year-old’s credit that he chose the former path, accompanying Steve Cooper and Nottingham Forest on their journey from 24th to the play-offs and, eventually, victory over Huddersfield to secure passage to the Premier League.

The Tricky Trees would quite like Spence to join them for their first top-flight campaign in his lifetime, but they are shopping in a different and considerably more saturated market than before. Middlesbrough are entertaining interest from Arsenal and as far afield as Spain, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig. But Tottenham seem to be in the driving seat as Daniel Levy desperately aims to earn Antonio Conte’s approval. With the Champions League and playing alongside Ben Davies on offer, heads have inevitably been turned.

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