Even supposing Arsenal have more than their reported £40m transfer budget to spend on new players, a heavy outlay on Wilfried Zaha would be surprising given the club’s apparent reluctance to spend money so far this summer.
But the presence of an apparent alternative suggests Arsenal may be willing to be able to do a bit more with their money rather than spending it all on the Ivorian winger, and may even turn out to be a more profitable asset to The Gunners than Zaha.
Rumours of Arsenal’s interest in Keita Balde, who has just returned to Monaco after a loan spell at Inter Milan, suggest The Gunners are monitoring the 24-year-old who is said to be available for as little as £25m, according to Sky Sports.
With Inter not thought to be interested in signing the winger permanently, Arsenal could be free to pursue a move to the Premier League for the Senegalese international.
Rated at just £22.5m, he would certainly be the cost-effective solution for The Gunners, and would provide the depth that the position is aching for, with Alex Iwobi lacking competition for his position and the club almost inexplicably choosing not to replace Theo Walcott at right-wing after selling him last year.
While Keita has usually been stationed on the left-hand side throughout his career, his versatility allows him to be used on the right vacated by Walcott in January 2018 and filled to little effect by the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the meantime – further highlighting Arsenal’s need for a wide player this summer.
Currently at the African Cup of Nations, Keita would arrive at The Emirates with top-flight domestic and European experience, having spent much of his career in Italy’s Serie A.
This ‘Plan B’ from Unai Emery could turn out to be a masterstroke – Arsenal would have no further need to chase Zaha if they seal a deal for a fraction of the price. Keita would come with more experience than someone like Ryan Fraser who may command a fee north of £30m, while at 24, provides the potential for some longevity within the Arsenal first-team – should the winger deliver on the promise of his talent.
On that basis, Keita arguably ticks more boxes than Zaha and Fraser combined – though on money alone, it would surely be difficult for Arsenal to turn down a player of his level for such a price – especially after having stalled on buying Yannick Carrasco for the time being, at least.
So with resources stretched at Arsenal, not maximising on an opportunity within their means to exploit would surely be a huge risk for Emery to take as he searches for reinforcements to send Arsenal back to the Champions League at the second time of asking.