Premier League football returns at the end of this week, but in its absence transfer stories continue to fill pages. This morning Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez has been talking to French media about Arsenal’s summer approach for him and why a move didn’t materialise. Having failed in a move for Mahrez’s team mate Jamie Vardy before the European Championship, the Gunners turned their attentions to the PFA Player of The Year later in the summer.
Arsene Wenger has a very deep squad at his disposal, though it is possibly one player light in the wide areas. Alex Iwobi has established himself on the left flank at the age of 20, while Serge Gnabry and Joel Campbell both departed in the summer. Alexis Sanchez is being used through the middle, which leaves Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain as Arsenal’s other wide options. Speaking to Canal Sport, Mahrez said:
“There was contact with Arsenal. But Leicester wanted to keep me and I was pretty expensive.
“I did not want to create a conflict when the offer came in.”
It seems that Arsenal wanted Mahrez to force the issue, but he was ultimately unwilling to go to war with a club that has essentially made his name. Some pundits would have said that Wenger’s side didn’t need any extra flair, but which team can turn down a wide player that got well into double figures for goals and assists last term? The fact that a player as young as Iwobi has managed to make such an impact suggest that there was a problem on the flanks, and it should be noted that this is the Nigerians first full season. Mahrez will remain at the King Power for the rest of the season, but with a top four finish looking unlikely for Leicester, expect his future to be reassessed at the end of the season.
Elsewhere, Arsenal are trying to tie down Iwobi and Hector Bellerin down on fresh deals. The pair are outstanding young players, with Bellerin reportedly attracting admiring glances from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as well as former club Barcelona. According to Goal, Iwobi signed a new deal only six months ago that lasts until 2020, but has impressed Wenger so much he is keen to offer him an extension. Bellerin’s situation is a tad more urgent because his current deal expires in 2019, but at 21 there is no rush for him to return to Barcelona should he wish.
Finally, Arsenal have been handed a double injury ahead of their game against Swansea on Saturday as Francis Coquelin and Lucas Perez return to full training. The pair have missed Arsenal’s last few games with minor injuries, and as the Gunners struggled to break down Burnley they could have used the Spaniard’s presence on the bench. Coquelin’s return poses the question as to whether Granit Xhaka will continue in midfield alongside Santi Cazorla. Intriguingly however, there is no news on Aaron Ramsey’s return from a hamstring injury and his continued absence is becoming a bit of mystery.
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