It came as quite a shock to some when Manchester City sanctioned a temporary move away from the Etihad for Portuguese defender Joao Cancelo. Still, after rumours of discontent behind the scenes, things started to fall into play. However, Cancelo’s loan stay at Bayern Munich hasn’t gone to plan, leaving the door open for Arsenal to join the race to sign him this summer.
Cancelo, 28, is a full-back who is adept at playing on both the right and the left, and this versatility will immediately come into Mikel Arteta’s thinking when considering him as an option for his team. Arsenal, who have missed out on the title to Man City, will naturally see their Premier League betting odds for next season’s title shortened because of how well they’ve done this term. If they add Cancelo and another two or three marquee signings, this will shorten them even further.
Another area where Cancelo’s arrival could prove integral is from a tactical standpoint. At times, Arteta has deployed Oleksandr Zinchenko, who also arrived from Man City, where Arteta was formerly a coach, at left-back, but he’d step into central midfield during games. And playing Cancelo, naturally right-footed, as a left-back will allow him to do this more naturally, as seen when Pep Guardiola took the same approach at City.
It’s also suggested that Granit Xhaka, who used to captain Arsenal at one stage, will depart at the end of the season and head to the Bundesliga, leaving a slot open in midfield. The immediate plan will likely be to replace him with a marquee signing such as West Ham’s Declan Rice. But, it’s also possible that Zincheko could be considered more of a central midfielder, where he plays for Ukraine, with Cancelo and Kieran Tierney then being the options at left-back.
And while Cancelo has become renowned for playing as an inverted left-back in recent times, it’s worth noting that he excelled at right-back, and this could be significant if he was to join Arsenal too. Ben White is the first choice right back at the club, but he’s a natural centre-back. In the absence of William Saliba, the title challenge seeming fell apart. Still, if a move for Cancelo is sanctioned, White could return to playing in his best position, strengthening Arsenal’s central defence significantly.
Cancelo would likely be keen on swapping the Etihad for the Emirates, especially when this season has significantly improved for The Gunners, who had led the title race for over 90% of the campaign. However, the fee Man City demanded from the Portuguese could be a stumbling block. There’s an option to buy in the loan deal with Bayern Munich, but the German giants aren’t keen to do business at that price but would look to negotiate in the region of £60 million. And it’s whether the Arsenal hierarchy thinks the numbers represent value.