Arsenal are keeping tabs on Bayer Leverkusen forward Leon Bailey as Chelsea plot a move for the 22-year-old. Express Sport understands the Blues are readying an £85million move for the Jamaican international.
Leverkusen would prefer to sell to an English club rather than lose another of their biggest assets to reigning champions Bayern Munich, who have been keeping tabs on Bailey for the last two years.
That opens the door for Arsenal to compete with Chelsea for the player, but only on one condition – that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is sold.
Quite simply, Aubameyang is the only player in the squad for whom Arsenal could demand big money – perhaps up to £60million.
Even strike partner Alexandre Lacazette could not come close to that, with the Gunners more likely to get £30m to £40m for the Frenchman were he put on the market right now.
With Mikel Arteta set to have a limited budget due to Arsenal’s prolonged absence from the Champions League, it is only the sale of Aubameyang that could boost the coffers enough for the Spanish boss to sign Bailey.
Recent reports from Spain claim Arsenal are aware they will have to sell Aubameyang this summer, having made a commitment not to lose top players for free anymore.
The Gabon international is into the final 12 months of his contract and with an extension appearing unlikely, Arsenal may be forced to offload their top goalscorer this summer, with Barcelona and Inter Milan both keen.
Selling Aubameyang for a minimum of £50m would certainly boost Arteta’s summer funds but it would also leave a gaping hole in the team.
- Arsenal stance on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona transfer
For all of Bailey’s ability, it would surely be a lot to ask of the left-sided winger to replace the latter’s goals, either by scoring them himself or creating them for his new team-mates.
An attack of Bailey, Nicolas Pepe and Lacazette, with the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli in reserve, would still be a high-level front three.
But this season, that trio have produced 22 goals across all competitions, while Aubameyang alone has 20.
Even if Pepe has fully adjusted next season and Bailey proves a quick success, it is a big gamble to believe that triumvirate could qualify for the Champions League.
Left wing is the position to spend up top if Arsenal are looking to keep Lacazette as their first-choice No 9 if Aubameyang leaves, but the Frenchman’s output this term raises question marks as to whether that would be the best strategy.
And there are major questions to be asked as to whether Arteta would want to commit all of the money raised from the 30-year-old’s departure on one forward given the need to strengthen the squad overall.
When he has exciting talents like Martinelli, who has 10 goals in his maiden Emirates campaign, within his squad, Arteta is more likely to want to spend the money from any Aubameyang sale across the team rather than concentrate it on one high-level attacker.
Improving Arsenal’s defence and midfield is surely the priority, with the manager seemingly wanting a holding midfielder and a box-to-box midfielder.
Signing Pablo Mari permanently, plus the return of William Saliba, could offer a new-look back-line next term while the likes of Thomas Partey and Orkun Kokcu are on the radar in the positions ahead of them.
Bailey, clearly, has great potential and is a player to be excited about. An excellent dribbler with decent productivity, the left-footed winger has the profile to be a major hit in the Premier League.
But in their circumstances, this is one Arsenal might be wiser to swerve if they want to build a team greater than the sum of its parts on a tight budget.
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