Arsenal have reignited their interest in attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho, whose January exit from Barcelona is looking more likely, according to reports.
Of all the destinations Coutinho could return to the Premier League at, Arsenal have often seemed a relatively likely option. The Brazilian’s agent, Kia Joorabchian, has close ties with the club. Links with a transfer for Coutinho have therefore been frequent in the past.
He has struggled to justify his value since leaving Liverpool for Barcelona in 2018. While he was an exciting player back in the Premier League, things have not gone fully to plan for him in La Liga.
Coutinho has already been sent away from Barcelona once, when he spent the 2019-20 season on loan with Bayern Munich. Now, the Catalan club are trying to offload him again.
No player in their squad earns more than Coutinho, but he is not a central part of Xavi’s plans. Therefore, amid their financial issues, it simply does not make sense for them to keep him.
Barcelona will need to clear space on the wage bill if they are to bring in signings for their new coach in January. Coutinho, therefore, looks likely to be a casualty.
Their dilemma will be finding a destination for him. His high wages could be a deterrent to potential suitors. However, links with a Premier League return persist for the playmaker.
Newcastle have been tipped to use their new financial power to sign him, for example. But the 29-year-old would be reluctant to sign up for a relegation battle.
Alternatively, the idea of a move to Tottenham Hotspur has recently been speculated. But new information suggests he could end up with their north London rivals Arsenal after all.
Arsenal to take Coutinho on loan?
According to Diario Sport (via Sport Witness), Arsenal are working on a transfer for Coutinho. He has the creative qualities that the club are still lacking in attack, it is felt.
Barcelona are not worried about what terms Coutinho will be leaving on. Their priority is just to get him off the books. Therefore, he could be available on a loan deal, with or without an option to buy.
It is believed that Coutinho would be able to show a better version of himself again in the Premier League. Hence, a move to Arsenal may make sense.
They have Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe as attacking midfielders, and both have impressed. But another option could be beneficial and Coutinho has the necessary experience.
Arsenal will therefore have to weigh up if he is worth investing in. They also have other areas of their squad to strengthen, such as at centre-forward, so he may not be as much of a priority for them as he is for Barcelona to offload.
If they can accommodate him, though, he would be hoping to prove he was worth the wait.
Arsenal attacking midfielder proves pundit wrong
Meanwhile, Martin Keown admits he was wrong about Odegaard after picking out the midfielder for special praise following Arsenal’s 4-1 rout of Leeds on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta’s men produced a superb first-half display at Elland Road, with Gabriel Martinelli scoring twice and Bukayo Saka also on target to give the visitors a 3-0 lead at the break. Raphinha did pull one back from the penalty spot for the injury-hit hosts before Emile Smith Rowe added a fourth for Arsenal to secure their grip on fourth spot.
And Gunners legend Keown was impressed by his old team’s performance. But it was former Real Madrid star Odegaard who earned most of the plaudits from the pundit.
“I will say that when he first came to the club, I was not his biggest fan. But I have to change that opinion now because he really is developing,’ Keown said of Odegaard on BBC’s Match of the Day.
“You see that clever movement that he has to receive the ball, he was first-class in that Arsenal midfield.
“He’s growing in stature. His confidence is really high, the manager has backed him. For me he’s just getting better and better.”
Whether that affects any plans Arsenal have for Coutinho remains to be seen.
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