Mikel Arteta hails Arsenal fans ahead of north London derby
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Arsenal and Tottenham are reportedly set to go toe-to-toe in the battle to sign Barcelona playmaker Phillipe Coutinho in January. But the Gunners may be feeling confident that they can gazump their north London rivals with the use of their secret weapon.
Barca are keen to offload Coutinho, who they signed from Liverpool for a club record fee of £142m in January 2018, before they are forced to pay a £20m instalment which is due when he makes his 100th appearance.
The club are facing financial trouble after racking up debts of over £1.1billion and were forced to let Lionel Messi leave on a free transfer after it was revealed they could not afford to renew his contract.
And according to El Nacional, unwanted star Coutinho could be the subject of transfer tug-of-war between the two north London clubs ahead of a January move, with Arsenal and Tottenham open to signing him.
Arsenal may feel they have an advantage in attempting to secure a deal, however, given his relationship working with sporting director Edu Gaspar.
Edu, who began working at the club in 2019, had previously worked as a director in the Brazil national team setup.
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He was the orchestrator of the deals that saw David Luiz swap Chelsea for the Emirates in the summer of 2019 for £8million.
And he pulled off another deal to snatch Willian from the Blues in September 2020, although the veteran winger has since returned to Corinthians.
Having worked with both players during his time in the national team, Edu could put his past links with Coutinho to good use.
He also maintains close links with Coutinho’s agent, Kia Joorabchian, having engaged with the Iranian representative over a number of recent deals.
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Convincing the Brazilian to head back to the Premier League would not be as complex now as it was two years ago when both clubs last registered their interest in a move.
Back in the summer of 2019, Coutinho had been heavily linked with a loan move to Arsenal and Tottenham, as well as Chelsea, but a move failed to materialise.
However, with his future uncertain at Camp Nou and the club keen to remove his salary from their wage budget, it could open the door for the former Liverpool star to head back to England.
Neither Arsenal nor Tottenham would have any trouble supplementing his £200,000-a-week wages in addition to paying a loan fee.
The 29-year-old has largely struggled to meet expectations in his three-and-a-half years in Catalonia, scoring only 24 times in 93 appearances.
He was loaned to Bayern Munich for the 2019-20 campaign but despite having a £75m fee set in his agreement, the Bavarian giants declined to take up the option.
Coutinho was expected to take a bigger role at Camp Nou following Lionel Messi’s shock exit earlier in the summer.
But despite reports suggesting he would be the rightful heir to Messi’s historic No10 jersey, he kept his No.14 shirt.
His demise at Barcelona was highlighted by his latest snub from under-pressure head coach Ronald Koeman.
In a must-win clash against Cadiz, the Dutchman chose to select 17-year-old wonderkid Gavi and 18-year-old Nico over Coutinho.
Instead, the playmaker took up his place on the bench and was only brought into the fray late on, spurning a chance to win it late with a free-kick as the LaLiga giants stuttered to a goalless draw.
It was claimed that the midfielder would find it difficult to play for another club in England due to his adoration for Liverpool, according to his agent Joorabchian.
“I think Liverpool lies very, very deeply in his heart, he was a big fan of them throughout the campaign [last season],” he said in August.
“He was wishing for them to win the title and he has a very strong affinity there so I think it will be very difficult for him to go to a direct competitor of Liverpool from a personal standpoint.”
But with Coutinho’s career facing a crossroads and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp not keen on a reunion, Mikel Arteta may be in the pole position to land a player with vast Premier League experience.
The Spaniard already has Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard available to play in the No.10 role but neither player is yet to impress this season.
Tottenham have more options in terms of creative players with Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli and summer signing Bryan Gil all available for Nuno Espirito Santo to use.
And with Edu able to rely on his relationship with the player and Joorabchain, the Gunners may feel they are early frontrunners to conclude a deal in the winter transfer window.
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