Emi Buendia has left Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta red-faced after making his transfer decision.
The Gunners have been dealt a huge blow already this summer with priority target Buendia ready to agree a transfer to Aston Villa.
The Argentine playmaker has been a long-term target at Arsenal as Arteta aims to fill the creative hole in his below-par squad.
But the north London club look set to miss out after Villa moved ahead in the race to sign the creative midfielder.
Villa have agreed a fee of around £35m for the services of Buendia, who was named Championship player of the season for his exploits with Norwich.
The 24-year-old was integral in the Canaries gaining immediate promotion back to the top flight by notching 15 goals and 16 assists.
And his signature will represent a real coup for Dean Smith’s Villa, who are aiming to build on their 11th place finish last time out.
Arsenal, meanwhile, finished just six points ahead of Villa in eighth and Buendia’s move to the Midlands is an early blow in a critical summer transfer window.
Who should Arsenal target after missing out on Emi Buendia? Comment below
Inexperienced boss Arteta claimed last month that every player Arsenal were focusing on signing were keen to move to the Emirates.
“Every player that we have been linked with, or we had some communication with, I haven’t seen one that was refusing to come here,” he said.
“[It’s] completely the opposite. Everybody is very willing to join our club.”
But those comments have now been made to look foolish after the Norwich starlet appears to have escaped their grasp.
Buendia is set to become Villa’s first signing of the summer and could already make the Gunners turn to plan B options.
Arsenal missed out on any form of European football for the first time in 25 years last season after an extremely underwhelming campaign.
The nadir came in the Europa League semi-final defeat to Villarreal at the Emirates, as Arteta’s tentative side bowed out of the competition with a whimper.
Defeat to the La Liga side, managed by former boss Unai Emery ended any fading hopes of elite European competition.
And that could have a huge impact on their attraction for potential transfer targets in this window.
Arteta is under serious pressure and is expected to embark on a huge rebuild as he aims to shape a side capable of competing domestically again.
The Gunners only managed to score 55 goals across 38 league games last term and Buendia’s ingenuity and flair could have helped unlock defences next term.
But Villa’s exciting show of ambition has left Arteta with a stark reality check and Arsenal’s rebuild has become even more challenging.