Is Kylian Mbappe the final piece of Mikel Arteta's Arsenal masterpiece?

Kylian Mbappe is set to leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer when his contract ends, as reports say that Mbappe has told PSG he won’t sign a new deal.

A report says that Mbappe moving to Real Madrid is far from a certainty, as has been long suspected. There are few clubs that can afford Mbappe, and he's been linked to Liverpool and Arsenal as the two giants fight for status at the top of the Premier League.

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What's made the once-crazy idea that Arsenal could smash their wage structure by capturing Mbappe sound more realistic? Well, reports that Mbappe admires the idea of doing what Thierry Henry did for the Gunners, as well as Mikel Arteta's willingness to give more than a non-answer when asked about the 25-year-old.

Now, consider how Arteta has slowly transformed Arsenal since moving from Pep Guardiola's side at Man City, how he's added piece after piece to make something that's gone from — sorry Arsenal fans — a sort of Man City junior into a Man City variant capable of overtaking the champs.

Is Kylian Mbappe the final piece to real level footing? Obviously the Gunners and Liverpool are neck-and-neck with Man City this year, but Mbappe is the sort of variable that can take a team into a league of its own. Or, if you're super high on Pep's Man City, a league that includes one peer.

What Mikel Arteta said about Kylian Mbappe and Arsenal

For context, here's Mikel Arteta's response to being asked whether Arsenal could be a realistic destination for Mbappe.

"Why not?," he told reporters on Friday morning. "If we want to be the best team, we are going to need the best talent and the best players, that is for sure."

He did not go much deeper than that, though it is telling that Arteta was willing to go further than praising Mbappe but pointing out that he's a PSG player.

"I am not [in any conversations about signing Mbappe)," he said. "Maybe Edu and the owners are, but I am not in those conversations until the last stage."

Why Kylian Mbappe would ‘complete’ Arteta’s Arsenal project

I used the argue that Manchester United had lost some of its luster because it was no longer luring in the very best players in the world on reputation alone, even debating whether United required a Neymar-like signing to puff its chest out as one of the, if not the biggest brand in the world.

In signing Mbappe, Arsenal can justify a massive, wage-scale shattering salary by the lack of a transfer fee. And with Mbappe a young 25 — he's a late December birthday — they could in theory control one of the world's very best players in his prime and still hold a resale value at the end of his deal, when a conglomeration can pay them and the player money and change the M in MLS to Mbappe (or something similar somewhere else).

Arteta was hired by Arsenal on December 20, 2019, and his roster revolution really didn't begin until the Summer of 2020 but even those felt like deals to steady the center of the park: Gabriel Magalhaes at center back and Thomas Partey in the midfield. Martin Odegaard came on loan in January, a home run swing that just happened to turn into a grand slam. And Arsenal showed some might by ponying up the money for him that summer. It was a sign that Arsenal might be on its way back and Arsenal a real player.

The Gunners went from eighth to fifth, and would leap into the title conversation after one more summer. That's when Arsenal bought a pair of players from Arteta's old haunt, Man City. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus arrived, and another player with title credentials arrived in Jorginho.

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This season saw Arsenal add Rodri and Ederson — er, Declan Rice and David Raya. Arteta had installed his vision and his discipline, and now he could continue its development by going big on the difference between City and Arsenal — a better ball-playing keeper and a complete force in the middle of the park.

During this time Arteta also further developed Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and — along with some loans — William Saliba.

So what's missing? What's the Arsenal equivalent to Man City taking the next step with Erling Haaland, Liverpool adding Virgil van Dijk, or in a different way N'Golo Kante showing up (with Antonio Conte) to take Chelsea from 10th to first. As an aside, how did he not win the next Ballon d'Or?

Arsenal, with respect to the very good but very injury challenged Gabriel Jesus, is missing that guy up top. The guy who takes the assist totals for Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka from 10-15 and who boosts their goals totals by two or three each as well.

And it says something to the rest of the transfer market, too. It says that Arsenal is committed to being a title contender year after year, not just in a short window. Like the Declan Rice signing, it demands every big name player have the name Arsenal in their heads along with Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid, or PSG.

This is the way to right a wrong, Arsenal. And the guy who's got you thinking Wenger thoughts again clearly agrees with the idea.