Arsenal’s attempts to sign Yohan Cabaye were last night undermined when their £10m bid for the Newcastle midfielder, made earlier in the day, was gazumped by Paris St-Germain who offered £15m for the Frenchman.
PSG, who signed the Uruguay striker Edison Cavani this summer for £55m from Napoli, have become major players in the transfer market thanks to the funds of their wealthy Qatari owners. Their bid will test the resolve and intentions of Arsenal.
After the club signed only France Under-20 striker Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer all summer and lost their first game 3-1 at home to Aston Villa, the pressure on their manager, Arsène Wenger, to spend his budget on new players is heavier than ever.
Cabaye proved an excellent buy for Newcastle from Lille in 2011 for less than £5m, featuring for France in Euro 2012, but struggled, along with the rest of his team, last season. He attracted the interest of Tottenham Hotspur last season. Monaco have also been watching him.
The bid for Cabaye suggests a slight change of direction. Wenger’s position has been that he is looking more at the top end of the market, with the implication being that the lack of activity is due to the lack of players who would improve Arsenal. “If you bring me tomorrow players who are better than those we have, I promise you we will look at them. It’s as simple as that,” he said on Friday. “We look more for quality than for numbers. Yes, we would like two or three players, if possible more, but we will not compromise on the quality of the players.”
Arsenal’s only other big moves this summer were at the top end of the market: first for Gonzalo Higuain, who went from Real Madrid to Napoli, and for Luis Suarez, for whom they have had two bids – the second over £40m – rejected by Liverpool. Suarez seems set to stay at Anfield, leaving Arsenal with little to show for the “escalation of financial firepower” which their chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, promised in June.
Arsenal will have to bid far higher if they are to land Cabaye following PSG’s offer and Newcastle will not sell for much below £20m with less than two weeks to replace their best player. The Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, was last night not impressed with Arsenal’s conduct. “We have had a bid – on the day of a game – for the player that we don’t think is acceptable. I have to pick what I think is a team to get a result – the rights and wrongs are up to other people – but I’ve got my own opinion.”
Midfield has not been Arsenal’s priority this summer; Cabaye is not a radically different type of player from Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta or Tomas Rosicky. That said, injuries to Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are already starting to limit Arsenal’s midfield options this season.
Arteta, their most experienced and disciplined midfielder, missed Saturday’s game and could be out for six weeks with a thigh injury. Oxlade-Chamberlain injured his knee on Saturday and, while he was being assessed yesterday, there are fears he could miss as long as six months.
Kieran Gibbs, Ramsey and Rosicky are all likely to be fit for tomorrow night’s Champions League play-off first leg with Fenerbahce in Istanbul. Bacary Sagna is still being assessed after falling awkwardly on Saturday.