It’s obvious that Arsenal need an attacking midfielder and their interest in Houssem Aouar was well documented during the summer. Some people expect Arsenal to revisit a possible deal in January because Mikel Arteta rates the player very highly, but it seems increasingly unlikely.
The player was vastly overpriced when Arsenal came in for him and tabled an offer of £35m which was refused point-blank. Lyon were asking for around £55m for the 22-year-old, but Arsenal had no intention of meeting that valuation. So, Edu and Mikel Arteta decided on a move for Thomas Partey who was attracting attention from many high profile clubs.
The Partey deal was thought of as more of a priority, so Edu triggered the release clause with Arsenal resigning themselves to filling the role of a playmaker at a later date. There are a lot of unknowns in this scenario that need clarification.
Is Ceballos capable of filling that position with any degree of conviction? Will Willock become consistent enough to push his claim for an automatic starting position? Is there another player in the academy that can fulfill the role such as Smith Rowe or Azeez?
The fact is that Mikel Arteta has already considered all these factors and knows the answers in the short term, which points to securing the services of a player from outside the club. However, Arsenal will not be blackmailed in the transfer market and Lyon are unlikely to dilute their demands.
The price aside, Arsenal are unimpressed with the Olympique Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas’ attempts to publicise their interest and that normally suggests a deal is over. More recently, Lyon’s General Manager Vincent Ponsot has claimed that the bid submitted by Arsenal for Houssem Aouar was far too wide of the mark. He told L’Equipe (via Sport Witness):
“We had three big clubs for him.”
“The third club was Arsenal, who offered below the market value.”
“We discussed it with the player’s entourage, and together we took the decision to say no.”
It appears that this is yet another attempt by Lyon to lay down a marker to get the maximum fee. Arsenal could afford the fee, especially if they clear out the likes of Guendouzi, Torriera, and Ozil from their books. However, will Arsenal want to proceed with any negotiations involving a club that constantly leaks the small print of any possible deal to the press?
Arsenal have always operated their transfers in relative secrecy as typified by the Partey transfer deal, which was resurrected in the last morning of the transfer window. It’s said that any further interest from Arsenal would require some flexibility on the part of Lyon after their kiss and tell posture.
I feel that there’s only a slight chance of Houssem Aouar arriving at Arsenal in the January transfer window because of the disruption his departure would cause before the end of a competitive season, with the French outfit only prepared to release him if the price is met in full.
The summer transfer window would probably be a better option, with the player still allegedly interested in a transfer to the Premier League, but I’m not sure the Gunners will increase their bid by much more with the sport’s future unclear.