Former Leeds forward Noel Whelan claims Manchester City could swoop for Bukayo Saka next summer, if Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League.
The Sun reported earlier this week that City and Liverpool are both monitoring England forward Saka’s situation as he enters the final two years of his contract at The Emirates.
And, speaking to Football Insider, Whelan states that City are fully aware of Saka’s desire to play Champions League football.
To that end, Pep Guardiola’s men will dangle that carrot – if the Gunners fail to finish in the top four again.
Transfer expert Fabrizio Romano stated earlier this month that talks between Arsenal and the winger are still ‘ongoing’, with the player’s future a ‘priority’ for Mikel Arteta’s men.
Saka scored an impressive 12 goals and added seven assists in all competitions last season.
And, on that sort of form, Whelan feels Arsenal face a tough task keeping the player.
He told Football Insider: “Man City, much like Liverpool, are always in the race for the top players in the world. And Saka is one of those players.
“Arsenal will understand that he will get attention. And it just highlights the pressure on Arteta to make sure they qualify for the Champions League.
“Some of these players, if they don’t manage that, they will walk away from Arsenal. Especially Saka if he has just one year left.
“Man City will absolutely be aware of that, and they’ll be ready to pounce. They’re looking to bring in players for four or five years – Saka could do that, and maybe even longer.”
The Gunners begin their attempt to finish in the top four with a trip to Crystal Palace on August 5.
Saka’s Man City role unclear
There is no doubt that Saka has the ability to play in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Premier League side, but it’s where he actually fits in that would present an issue for the player.
Riyad Mahrez lines up in Saka’s normal right-wing position at The Etihad, while Phil Foden or Jack Grealish play off the left.
And with City now having a genuine centre-forward in Erling Haaland the opportunity to play as a false No.9 has also gone.
Saka could play as an attacking full-back, a position he has filled before. However, that role is not best suited to his strengths.
But it must be pointed out that this transfer is viewed as one that could happen in 2023. To that end, so much can happen in a year’s time and who knows how City will be fixed then or whether Arsenal may have defied sensible logic and actually gatecrashed the top four.