Can Arsenal afford to gamble with their pursuit of Wilfried Zaha?

What is it with Arsenal’s interest in signing Wilfried Zaha? It’s strange, as the Gunners have a proposed transfer budget of £40m, but they seem intent on trying to sign a player valued at £100m.

Maybe Crystal Palace’s price tag for their star asset is a move to warn off any possible suitors, or a way to extract as much cash as possible for a player who is desperate to leave Selhurst Park.

It appears that Arsenal have made a bid, believed to be around the £40m mark – but it was dismissed by Palace as “laughable”. A fee of £65m+ is a fee that Palace might consider, but even that sum is surely beyond Arsenal’s means, unless they sell one or more of their own big names.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished the season as Arsenal’s top scorer, but he is 30 years old and may attract interest from China. That could be an irresistible sale for the club given their financial outlook and the forwards age.

So, if part of Arsenal’s strategy is to sell to buy this summer, what faith can supporters have in their ability to do it ably? The club have been poor at doing this in recent years. For example, Serge Gnabry left the Gunners for just £4.5m, but he is now a regular for Bayern Munich and Germany, and his stock could now be worth at least £40m.

Arsenal have been lousy at buying too, as for years they claimed that they did not have the funds to compete in the transfer market with other clubs because they had the stadium to pay for. However, when you look at their net spend over the past four seasons, it has risen to £232m and is more than Chelsea, Tottenham and even Liverpool, believe it or not.

Their failure to qualify for the Champions League again is having a damaging impact. So, it seems crazy that much of their transfer planning was reliant on one game, the Europa League final, which they lost in Baku against Chelsea. Before that defeat, Arsenal seemed optimistic that they would have the funds to sign Zaha – a gamble that didn’t come off.

Whether Arsenal will really pay the fee for Zaha that Palace want, remains to be seen. Head coach, Unai Emery wants him, but there is the added complication around who drives the transfer policy at the club.

Whilst Emery will have an input, it is Raul Sanllehi, who is head of football and well connected from his Barcelona days, who dictates who the club will sign. There is talk that Emery is growing frustrated by the situation, but he won’t be the only one around Arsenal feeling that way.

Whatever the politics of the transfer strategy at Arsenal, and the fees being demanded by Crystal Palace, Zaha’s brother brought everything into context by saying that his sibling should be allowed to go and “realise his dream” of joining the club he supported as a kid. Only time will tell.

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