Arsenal have a unique opportunity. Don’t blow it by low-balling Brighton over Caicedo

Ian Watson
Moises Caicedo in action for Brighton in pre-season.

Arsenal know better than most not to mess around Brighton. At least, they should.

In 2021, they tried to haggle over Benjamin White. The Gunners offered £40million – they were told to come back with £50million. Arsenal offered £47million – they were told again, rather more sternly, to come back with £50million. They went back with £50million and White has been a pivotal part of their surge towards the title.

Only last week, Arsenal approached Brighton once more and agreed to do the necessary to sign Leandro Trossard. So why, with four days remaining of the transfer window, one that offers a unique opportunity for the Gunners, are they fannying around by offering £60million for Moises Caicedo?

Mikel Arteta has apparently identified the Ecuador star as the man he wants to anchor his midfield, already a superbly-drilled unit just in need of some depth and steel. Caicedo offers Arsenal everything they are looking for.

The same goes for Chelsea. And Liverpool. The Reds seem to be maintaining a watching brief because that’s what they do around midfielders these days, but Chelsea have at least made a move. A clumsy, inadequate move, but a move nonetheless.

The Blues are said to have had a £55million offer rejected by Brighton and, like Arsenal, Chelsea ought to know better when it comes to dealing with Brighton and Tony Bloom. The Seagulls have absolutely no need or desire to cash in on Caicedo so if they are to be tempted into a deal, it had better be a bloody big one.

Having seen Chelsea wipe the custard from their chops, Arsenal stepped up. With just a paltry £5million on top of what their rivals were prepared to proffer. To the surprise of absolutely no-one, they too have been pied.

Chelsea’s hesitation is perhaps somewhat understandable. They have already spent a sodding fortune this month on half a dozen new players and though they are hardly ready to write the season off as they languish in 10th place in the Premier League, their rebuild doesn’t have to be completed inside this window.

For Arsenal, though, the time is now. They sit at the Premier League summit, five points clear with a game in hand, with everyone now prepared to pin the Gunners as favourites for their first title in almost two decades. Arteta’s wonderful work means it’s hardly a case of now or never for Arsenal, but here is an incredible opportunity, one they were not expecting, to be kings of England once more.

What could stop them? Man City might. But City don’t look quite themselves even if their next relentless run only ever seems just around the corner.

Other than Pep Guardiola’s side, the greatest danger to Arsenal is Arsenal themselves. Until City and everyone else are made to surrender, the Gunners’ lack of experience amid the muck and bullets of a title race will be questioned. At increasingly regular intervals. The feeling persists – outside the Emirates at least and even that is fading – that Arsenal will blow up at some point.

A lack of depth in their midfield could be one of the reasons why Arsenal slip up through the second half of the season and the pursuit of Caicedo shows that Arteta and Edu recognise that. Acknowledging a potential weakness is one thing; fixing it is quite another. Failure to do so could lead to huge regret in north London come May.

Of course, it maybe doesn’t matter how serious Arsenal decide they want to be. If Brighton really don’t want to sell Caicedo, they won’t. But they certainly have no interest in losing a key player mid-season for anything less than what some may perceive as silly money, especially for a player with only 26 Premier League appearances under his belt.

How much is ‘silly money’? Brighton will probably keep that figure to themselves for now, but it is certainly more than Arsenal have offered. The Seagulls will expect to shatter their record sale figure, not just crack it. An offer of £75million would take a sledgehammer to the deal that saw Marc Cucurella join Chelsea in the summer.

Even that figure might not be enough. But Arsenal were prepared to pay up to £80million for Mykhaylo Mudryk his month and they ought to be willing to go as high for Caicedo if Arteta truly believes he can make a difference.

And Caicedo can. There is a reason why Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool all want him and Manchester United wanted him even before he went to Brighton. He’s bloody brilliant. He comes with a Premier League guarantee, even if he’s only played two-thirds of a full season, and he certainly won’t be getting any cheaper.

If Brighton really are insistent upon not selling, despite Caicedo’s apparent desire to go, then absolutely fair f***s to them. But Arsenal really ought to try a lot harder to tempt them.

Read more: I really, really don’t like Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and I don’t really know why