Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves faces a battle to win over Arsenal’s fans and players if he completes a transfer to the Gunners this summer. The Portugal international has been linked with a move to North London when the transfer window reopens in July, but a recent outburst about how the club’s players celebrate Premier League victories might go against him.
Arsenal have beaten Wolves home and away this season, with both victories coming as Mikel Arteta’s side grabbed hold of the fourth place in the top-flight. They have since relinquished the position and face a battle with local rivals Tottenham to qualify for the Champions League.
In February, a 10-man Arsenal side won 1-0 at Molineux, managing to hold on after Gabriel’s early goal despite Gabriel Martinelli’s red card. Just 14 days later, the two teams met again, with Arsenal winning 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium thanks to Jose Sa’s 95th-minute own goal.
After the second game, midfielder Neves – who is reportedly now a ‘top target’ for Arteta per Sky Sports – criticised Arsenal for the way they celebrated, implying it was elation more akin to winning the Premier League. “We saw the way they celebrated the win and that shows the level we are,” he said. “I didn’t see Arsenal celebrating like this in the past 10 years – it was like they won the league.”
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Arsenal boss Arteta responded in his post-match press conference, saying: “I encouraged them to celebrate every victory. Because you can tell how difficult it is in this game to win football matches. Our supporters are the same, every time we win we should celebrate because when you lose or draw you know the faces are always [sad].”
Aston Villa’s Ashley Young has since made a similar observation to Neves. Bukayo Saka’s goal clinched a crucial 1-0 win over the Villans in early April. “The way Arsenal celebrated at the end, it was as if they had already qualified for the Champions League,” he told Villa’s in-house channel. “We want it to be a hard place to come, Villa Park, that is the ambition of the club, and it shows that they do see this as a big three points.”
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Arsenal are likely to make a wealth of changes to their squad in the summer transfer window. Sky Sports claim 25-year-old Neves is a ‘top target’ but Wolves have slapped a price tag between £50m and £60m on his head.
Arteta will likely replenish his forward, too, as he faces the unique challenge of needing to replace all three strikers with whom he started the season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has already departed, while Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah both see their contracts expire in the summer.
Arsenal failed with a bid for Dusan Vlahovic in January, with the Serbian instead opting to join Juventus from Fiorentina. Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Lille’s Jonathan David and Benfica’s Darwin Nunez have been widely suggested as possible striker targets.