Premier League • England

Arsenal laughing as audacious Barcelona raid crashes and burns; shortlist of four alternatives revealed

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been touted as a managerial target for Barcelona

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been touted as a managerial target for Barcelona

Arsenal have successfully fended off an ambitious Barcelona raid with ease, and a four-man shortlist of alternatives – that includes an in-demand Premier League man – have been named.

The Gunners are very much a team on the rise, with the partnership of Edu as sporting director and Mikel Arteta as manager working wonders in north London.

Arsenal thrust themselves into title contention last term and have proven this time around they’re not one-season wonders.

Vast sums have been spent in the transfer market, though by and large the money has been invested wisely. Indeed, despite costing a mammoth £105m, few would argue Declan Rice isn’t already well on his way to justifying that gigantic price tag.

Elsewhere, Arsenal’s decision to let William Saliba develop his game through repeated loan spells in Ligue 1 has borne fruit. Saliba is now challenging Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk for the mantle of best centre-half in the Premier League.

He, Rice and academy graduate Bukayo Saka are arguably the three most important players at Arsenal at present. However, perhaps shading all three in the importance stakes at Arsenal is their manager.

As such, it came as something of a shock to see reports in Spain last month report Arteta was on course to replace Xavi at Barcelona. Xavi will leave his role as manager of Barca at season’s end.

Arteta quickly refuted the claims in a subsequent press conference, declaring: “No, that’s totally fake news what you read yesterday. I don’t know where it’s coming from and it’s totally untrue. I’m really upset about it.”

He added: “I could not believe [it] I don’t know where it’s coming from and it’s got no source, it’s got nothing. I think we have to be very cautious when you talk about personal things to put it in the way it was put yesterday.”

Arteta was also at pains to stress that he is more than happy at Arsenal and already sees himself as being at the ‘right club’.

“I’m in the right place, I’m with the right people, I feel really good about it,” he continued.

“As I said many times, we are in a beautiful journey with this football club, with these players, the staff these people and there’s still a lot a lot to learn.”

Asked directly about where the article had come from, Arteta responded: “That’s something that we cannot control, this is part of football.

“But that’s something very different to someone putting a statement about something that I’m doing, that’s very very different. Otherwise, it’s just part of football and this industry.”

Barcelona interest was real, but Arsenal need not fear

Now, according to Spanish outlet Sport, there was truth in the claims Arteta was wanted at Barcelona.

Arteta spent time on Barcelona’s books as a youth player and per the report, did come under serious consideration by Barca chiefs upon learning Xavi would walk away.

The hope, presumably, was Arteta’s history with the club would help sway a decision to leave Arsenal.

However, Arteta’s emphatic response in public, combined with Barcelona privately learning Arteta has no plans to leave the Gunners resulted in Barca tucking their tail and quickly turning to other targets.

Furthermore, Sport suggest Arteta has received an offer to pen an extension at the Emirates and as of now, his inclination is to sign the deal. Arteta’s current contract expires at the end of next season.

Barca turn to Prem boss and German trio

With Arteta’s future set to lay at the Emirates for the long haul, Barcelona have reportedly compiled a four-man list of alternatives.

Brighton’s in-demand Roberto De Zerbi is mentioned in the piece. De Zerbi is also on the radars of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, though lags behind Xabi Alonso who is the favoured choice at both Liverpool and Bayern.

The other three managers Barcelona are casting their eye over are all German – Hansi Flick, Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann.

Alonso is admired at the Camp Nou, though Barcelona expect the Bayer Leverkusen boss will wind up at Liverpool or Bayern.

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