Arsenal's £88m Mudryk transfer dilemma: Should the Gunners stick or twist?
How high will Arsenal go for Mykhailo Mudryk? That is the big question that looks set to dominate the January transfer window for the Gunners.
The 21-year-old winger is the Premier League leaders’ priority target as they look to bolster their attacking options ahead of the second half of the season
Two bids have already been made, but both have received the same response from Shakhtar Donetsk. No deal! Talks are continuing, but as it stands both clubs remain miles apart when it comes to the valuation.
So far, Arsenal have offered a package including add-ons that is worth around £62 million ($74m). Shakhtar remain adamant, however, that their star man will not leave for anything less than £88m ($106m).
GOAL has also learned that the Ukrainian outfit have now made it known that they will have no issue postponing talks until the summer, should it become clear that their valuation will not be met.
It’s a game of poker between the two clubs, and Arsenal’s hopes have not been helped by Chelsea entering the picture. Mudryk’s preference is to join Arsenal - he has made that publicly clear - but the Blues have the financial capability to potentially blow their London rivals out of the water when it comes to offering what Shakhtar are demanding.
So what do Arsenal do now? Do they stick to their guns and potentially move on to other targets, or do they twist and bow to Shakhtar’s demands?
For fans, the latter option would understandably be the more appealing one, giving Mudryk’s undoubted ability and potential. But can Arsenal afford to take such a gamble and commit to such an eye-watering figure for a player who has yet to play in a league outside of Ukraine and has just eight international caps to his name?
It’s a real dilemma for the Premier League leaders, who are well aware that they need to try and strengthen their attacking options before the end of the month.
“We are trying to improve the squad in every window,” Mikel Arteta said after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle. “This is no different, we will do our best because we cannot waste any window with the squad numbers that we have.”
Arsenal’s need for new arrivals was made clear during the goalless stalemate with Newcastle. Arteta’s side were not poor by any means, but as the game wore on the Spaniard did not have much on the bench to try and find a way through the league’s best defence.
Summer addition Fabio Vieira was one option that was ignored, perhaps due to the physical nature of the game, but other than the Portuguese playmaker there was no one for Arteta to really turn to. The fact that his only substation was a like-for-like swap at right-back said it all.
Gabriel Jesus’ injury has left Eddie Nketiah as Arsenal’s only senior central striker, while Emile Smith Rowe’s continued absence - combined with Reiss Nelson’s hamstring strain - leaves no real back-up for Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka out wide.
So far, Arsenal have managed to keep up their remarkable start to the season despite the injuries. Whether they could continue to do that during the second half of the campaign when crucial fixtures start to pile up remains to be seen.
Arsenal remain top of the Premier League, but one thing is clear 🔍— GOAL News (@GoalNews) January 3, 2023
That is why Arteta is so keen to strengthen his squad and why Arsenal are pursuing Mudryk so intently. They believe he could provide them with the boost they need at this stage of the season and that he would help ease the burden on Martinelli and Saka.
But it would be a huge risk to commit to a package of £88m, even if that figure does include some sizeable add-ons that would be structured over a number of years.
It’s been three-and-a-half years since Arsenal smashed their transfer record to bring in Nicolas Pepe from Lille for £72m. On paper, it looked like an exciting signing, with the Ivory Coast winger having just enjoyed a breakthrough season in Ligue 1.
But he was unable to replicate that sort of form in the Premier League, and is currently on loan with Nice as he clearly has no future left in north London.
Arsenal have learned lessons since that Pepe deal and have carefully rebuilt their squad with a series of smart moves in the transfer market since Arteta arrived. They know they can’t afford to get much wrong, which only adds to the dilemma when it comes to Mudryk.
The winger has made just 24 league appearances for Shakhtar since his debut in July 2020, while clocking up another 12 in the Champions League. So far he has scored just 12 senior goals - with 10 of those coming since the start of the current campaign
His talent is obvious and his performances in the Champions League this season show he is ready to take the next step in his career. But is he a gamble worth taking at the price Shakhtar are demanding?
If the Ukrainian side don’t lessen their demands, it will cost Arsenal £88m to find out.