Robin van Persie’s departure from Arsenal is now inevitable. After refusing to take his place on the club’s Asian pre-season tour it would be prudent for the club to allow him his wish. Despite having just 12 months left on his contract the Gunners could still demand a large transfer fee for him, anywhere upwards of £20m. Hold onto him, and they risk losing their star player for free. But for a small portion of that potential transfer revenue, Arsenal could realise the potential of their talented attack by signing midfielder Paulinho.
A contingency plan for the loss of Van Persie is already in place. Olivier Giroud has been brought to the Emirates Stadium in what Giles Grimandi confirmed as a replacement for the Netherlands international. With Lukas Podolski also signed over the summer, Arsenal fans need not worry too much over yet another addition in the striker department. Giroud was joint-highest scorer in Ligue 1 with title winners Montpellier last season while Podolski, at just 27-years-old, is a seasoned performer with over 100 caps for Germany.
While both players may take a while to bed in and adapt to the new league, the club are by no means short of talented forwards. Podolski can play through the middle or on the left while Theo Walcott has also expressed his desire for a more central role. More will be expected of Gervinho this season while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi will only improve given the playing time.
But there is one name to have been linked to the north-London club that would prove a very shrewd addition. He may not be too well known in European circles, but Paulinho of Corinthians would add a new dimension to Arsenal’s midfield, and indeed to the team as a whole.
The last year has been one of rapid progression for the Brazilian. Frequently playing as part of the double-pivot in the 4-2-3-1 formation alongside the combative Ralf, Paulinho has been a revelation. But do not be fooled into thinking the 23-year-old is just another defensive midfielder, he is far from it.
Paulinho is a master at launching the transition from defence to attack. His sublime charging runs from deep enable Corinthians to utilise the pace of players like Emerson Sheik and Jorge Henrique by playing them in behind on the counterattack. His dynamism is similar to that of Ramires at Chelsea when in a similar role last season, though Paulinho looks far less chaotic when on the ball.
Everything seems much more measured, delicate and intended when the Corinthians man has possession and he often proves devastating with it. His dribbling is impressive, his distribution even better, and he has also shown the ability to find the net. Eight goals in the Sao Paulo side’s 2011 Brasileirao win made his the team’s second highest scorer and earned him a place in the team of the season.
He possesses the perfect balance between forward drive and defensive solidity. Corinthians are stronger in both departments with Paulinho on the pitch and he would make a fantastic addition to any European side and would be perfectly suited to the Premier League.
At Arsenal, such a player would give tremendous balance to the midfield. Alex Song has developed into one of the best holding players in the country and is one of the first names on the team sheet, while the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta are all hugely gifted technical midfielders. The presence of Paulinho in a three-man midfield at the Emirates would allow such players more freedom to pick apart the opposition with accurate passing, whilst also fully utilising the pace of Gervinho and Walcott.
Of course, not all could fit into the same side and this is the only drawback. Arsene Wenger has pulled out of the race to sign Yann M’Vila, citing a number of impressive midfielders that are already at his disposal, so it seems unlikely he would sign Paulinho. A transfer is unlikely at the moment due to his wish to participate in the Club World Cup with Corinthians at the end end of the year but should his side face Chelsea, an impressive performance would be enough to force the hands of a number of teams with Inter reported to be particularly keen.
What must also be remembered is that the Brazilian will be available at a shadow of the price of a player such as M’Vila. Corinthians only own 10% of Paulinho’s economic rights and so they have little say in any prospective transfer. The third-party owners could accept an offer of around the £10m mark, leaving cash spare from a potential Van Persie sale for Arsenal to bring in an additional striker if they wished.
He may not be a household name, but when has that ever stopped Wenger from making a signing? Fans of the Gunners will no doubt be distraught over the loss of their star striker, but Paulinho could be the perfect addition to bring the best out of those who remain.
Do you think Arsenal need to replace Van Persie or will Giroud and Podolski do the job? Maybe you feel that the Gunners do not need another midfielder, either way, let me know on Twitter @thwebber