With Jamie Vardy, 29, set to join Arsenal, they continue to raid Leicester City‘s title-winning squad, activating Riyad Mahrez‘s, 25, release clause of £25m. Talks have begun with the Algerian’s representatives and are expected to be concluded quickly.
Mahrez joined The Foxes for £400k in January 2014 from French club Le Havre. Whilst it’s an amazing cash windfall for them, it creates an unwelcome headache for manager Claudio Ranieri. Losing his pivotal attacking creator at the same time as his leading striker to the same club, leaves Leicester facing a miserable season defending their title.
If Mahrez joins, it’s a stunning coup for Arsene Wenger. Roundly criticised for not buying an outfield player last summer, he is on course to recruit two of English football’s hottest properties. Arsenal have already signed Granit Xhaka, 23, from Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Algerian raises questions about the future of Theo Walcott, 27. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 22, injured and Olivier Giroud, 29, out of form, Walcott would have expected to be a first-choice in the Arsenal starting line-up. Instead he found himself on the fringes of the Arsenal squad with the combination of Alexis Sanchez, 27, and the promising Alex Iwobi, 20, preferred to the former England international whilst Danny Welbeck, 25, was preferred up front.
Even when Welbeck succumbed to injury, Walcott found Oliver Giroud was the preferred striker, with the Frenchman eventually finding his shooting boots in time for Euro 2016.
Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson didn’t even name Walcott in his preliminary squad; does the former Southampton winger have to leave Arsenal anyway to protect his England career?
Signing Mahrez is a clear indication that Wenger’s patience with Walcott has run out. Speculation is rife that Walcott is wanted by West Ham United and his departure would go a long way to help fund the raid on the defending champions squad.
If the deal does go through, it’s a clear statement of title intent from Arsenal. With Arsene Wenger in the last year of his current deal, has he followed Sir Alex Ferguson’s path and set himself for a glorious exit with the Premier League title in hand.
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