According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal are considering a summer transfer swoop for Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, with Unai Emery wanting quality competition for Bernd Leno in place following Petr Cech’s upcoming summer retirement.
Pope broke into the first team at Turf Moor last season, following a long-term injury to Clarets No. 1 Tom Heaton. Pope impressed to such an extent that he forced his way into the England international setup, earning his first (and to date only) cap in 2018, and travelling with Gareth Southgate’s squad to the World Cup in Russia.
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However, in the early stages of this season, the 26-year-old shot-stopper dislocated his shoulder. After a long spell on the sidelines, he returned to fitness to find Heaton back between the sticks for Sean Dyche’s side, and summer arrival Joe Hart having taken his place as back up.
The aforementioned Daily Mail report states that Pope is now open to a summer move away from Burnley, which could take him to the Emirates Stadium. The once-capped England man’s arrival would certainly have some knock-on effects in north London – we look at the potential consequences below…
Now 26 years old, Emiliano Martinez has been with the Gunners since 2010. In his near-decade on the books for the club though, he has made just 14 first team appearances, of which only six have come in the Premier League.
Past loan stints with Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolves and Getafe have failed to bring him the regular football he needs. In his career to date, the former Argentina under-20 international has made just 64 senior first team appearances, as per Transfermarkt’s records. He is currently first choice at Reading, though.
Cech’s retirement offers Martinez his greatest, and probably last, chance to forge a long-term career at Arsenal – as the second choice behind Leno, offering competition to the German. The arrival of Pope, though, who is the same age as Martinez but far more experienced, would likely end that dream and force the Argentine out of the club for good.
At 36, and with an illustrious, trophy-laden career behind him, Cech has probably found falling behind Leno in the pecking order this season relatively easy to accept. However, Pope clearly has no interest in being confined to the bench and only being given a runout in domestic cup competitions – this is evidenced by his apparent desire to move on from Turf Moor.
If Pope does join Emery’s squad he will be doing so in the belief that he has what it takes to usurp Leno’s position in the starting XI. The Englishman may not be wrong.
Arsenal may have paid £19.3million to sign the 26-year-old from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer – making him the eighth most expensive ‘keeper in history – but some question marks over the 6-cap Germany international’s quality remain. His positioning and ability to claim crosses has been found wanting at times this season, whilst he has only managed three Premier League clean sheets in twenty attempts – though much of that is due to the Gunners’ wider defensive deficiencies.
Leno’s place in the starting XI is currently protected by the fact he represents the future. Bringing Cech back into the fold would do far more harm than good in the long run, as it may destroy Leno’s confidence. Pope, however, is the same age as Leno and Emery would have no such qualms about making the Englishman his No. 1 if he proved himself more suitable for the role than the German.
Top quality goalkeepers are expensive in the modern game. Last summer, as Arsenal were spending nearly £20million to bring in Leno, Liverpool were splashing out £66.8million on Alisson Becker. Chelsea then blew that record out of the water with their £71million capture of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Pope would not cost such an inflated figure to bring to Arsenal. Which is handy, as the Gunners certainly won’t have so much to spend – The Sun have said that failure to qualify for the Champions League could see the club left with a meagre summer transfer budget of just £40million.
Transfermarkt only value Pope at £9million. Whilst the Daily Mail say Dyche would like to keep the glovesman, he is clearly surplus to requirements at Turf Moor, meaning Arsenal ought to be able to prise him away for a fair price.
That would allow Arsenal to spend a vast chunk of their limited summer budget on other areas of the squad that are in desperate need of attention and improvement.