One of the hottest transfer stories in the Premier League this summer has involved a Leeds United player.
With Erling Haaland wrapped up before the transfer could gather enough steam to boil a kettle, and Liverpool swooping for Darwin Nunez in what seemed like one long weekend, the stretchiest transfer saga in the Premier League this summer that doesn’t involve those hysterical malcontents Manchester United has actually been Raphinha’s transfer to… well… anywhere.
As the season was ending, the Brazilian winger was heavily linked to Barcelona, expected to be the next Brazilian to enter their repository of Rs (alongside the four best Brazilians to have played in the Champions League era: Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho).
With Leeds seemingly doomed for relegation, a £25m release clause was expected to trigger, allowing Barcelona to snag Raphinha on the cheap, which is just as well given their own financial woes.
But then Leeds survived, and Raphinha and his astonishing abs were now worth a whole lot more. Barcelona had to cool their jets and wait for the financial cavalry to arrive, which allowed other clubs like Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to enter the frame.
A move to Spurs never felt feasible and Barcelona were busy waiting for cash and/or trying to renew Ousmane Dembélé. This left the Gunners with a free run at the Brazilian and everything looked like he was going to join them.
Then in a flash, Chelsea swooped in and according to multiple sources, agreed a fee for Raphinha with Leeds, stealing the Brazilian from right under Arsenal’s noses much like they did to Spurs with Willian back in the day (though Barcelona reportedly remain in the race and the player’s favoured destination).
But for now, the question is, what are the pros and cons of Raphinha joining the Blues and not the Gunners? We’ve got the answers.
Raphinha to sign for before 3rd September (Sky Bet)
- Chelsea – 4/6
- Barcelona – 5/4
- Arsenal – 18/1
- To say at Leeds – 20/1
- Newcastle – 22/1
- Tottenham – 22/1
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Pro: Champions League football
The biggest and most obvious pro for Raphinha is that he will get to play Champions League football. After establishing themselves as a Premier League force in 2020/21, Leeds went backwards last season and Raphinha spent much of the campaign fighting relegation.
To go from that to the Europa League with Arsenal would have been great for Raphinha, but to now jump all the way to the biggest competition on the European continent? That’s colossal. After all, Raphinha has played in the Europa League before for both Sporting and Rennes, but is yet to make his Champions League debut. He would have had to fight to get there with Arsenal, but now? Now it’s right there.
You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds within this article are accurate at the time of writing (12:30, 25/01/2024). BeGambleAware.
Con: No number 9
Raphinha’s excellence for Leeds is undoubted and he got better in his second campaign even though Leeds as a team got worse. This was in part because star striker Patrick Bamford missed pretty much the entire season through injury.
Without a No. 9 to occupy defenders, teams found it easier to dedicate men to crowd Raphinha out, making his job harder. And of course it just increased the goalscoring burden onto a player for whom goalscoring is not his primary skill.
Chelsea had Romelu Lukaku, a formidable presence even when he wasn’t playing well. But they look set to loan him out to Inter Milan, and there is no real news about a potential replacement, indicating a return to the False No.9 system that saw them win the Champions League.
But that team didn’t have Raphinha in it. At Arsenal he would have had Gabriel Jesus or Eddie Nketiah to be his foil, but at Chelsea it’s only likely to be Kai Havertz who does his best work withdrawing from the front to let goalscoring wingers run into that space; it’s a system built for, say, Raheem Sterling, not Raphinha.
Pro: A monstrous midfield
The one thing Raphinha will certainly have at Chelsea is a truly monstrous midfield. Arsenal’s midfield is a work-in-progress and when Thomas Partey is fit they have potential, but we know Chelsea’s midfield is a mean machine.
With N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho and the returning Conor Gallagher, the Chelsea midfield is truly impressive. Looking at last season, all four of the Chelsea midfielders made more tackles than any Arsenal player, while only Ben White’s 42 interceptions ranks higher than the totals Jorginho (36), Kanté (31) and Gallagher (29) managed.
This is all to say nothing of the fact that, if Chelsea stick with 3-4-3, Raphinha will have Reece James tearing alongside him as a wing-back. It’s a dream defensive safety net behind him and potentially his ideal running mate.
Con: The Ziyech Experiment
Of course, as much as the system benefits Raphinha we have to remember that at the same time Raphinha joined the Premier League with Leeds, Hakim Ziyech arrived at Chelsea from Ajax. Ziyech was a big money buy and intended to be one of the key figures of a new-look Chelsea XI, one built around his creative capabilities.
But it hasn’t really worked out like that. Over the last two years Ziyech has six goals, six assists, 64 chances created – 15 of which were Big, and has completed 47/100 take-ons. Those numbers can’t compare to Raphinha’s but that’s mostly because the Brazilian has played more than twice as many minutes as the Moroccan.
In fact when you compare their metrics per 90 minutes, Ziyech actually comes out ahead in a lot (more chances created, more big chances created, more assists, more shots, more goals from open play (0.22 vs 0.17) and even a higher xA.
Yet Ziyech has unquestionably been poor for Chelsea. There are mitigating circumstances, to be sure, but he’s not been good. And he’s had Lukaku in there with him at times!
So you have to wonder: are Tuchel’s Chelsea even set-up to accommodate a ball-carrying inverted winger?
Pro: The comedy factor
Here’s the thing: Raphinha is a great fit at Arsenal. With a move for Jesus to go with the versatility of Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli, it’s clear that Arteta wants a young, dynamic attacking unit with many players capable of playing many positions.
Raphinha’s ball-carrying would be treasured at the Emirates as that is one area where they definitely come up short, completing just 319 take-ons during the last season, ranking only 14th in the league. Raphinha instantly makes them better and allows for more changes of position and squad rotation as Arsenal get to grips with playing every three days instead of every seven.
He’d be expensive, for sure, but Arsenal have shown a willingness to spend big under Arteta. Their transfer outlay was larger than any other Premier League side last summer, and they’ve already spent well so far this summer on Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner, Marquinhos (no not that one) and Gabriel Jesus. Raphinha would be the perfect way to finalise the assembly of Arsenal’s new attack.
With no serious opposition, he was all theirs.
And now he isn’t.
That is, objectively speaking, very funny.
It’s a con for Arsenal and their fans, but for everyone else it’s a tremendous source of comedy and a pro.
Con: Chelsea’s instability
The final con is one that should make Raphinha wary, because Chelsea are in a state of flux right now. The change in ownership has seen new man Todd Boehly sack much of the higher ups that were assembled around Tuchel to run the footballing side, with the American taking temporary control himself.
How long does Tuchel last under such conditions? Anyone who cleaned house as much as Boehly did must surely be thinking about getting his own head coach in, which puts Tuchel on shaky ground unless the Blues hit it running.
And if Tuchel goes, so does the gameplan that has seen him target a group of wingers to replace Romelu Lukaku. And if that gameplan is gone, what does it say to Raphinha’s chances under the new regime?
We’re not saying it will go badly, but it could!