Where Arsenal stand on Coutinho transfer amid cut-price fee & Mikel Arteta plans

When Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool to join Barcelona in January 2018, it was seen as his next great step.

Instead, his career has gone backwards. Badly.

The Brazilian’s Anfield exit saw him depart before Liverpool conquered Europe and then the Premier League, while he was dumped by Barca after just 18 months, packed off on loan to Bayern Munich.

His bid to revitalise his career in Bavaria didn’t really work out, a fine hat-trick against Wolfsburg apart he struggled to impose himself and ultimately found himself as a bit-part player as Hansi Flick’s men romped to the title.

He remains with Bayern until the end of the Champions League, when they will send him back to Barcelona. He remains however unwanted at Camp Nou, with the Catalans looking to get him off their books once more.

Ideally they would like to recoup a decent portion of their exorbitant £130-million plus outlay; instead they look like having to settle for a loan and paying a portion of his salary once more unless something more creative can be managed.

Coutinho himself wants to return to the Premier League and would ideally like to remain in the Champions League.

However, there simply aren’t the landing spots for him, with none of the top four - Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United nor Chelsea - keen on taking him.

As such, with a Europa League spot booked, that’s where Arsenal come in.

Barcelona’s position

For Barca, Coutinho has been a bust. An ill fit, he was signed to replace Andres Iniesta but was quickly deemed unfit for purpose in central midfield by Ernesto Valverde. Moved onto the left side of the front three, it didn’t work either.

Amid financial issues, Barcelona want him gone, but understand that few clubs have the necessary finance to take him, and even fewer the desire.

Quique Setien has previously claimed that he was keen to work with Coutinho, but there really isn’t place for the Brazilian with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and a number of others around.

Kia Joorabchian’s comments and role.

“It's no secret he wants to come back to the Premier League,” Coutinho’s agent, Kia Joorabchian said at the end of July.

“It's still very much open. There is a lot of genuine interest.

“He loves playing in the Premier League, he is adored playing in the Premier League and that is one of his priorities.”

The agent has helped Coutinho navigate his career thus far and is a key reason for Arsenal being in the running. He is close to technical director Edu - although, as the club is keen to stress, is not his agent nor advisor - and the Gunners have moved away from a more analytical approach to one more reliant on ‘who you know’.

Arsenal’s spending power and Coutinho’s wages

The Brazilian earns around £9million per year in Catalunya. To take him on loan last season, Bayern paid around £10million in a loan fee and then took his salary on board.

Money is expected to be tight this summer at the Emirates, even allowing for Europa League qualification after the FA Cup triumph.

Given the desire of Mikel Arteta to strengthen elsewhere - notably further back in midfield with Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos, as well as in defence - and the need to give Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a new deal, Coutinho isn’t the No.1 target. Especially if it’s going to eat a big chunk out of the budget. If they can move on Mesut Ozil, that will help.

Swap with Matteo Guendouzi?

A deal that has been mooted and could work for all sides.

It would see Matteo Guendouzi, currently an outcast after failing to live up to Arteta’s demands and leaving the Spaniard unhappy with his attitude, head to Spain along with £9million, with Coutinho coming the other way.

It works for Barca, as it gets rid of Coutinho’s salary off their books and gives them a young talent who, even if it doesn’t work out, could be sold on for a fee in excess of £20million.

It works for Coutinho as it gets him his move away, allowing him to put down roots once more and focus on the present, rather than worrying about the future.

And it helps Arsenal move out someone the manager wants rid of, while bringing in an undoubted talent at a pretty cut-price rate.

Why would Mikel Arteta be keen?

You know who created more chances for Arsenal in the Premier League last season than anyone else? Mesut Ozil.

The German didn’t play after the season was paused in March due to coronavirus, but still ended the campaign - having made 23 appearances - as the side’s leading chance creator.

Asked about a lack of creativity in the build-up to the finale vs Watford, Arteta said: "They don’t lie, those stats. When you relate that to Arsenal it’s not good enough.”

If Arsenal are to challenge for the top four next term they simply need to improve in the final third. Aubameyang will take chances, but they need to make more.

How would he fit in?

Arteta initially showed a preference for 4-2-3-1, but has shown his pragmatism by winning the FA Cup playing with a 3-4-3/5-4-1 formation.

Having initially operated with Mesut Ozil as an outright No.10, that is no doubt a role Coutinho would see as ideal.

If not, much depends on Aubameyang's future, with the captain having been huge on the left side of attack since Arteta's arrival.

As Arteta seeks to build around the Gabonese, does he move him into a central position? If so, that frees up a role coming in off the left, where Coutinho often thrived at Liverpool, whether in a 4-2-3-1, 3-4-3, or, in what many see as Arteta's long-term plan, a 4-3-3.

However, before then, there is still a long way to go.

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