Arsenal are reportedly set to sign Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari on permanent deals. But with such little playing time, on what basis have the decisions been made?
It is a troubling development. In a current climate in which the finances are extremely tight and every decision must be an efficient and effective one, Arsenal seem to be wasting away money on average players who are yet to prove their value. And amidst it all, is a burning question: Why?
On Tuesday, James Olley of ESPN reported that the Gunners are set to sign on-loan right-back Cedric Soares to a permanent deal. The details are complicated as his contract expires at Southampton in a week, but the crux of the transfer is this:
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Cedric signs a temporary contract with Southampton, then signs a temporary loan with Arsenal, before then signing a long-term extension with the Gunners which will keep him at the club beyond the end of this season. They cannot simply sign Cedric to a long-term deal because he then would not be eligible to play for the rest of the current season. This the same reason why William Saliba cannot play until next season, too. And so, the contract gymnastics start.
The same contorting of deals is also happening with centre-back Pablo Mari. It is a little simpler, but this week, Flamengo Vice-President Marcos Braz confirmed that the Gunners have exercised the permanent transfer clause:
“Pablo Mari was sold, in fact. There is no doubt about. We know that he suffered a serious injury, but that matter is already resolved. And when the right moment comes, the numbers will come out on the club’s balance sheets.”
Including the loan fee, Mari will cost Arsenal £14 million. Cedric, meanwhile, will arrive on a free transfer but will cost £9 million in wages over three years, should he sign the same contract as he had with Southampton, and will command a substantial signing bonus too, given that there is no transfer fee — every free agent demands a major bonus.
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These are not massive sums, although they are certainly impactful enough in the current financial climate. But the decisions are being made on very limited information. Mari has played just three games for club. One of those was cut short after 20 minutes and he now faces an extended spell on the sidelines. Cedric has not even taken to the pitch yet.
Mikel Arteta is said to want to sign both players, but it is difficult to understand how he and the club could have come to such an opinion. There simply isn’t a large enough sample size to properly assess Mari and Cedric’s qualities and whether they are worth further investment.
And so, we return the original question: Why? Why would Arsenal sign these players? It is not that they are bad decisions necessarily, but there is no obvious reason to sign them. And that implies a much more sinister and concerning underlying motivation.