Arsenal’s Raphinha jigsaw raises key question over Leeds United transfer bid

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Arsenal became the first team to make an official bid for Leeds United winger Raphinha this week as they step up their interest in the Brazil international. The Whites have rejected this initial bid, but it is believed the Gunners will be going back in with an offer nearer Leeds’ valuation of around ?60million.

While the opening bid was always likely to be rejected, additional bids will no doubt be made as the two sides work closer towards finding an agreed fee. Mikel Arteta is evidently serious about the Whites winger and they have acted swiftly to move ahead of Barcelona, Chelsea and Tottenham.

But Raphinha has made clear that regular playing time will be an important factor in his decision as he looks forward to the Qatar World Cup later in the year. The winger has been a revelation for Brazil since making his debut in October but will need to play regularly if he is to keep his place in Tite’s lineup.

READ MORE: Leeds United to reject Arsenal offer as official Raphinha bid made by Gunners

Arsenal already have a wealth of attacking talent and in Bukayo Saka, Arteta has a fan-favourite and his most influential player on the right-wing – the 20-year-old featured in all 38 Premier League games, with 33 on the right-hand side. On the left, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe shared 21 starts each and both offer their own qualities to that position.

So consistent were those three, plus Martin Odegaard in the middle, that ?72million Nicolas Pepe made just five starts in the Premier League. So where would Raphinha actually fit in? The past two seasons have shown that the former Rennes man would be more involved than Pepe, but competition with Saka will by no means guarantee regular playing time.

The 25-year-old has shown at Elland Road he can also play on the left, but in Martinelli and Smith-Rowe faces consistent performers and hot favourites at the Emirates. Furthermore, the Brazil international prefers life on the right where he can cut onto his left foot.

Arsenal confirmed the signing of Porto attacking-midfielder F?bio Vieira for around ?34million this week, providing competition for Odegaard, and the Gunners look determined to secure a deal for Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus for around ?50million. And while the Brazilian can play centre-forward, his favoured position is to come in from the right.

It raises questions as to whether Arsenal actually need Raphinha or whether they are trying to make a statement. Arteta’s side could risk becoming too top heavy and not being able to keep all their stars happy. Raphinha, most of all, needs guaranteed game time and is unlikely to move to a place where that won’t happen.

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