Football Features

Seven times Arsenal tried to ‘lowball’ clubs in the transfer market

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 18:30, 22 July 2020

Last summer reports suggested Crystal Palace were ‘incensed‘ by Arsenal’s bid for Wilfried Zaha. For fans of the club this transfer saga was an all too familiar story.

Unfortunately, the north Londoners are starting to be accused of becoming a team that lowballs, messes around and is generally a nightmare to deal with in the transfer market.

It is no secret that Arsenal are not as financially powerful as many of their league rivals, but some of the tacitcs they have used whilst trying to obtain their targets have been bizarre.

Despite some very impressive signings made over the past few years, many of the players who have escaped their clutches have gone onto bigger and better things, making it a case of what could have been for Arsenal.

We’ve taken a look at some of the high-profile times Arsenal have lowballed clubs in the market, and how each scenario unfolded.

1. Wilfried Zaha (2019)

Palace’s talisman reportedly asked to leave last summer in order to achieve his dream of playing European football. Zaha, who is an Arsenal fan, was heavily linked to the Gunners and the Ivorian’s brother, Judicael, told Sky Sports News that it was Zaha’s ‘dream’ to play for Arsenal, and that he hoped Palace would allow him to realise this.

However, Palace were very firm in their stance and have been for years now: it will take a huge fee to prise the 27-year-old away from Selhurst Park. So when Arsenal tabled a bid of £40m, eyebrows were understandably raised. If one scratches beneath the surface, this bid becomes even more remarkable: reportedly spread over five years, Palace would have received just £6m last summer, given that Manchester United are entitled to 25 per cent of whatever fee Zaha demands.

Whether Arsenal even had — or indeed have — the financial capabilities to sign Zaha is certainly up for debate. Regardless, Palace were not bullied into selling their superstar and the Ivorian ultimately stayed on for another season under Roy Hodgson.

2. Kieran Tierney (2019)

Zaha was not alone in being the subject of some questionably low bids from the Gunners last summer. Arsenal were fairly public in their interest of Tierney, with Celtic, at the time, valuing the young left-back at £25m. For a player of his undoubted ability combined with his age, that seemed a very reasonable figure.

Arsenal’s first bid was just over half of that: £15m. This led former striker John Hartson to label the bid as an ’embarrassment’ before the Gunners tabled an improved bid of £25m, which was also rejected because it contained too many add-ons and was hinged on Arsenal qualifying for the Champions League.

Eventually the Gunners found a breakthrough and a deal was ultimately struck with the Parkhead club, but not without some very questionable transfer tactics from Kroenke and co. Fortunately for Arsenal fans Tierney looks the real deal and this will not be placed in the ‘what could have been’ transfer file.

3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2018)

When reports emerged that Aubameyang looked set to leave Dortmund and Arsenal were in pole position, many couldn’t believe that Dortmund were willing to let such a prolific goalscorer go so easily. What was even more unbelievable was how close Arsenal were to ruining the entire deal.

BVB boss Hans-Joachim Watzke had quoted 70 million Euros for the Gabonese international. Kroenke’s opening bid was just 45 million Euros. In a January window that consisted purely of Arsenal increasing their bids bit by bit and Dortmund growing more and more frustrated, it took Chelsea’s intervention to push the deal along: Michy Batshuayi went to Dortmund, Aubameyang went to Arsenal and Olivier Giroud went to Chelsea.

Arsenal’s inability to co-operate with the German side very nearly cost them what is surely one of the best value for money deals in recent Premier League years, with Aubameyang winning the Golden Boot last season and notching another 20 in the league this season.

4. Alexandre Lacazette (2016-2017)

The Lacazette saga, despite eventually ending in a successful transfer, dragged on for far longer than it needed to. It seemed that everyone knew Arsenal were interested in Lyon’s captain, with it appearing inevitable that he would join Arsenal in the summer of 2016. Rumours circulated that Arsenal had seen a £40m bid rejected, but Lyon’s president came out and said that the bid was in fact £31.5m. This may not seem like a lowballing or embarrassing bid… until you realise that West Ham had already seen a £32m bid laughed off by the French club.

Lyon had made it very clear that they were willing to do business with the Gunners, and that Lacazette was open to a move, but it took the club over a year to finally pay the required money. All this time, Arsenal had been relying on the notoriously unreliable Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott for goals.

Lacazette has proved to a relative success at the Emirates since his move, scoring 48 goals in 125 appearances as well as playing a crucial role in Arsenal’s attack with his impressive link-up play. It’s just a mystery as to why it took Wenger and co. so long to splash the cash.

5. Karim Benzema (2017)

Having secured the services of one French striker in the summer, Arsenal went after another as Christmas time approached. Alexis Sanchez was on his way out of the door and Arsene Wenger was exploring his potential replacements. One name that became prominent was Karim Benzema, a player who had been linked to Arsenal consistently for nearly a decade.

Benzema had just won his second Champions League in a row with Real Madrid, playing a pivotal part in both triumphs. At this stage, he had scored 185 goals in around 380 appearances for Los Blancos and, despite enduring a slow start to the season, had been performing consistently at the highest level for nine seasons. Arsenal’s bid for the striker? £40m. To put that into context, Crystal Palace had just signed Christian Benteke for £32m. The bid was rejected and laughed off by Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was said to be ’embarrassed’ by the offer. Benzema went on to win his third Champions League in a row later that season, scoring in the final against Liverpool.

The odd story linking Benzema to Arsenal is found in nearly every transfer window, even to this day. With the Real Madrid man entering the twilight of his career, though by no means slowing down, a move to the Emirates appears increasingly unlikely.

6. Luis Suarez (2013)

In what seems to be the start of Arsenal’s transfer window antics, the Gunners made headlines when they submitted a bid of £40,000,001 for Liverpool’s star striker, after it was revealed that a clause in Suarez’s contract meant Liverpool had to inform him of interest if a bid of more than £40m was submitted. It prompted Liverpool chairman John Henry to ask: “What do you think they’re smoking over there at the Emirates?”

In a saga which seemed to do nothing more than damage Arsenal’s reputation, talks (unsurprisingly) failed to progress and Suarez stayed put at Anfield. Suarez was underwhelming the following season, scoring a measly 31 goals as well as winning PFA and FA Writers’ Player of the Year, prompting a £70m transfer to Barcelona, where he has since won the Champions League. Arsenal could have had Suarez for £15m less than Barcelona stumped up. Oh well.

7. Gonzalo Higuain (2013)

In the same summer that Arsenal chased Suarez, a deal for Higuain appeared to be in place. The Argentine had reportedly agreed terms with the club and was due to fly out to London for a medical. However, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez claimed that Arsenal had not actually submitted an official bid for the striker. Madrid were after £22m. The deal stalled as the Gunners pursued Suarez and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney.

Just a month later, Arsenal offered £20m despite Madrid now demanding £35m. Everyone was baffled by the fact that Arsenal were now perfectly happy to bid the asking price at entirely the wrong time. After a month of bizarre rumours and negotiations, Higuain decided to stay in the Spanish capital.

The striker later moved to Napoli, where he broke the Serie A scoring record for a single season. Since then, however, spells at Juventus and Chelsea have failed to tempt clubs into acquiring his services.