Arsenal have missed out on some great players. And some less good.

An XI of transfer targets Arsenal dodged a bullet by not signing

From Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Luis Suarez to Yaya Toure, there are countless examples of world-class players that Arsenal tried and failed to sign over the years.

But what about the transfer targets that they can feel relieved about not getting through the door?

For every superstar that’s gone on to shine elsewhere, there are plenty of players that Arsenal pursued that have gone on to show that they were unlikely to have been successes at the Emirates had the Gunners managed to get a deal over the line.

We’ve put together a full XI of transfer targets that Arsenal dodged a bullet by not signing, arranged in a 4-3-3 formation.

GK: Markus Schubert

Back in 2019, Arsenal were said to be close to completing a deal for Schubert, who was then a 21-year-old catching the eye as a promising young ‘keeper at Dynamo Dresden.

It’s said that former head of recruitment Sven Mislintat was keen to bring in the rising star as an understudy to his German compatriot Bernd Leno. Described as a modern goalkeeper and the next Marc Andre ter Stegen, Schubert reportedly rejected Arsenal and instead decided to join Schalke.

But Arsenal won’t look back with any regrets, given the path his career has taken since then. He only made a handful of appearances for Schalke, who got relegated in 2021, and nowadays he’s turning out for one-time Chelsea loan farm Vitesse Arnhem.

RB: Emerson Royal

The Athletic’s David Ornstein reported in 2021 that Arsenal gave “significant consideration” to signing the Brazilian and even got as far as advanced talks with Barcelona.

Instead they ended up bringing in Takehiro Tomiyasu, while Emerson joined their north London rivals Tottenham.

It would be an overstatement to suggest that he’s been a disastrous signing for Spurs, but nor has he pulled up any trees. His infamous red card for a nasty challenge on Gabriel Martinelli in November 2022 is a neat summary of why Arsenal won’t have any regrets over which right-back they ended up with.

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CB: Phil Jones

Going back a bit with this one, Jones turned down both Arsenal and Chelsea to sign for Manchester United in 2011.

The defender certainly had his moments over the years at Old Trafford, and won a Premier League title in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at the club. But it’s also fair to say that he never quite had the career expected, in large part due to injuries.

Who knows how things might have turned out had he signed for Arsenal instead? Maybe he would’ve become the next Duncan Edwards after all, avoiding a few key injuries and working on his issues in a different environment.

We’ll never know. In this reality, Jones is a player that few Arsenal fans will feel gutted about missing out on.

CB: Sergio Ramos

Obviously prime Ramos would’ve been a total game-changer for Arsenal. The Spaniard is one of the greatest and most decorated defenders in the history of football.

But Arsenal never got close to signing peak Ramos. According to GOAL, they tabled a big-money contract to sign him as a 35-year-old when he left Real Madrid after his contract expired in 2021.

His experience might’ve proven valuable in Mikel Arteta’s dressing room, but injury issues reduced him to just eight Ligue 1 starts for PSG in 2021-22.

He did win back-to-back league titles there, and played more regularly in year two, but ultimately Ramos didn’t make enough waves in the French capital to make Arsenal jealous. And with the value of hindsight, he certainly wouldn’t have been worth blocking William Saliba’s pathway into the first team.

LB: Ryan Bertrand

A free agent after leaving Southampton in 2021, Arsenal were keeping close tabs on Bertrand and considered making him an offer. But the club were at their lowest ebb back then, and couldn’t offer him European football, having finished a dismal eighth place in 2020-21.

Leicester City could offer European football and won the race for the left-back’s signature. But he flopped at the King Power and made just four Premier League appearances over the course of his two years there.

We can now only assume he’s retired, having failed to find a new club after being released by the Foxes following relegation last summer. A lucky escape for Arsenal.

CM: Felipe Melo

Now we’re really going back.

“We watched him in Brazil’s international against Italy when he had an outstanding game,” said Wenger back in 2009.

Arsenal wanted to sign the Brazilian, but baulked at Fiorentina’s asking price and Juventus stumped up £22million instead.

He’s had a strange career ever since. He failed to win anything with Juventus or Inter, but picked up lots of silverware with Galatasaray, Palmeiras and Fluminense.

Something about his famously volatile temperament tells us he wouldn’t have been a success at Arsenal. A grand total of 24 career red cards is reason enough to consider this one a bullet dodged.

CM: Thomas Lemar

In 2017, Sky Sports reported that Arsenal tabled an outrageous £92million bid to sign Thomas Lemar from Monaco. He ended up staying put at the Ligue 1 club for another year and later joined Atletico Madrid for a considerably lower fee.

The French midfielder is by no means a bust. He won the World Cup with France in 2018 and was excellent in Atletico’s La Liga title victory of 2020-21, but he hasn’t done enough to suggest that he was ever worth £92million.

Lemar has comprehensively been overshadowed by the likes of Fabinho, Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva when it comes to Monaco’s title-winning side of 2016-17.

QUIZ: Can you name every French player to appear for Arsenal in the Premier League?

AMC: Joao Felix

Having fallen out of favour under Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, Joao Felix was made available for a half-season loan last January – and Arsenal were among the clubs said to be chasing him.

Chelsea ended up winning out. The Portuguese playmaker had a few moments during his short stint at Stamford Bridge, but he definitely didn’t do enough to suggest that he would’ve got Arsenal over the line in the Premier League title race.

FWR: Mykhaylo Mudryk

Widely regarded as one of the most exciting young attackers in European football during his time at Shakhtar Donetsk, it’s interesting to ponder how Mudryk might have developed had he joined Arsenal after such a long-running transfer saga last season.

Working under Arteta, and in a more settled environment that appears more conducive to getting the best out of talented attackers, might have seen Mudryk look the part.

Instead, all we can go off is what we’ve seen at the comparatively dysfunctional Chelsea, where he’s looked raw and pacey but desperately lacking in terms of composure and decision-making in the final third.

As we are, you can only imagine that Arsenal are relieved their flirtations with Mudryk didn’t lead to anything in the end.

READ: Revisiting every stage of Mykhailo Mudryk’s flirtation with Arsenal

ST: Mario Balotelli

Described in the tabloids as “Arsenal’s number one transfer target” after missing out on Luis Suarez in the summer of 2014, AC Milan were reportedly looking to offload the Italian striker.

Balotelli did end up moving back to the Premier League that summer, joining Liverpool… for whom he scored just one league goal.

FWL: Jadon Sancho

“I wanted to take him from Man City when he didn’t get the games,” Arsene Wenger recalled on an appearance on beIN Sports in 2019.

“I tried to lure him because he’s from London. I tried to get him to Arsenal. He’s one of the best players of his generation.”

On the one hand, you can consider this an opportunity missed. Sancho instead moved to Borussia Dortmund, where he demonstrated his immense talent and became one of the most in-demand youngsters in Europe.

But you look at the way things have since gone for Sancho at Manchester United and you question whether he would’ve fared any better for what was – at the time – an equally underperforming, underwhelming Arsenal side.

Arsenal's full XI of transfers they missed out on

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