It was the immediate secondary impact that came to mind when Arsenal were confirmed to be seriously interested in pursuing a deal for Raphinha. The Brazilian international is predominantly a right-winger, and this clashes heavily with Bukayo Saka.
Now, the Arsenal academy graduate has got plenty of versatility in his game, and Saka has played on the left both in an advanced role and a defensive role. However, when the England international’s serious step up in goal output last season came because of his forays on the right, is switching him the right idea?
The Arsenal Way spoke to Reach scouting writer Josh Williams to get a neutral perspective on the possible move for Raphinha and its ramifications. When asked if he was surprised the Gunners’ potential biggest spend could be directed toward the Brazilian, Saka immediately came in response.
“Yeah, I am a little bit [surprised]. I think although I am in favour generally of having options across the board, and do think you need depth, especially if you’re competing in Europe and things like that? I do also think is that the main squad void that Arsenal can improve?” Williams questioned.
“I think in terms of Raphinha, if he was going for £30 million, okay, it would be more understandable. But from what I’ve seen at £65m, that’s a lot of money for a player whose primary position, favourite role, is currently occupied by arguably your best player [Bukayo Saka].
“So, if Raphinha was purchased for that amount, I would be a little bit concerned as to what Arteta believes Saka’s future to be in terms of potentially lying away from the Emirates. Because I think it’s a lot to pay for a player who is not going to come in to be an immediate starter.”
It is a completely fair point, especially if moving Saka to the other side does not work. There is evidence, as recently as last season, however, that the 20-year-old can work on the left and showed that with goals against Newcastle and Brentford at the Emirates.
When examples like Liverpool get thrown into the mix, it is difficult to see a straight parallel because Liverpool did not have a competitor to Mohamed Salah. Takumi Minamino was levels below the Egyptian, whilst Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz all preferred the left, or in the case of the former pair, the middle.
Salah stood out because he was near undroppable, and Klopp rarely rotated him. Saka might be the same for Arsenal, it will ride on his ability to transition and play more on the left successfully.
However, for a period where Nicolas Pepe started on the right, and Saka played on the left, it did not correspond to a period of great displays from Arsenal. Hence why Pepe soon saw his minutes plummet, and an inverted option in Emile Smith-Rowe or Gabriel Martinelli on the opposite flank to Saka was preferred.
The hope will be that should Raphinha come in, this will not be the case, but it is difficult not to have some worry about it, especially when the figures are as high as they are here.