The last time Arsenal lured a player away from Old Trafford, it resulted in a player of their own heading in the opposite direction. The signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January was widely viewed to be a shrewd one for the Gunners, making the most of a bad situation. They were always going to lose Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean’s contract up at the end of the season, and so this saw them at least get something for the want-away forward.
This time, Arsenal are looking to lure Juan Mata away from Manchester United, according to reports, and they won’t even have to send a player of their own in the opposite direction as part of a trade. Mata, just like Sanchez was at Arsenal last season, is out of contract at the end of the campaign, meaning he could soon be a free agent. The Spaniard will be able to talk to other clubs from January.
Counter reports claim that United will offer Mata a contract extension to ward off any interested parties like Arsenal, but a move back to London could appeal to the former Chelsea playmaker. There are reasons to believe that the 30-year-old would wish to leave Man Utd for the Gunners.
Unai Emery is building something at the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal rediscovering their identity over the early part of the season. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho’s Man Utd reign appears to be crumbling around him. Mata hasn’t always found his best form under the conservative Mourinho and so Emery could get the best out of him as he enters the twilight of his career.
Arsenal are once again a team that places emphasis on technical ability and use of space, and that is something that would suit Mata. He would also find a place in Emery’s team on the right side of the attacking line, where the Gunners are currently lacking. Or he could be used in a more central role, where there could be a position to fill if Aaron Ramsey indeed leaves the club at the end of the season.
Mkhitaryan has struggled to rediscover his best form since making the move to Arsenal from Man Utd in January, with some fans even calling for the Armenian to be dropped from the team in recent weeks. There have been glimpses of his relationship with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, his former Borussia Dortmund teammate, but nothing sustained.
Some may argue that Arsenal should be looking to sign up and coming talent rather than ageing stars like Mata. The point could also be made that Emery needs speed on the right wing, not the tactile vision and passing of Mata. But it’s rare that such an accomplished player becomes available for free. Arsenal should take that opportunity if they are presented with it.
How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.