Jack Grealish could be on his way out of Aston Villa this summer.
But not to Arsenal like some fans have been dreaming of ever since the January transfer window when he, at one point, was leading a football.london poll with regards to who should be next to wear the iconic No.10 shirt which became vacant following Mesut Ozil’s move to Fenerbahce.
Whilst that has since been taken by Emile Smith Rowe, it was a clear message to Mikel Arteta and Edu that Grealish would have been the perfect summer signing.
Instead, all signs are pointing towards the Villa captain making a big-money move to Manchester City.
It has been confirmed via various news outlets that the reigning Premier League champions have made an English record £100m bid for the England international after Pep Guardiola made the 25-year-old one of his major targets this summer.
And there’s still talk of a move for Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane.
Whether or not City can pull off a stunning £250m double swoop remains to be seen, but taking Grealish away from Villa Park can be great news for Arsenal and Arteta.
Now, the Gunners and Villa aren’t actually rivals nor are they seen as two teams with the same ambitions and targets at the start of any season. But should they be?
There certainly feels like something is developing between the two clubs which was heightened earlier in the summer when Villa made two bids for Smith Rowe.
Of course, the attacking midfielder did commit his future to the Gunners by signing a new long-term contract, but for Villa to think they had a chance of tempting him away from the Emirates Stadium did feel a little opportunistic.
Keep in mind, this was after Villa beat Arsenal to the signing of Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City.
On social media, there were a lot of jokes being made at the Gunners’ expense, with some rival fans suggesting that Villa were on their level or were on the verge of overtaking them.
To that point, Villa have beaten Arsenal three times in a row without conceding and were on course to finish above Arteta’s side on the Premier League table in mid-February.
Following a goalless draw away at Brighton and Hove Albion on February 13, Villa sat eighth, five points clear of Arsenal with a game in hand and there was talk of a push for Europe.
However, an injury to Grealish derailed their season.
The attacking midfielder subsequently missed a dozen games in a row – a run that saw Villa pick up just six points from a possible 36 and it can’t be a coincidence that they beat both Tottenham and Chelsea following his return to the starting XI.
His long-term absence perhaps was the biggest factor behind Arsenal overtaking Villa to finish six points above them.
And that could be a sign for what’s to come next season.
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The transfer window is in full swing and things are beginning to ramp up with Edu and Mikel Arteta’s dealings at the Emirates.
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Whilst Villa have signed Buendia and are closing in on a deal for Leon Bailey, replacing Grealish won’t be a simple task and one could argue they will be significantly weaker without their talisman.
Admittedly, Arsenal are yet to make any real significant progress following their eight-placed finish and still have a lot of work to do if they are to challenge for a top-six spot or even higher next season.
But they may not have to look nervously over their shoulders at teams such as Villa overtaking or dragging them into another top-eight/top-10 battle.
And after keeping hold of Smith Rowe, this could be another way to put Villa back in their place and end any suggestion of a rivalry simmering between the clubs.
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