Arsenal Signing Leicester’s Star Midfielder Might Be A Madd Idea
In the wake of Granit Xhaka reportedly signing a contract extension with the club according to Chris Wheatley of football.london, links between Arsenal and James Maddison of Leicester City have intensified. It appears Arsenal may be compensating for no new arrivals in central midfield outside of Albert Sambi Lokonga by going big in other positions of need. While the player himself is allegedly intrigued by a move to north London, Leicester are proving hard to budge. Arsenal have reportedly offered Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, and even Eddie Nketiah in talks, but the Foxes refuse to accept a swap deal.
As it stands, Arsenal will need to fork over a significant chunk of change in order to land Maddison. Leicester are thought to desire a fee in the region of £60-70 million. According to Sky Sports, such a fee would likely require sales of Arsenal players in order to generate funds. But before they go to such lengths to make a deal with Leicester happen, it is truly worth considering whether signing Maddison at that price is worth it.
James Maddison is a good player, there is no disputing that. According to FBref, he is in the 86th percentile among attacking midfielders and wingers in assists and non-penalty goals. Only 7% of players in the position are better at outperforming their xG. Maddison ranks in the 86th percentile again for expected assists, in the 94th percentile for shot-creating actions, and in the 79th percentile for goal-creating actions. While his dribbling numbers are far from as impressive, the stats show that the Englishman is already quite an exciting talent ahead of his prime.
However, regardless of whether Maddison is or is not good enough to warrant his price tag, Arsenal must be wary of who they are paying that money to. The current summer transfer window has seen Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea start to break away from the rest of the pack. City and Chelsea have lodged nine-figure bids for players that look likely to be successful. United have added Jadon Sancho and Raphaël Varane to an already star-studded squad. Liverpool remain within touching distance of those three, with essentially the same squad they won the Premier League and Champions League with, and some smart reinforcements.
Arsenal, however, are not in that stratosphere. In the near future, they face an immense uphill climb to come close to competing with those teams. That leaves them in a secondary bracket with the likes of Spurs, West Ham, Aston Villa, and, yes, Leicester.
To hand Leicester £70 million in exchange for Maddison would be to strengthen one of Arsenal’s most formidable rivals for a European place. For a little under £40 million this summer, Leicester have managed to acquire Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumaré, two of the most highly rated young talents in European football. Giving a team with such enviable efficiency in the transfer market almost twice that amount would surely allow the Foxes to further buttress an already highly competitive squad.
Meanwhile, other players are available for far less and are currently under contract with teams Arsenal do not regularly compete with and will not play against this season. The prime examples are Houssem Aouar of Lyon, who reportedly is available for as little as €25 million, and Martin Ødegaard, whom Arsenal can potentially acquire from Real Madrid for around £35 million. In either case, not only would the Gunners spend less money to sign one of these creative midfielders, but they would not be giving those sums to a direct rival.
Arsenal seem quite intent on bringing James Maddison to the Emirates. However, doing so will definitely involve handing a small fortune to a club Arsenal will likely need to finish above in order to have an acceptable season. At a time when Arsenal find themselves struggling to avoid further and further behind City, Chelsea, United, and Liverpool, increasing the odds of an immediate adversary’s success is the last thing they should be doing. While Maddison is a great player who will continue to improve, very few players are worth the risk that comes with signing him. With comparable options elsewhere, one can only hope Leicester prove too tough a cookie at the negotiation table and not on the pitch.
If you enjoyed this article, follow me on Twitter @dopegooner.