Arsenal ignored advice from their own head scout before signing Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez in the summer of 2016, a report in The Athletic has revealed.
It claims that Francis Cagigao, the club’s head of international scouting, and his staff warned the club against signing the pair but were ignored, with the Gunners splashing out over £50million to bring them to the Emirates.
Mustafi was signed for £35million from Spanish side Valencia, while striker Perez was recruited from Deportivo La Coruna for £17.1million on deadline day of the summer transfer window almost four years ago.
The Gunners finished fifth in the Premier League that season, the first time they had failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League since the 1997/98 campaign, and poor recruitment was heavily blamed for their disappointing year.
The Athletic’s report explains how the club, still managed by Arsene Wenger at the time, overruled their scouting team’s recommendation before pursuing other transfer options.
“One such case was Shkodran Mustafi. When Arsenal were on the hunt for a new centre-half in the summer of 2016, the German did not figure on the scouting department’s list of recommendations. The statistics made a compelling case for the player and the scouting reports were overruled.
“In the same summer, Arsenal signed Lucas Perez from Deportivo de La Coruna. The club had intended to buy Jamie Vardy, triggering his release clause before the striker decided to remain at Leicester. Perez was on the brink of a move to Everton when an agent working on the deal asked Cagigao whether he’d considered him an option for Arsenal. “Not a chance,” was Cagigao’s response. “He’s a mid-table player.”
“With Arsenal against the clock and under pressure to bring in a striker, they decided to sign Perez anyway. Again, statistics were a factor. That’s the nature of any transfer window: sometimes the deals you can do — the deals you have to do — are not the deals you’d ideally want to do.”
Perez lasted just one season at the Emirates and made just 21 appearances in all competitions before being loaned back to Deportivo La Coruna in 2017/18 and sold permanently to West Ham for just £6.75million in August 2018. The now 31-year-old has since returned to his native Spain after also failing to make an impression with the Hammers.
Mustafi, meanwhile, is still with the Gunners but has failed to win over many fans due to his inconsistent performances and a series of costly mistakes, and he could be sold in the next transfer window with Mikel Arteta looking to strengthen his defensive options.
Manchester United’s Chris Smalling, who has spent the year on loan at AS Roma, is one player who could be arriving wearing the red and white of Arsenal next year, and their chances of signing the 30-year-old have been given a boost after another interested party learned they may struggle to raise the funds to complete a deal.