On Tuesday night, Arsenal unveiled three very unpopular deals for Cedric Soares, Pablo Mari, and David Luiz. The deals, though, are not the problem. It is the motivation behind them.
On Tuesday night, Arsenal unveiled new deals for four players. The most popular, and least significant, was a short-term extension of Dani Ceballos’ loan. That means he will remain with the team until the end of the season. It is the other three, though, that are the centre of the discussion.
Arsenal signed David Luiz to a one-year extension. The Brazilian’s deal was up at the end of the season, and despite a disastrous performance against Manchester City last week, Mikel Arteta still views his leadership as a crucial part of the squad.
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The Gunners then converted two loan deals into permanent transfers. Right-back Cedric Soares signed a four-year deal upon the expiration of his Southampton contract, while Pablo Mari will return to the club once he has recovered from injury next season. He cost £14 million including the loan fee to bring him to the Emirates in January.
In isolation, each deal has its merits, even if many would have you believe this is the end of the logical world. Luiz is experienced and would be an invaluable third-choice centre-back, which he will be next season once William Saliba arrives. Cedric offers cheap and Premier League-proven depth to an injury-prone Hector Bellerin. Mari is left-footed, has impressed Mikel Arteta in training, and is definitely available, which is critical given the difficulties clubs will encounter in bringing new players in this summer.
But when grouped together, these are three deals for average players who are ‘cheap’ in signing fees but expensive in wage terms. And in that light, the moves are troublesome.
The issue, therefore, is not the deals themselves. In fact, if you take each one by one there are at least solid reasons for each, although few would describe any as slam-dunk transfers. Rather, it is the motivation behind the deals, especially when they are considered in one sweeping move.
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Head of Football Raul Sanllehi is renowned for his agent-first approach. He relies on his lengthy contacts book, not astute and intelligent scouting. And these three deals stick on Sanllehi pulling his agent-led strings to sign the players that are ‘available’ and offered to him instead of properly scouring the market and acquiring the best possible solutions.
Both Luiz and Cedric are represented by Kia Joorabachian, a super agent with increasing ties to Arsenal. Mari, meanwhile, is represented by Arturo Canales, who is a close associate of Sanllehi’s and is also the agent of new technical director, Edu Gaspar, who was hired under Sanllehi last summer.
The Luiz, Mari and Cedric deals are not necessarily bad deals. They do have some redeeming features. But are they the best deals? And did Arsenal even try to find the best deals? Or did they simply take the one that was offered to them by the agent who Sanllehi wants to cosy up to? We all know the answer, and that is the real problem here.