What constitutes a “certainty” these days? What about a “done deal”? Well, if you follow the daily transfer rumour sagas that play out in the blogosphere or in the sports pages with some degree of belief, this was not a good week for Arsenal. Far from hearing about record breaking signings and exciting young attackers and midfielders that were assuredly on the brink of a photo op with an Arsenal shirt, the stories this week might have you believe that the best laid plans are, well, about to get blown to pieces. The silence from France (the apparent epicenter of the club’s most lusty ambitions) has been excruciating for some.
Let’s take a look at how some of these Arsenal related transfer rumours are developing.
I’m sorry Gooners! I just had to put this one first! If you aren’t laughing at the suggestion, you should be. Arsene Wenger could be accused of many things throughout his career, but he has always been consistent on the importance of high character individuals. Whether it be William Gallas or Emmanuel Adebayor, Wenger has not put up with antics that hurt the team, no matter how talented the player might be. The Frenchman’s zen like philosophy on the club as a community relies on harmony for success (If only the club had a motto that this represents…) and with Diego Costa, harmony becomes an abstract idea. The bullish and undeniably gifted striker is equally as capable of losing a match for his team as he is winning it, and to a seemingly close knit and familial club, his presence would be as unwelcome as a white and blue home hit. Those that believe Arsenal lack a certain fight, both physical and mental have found a logical partner Diego Costa on paper, but in the real world the Gunners are equally as likely to get Antonio Conte as an assistant manager for next season. A truly silly rumour.
Another week, another winger reported to be in demand in North London. This time it’s RB Leipzig’s own Swedish star, Emil Forsberg. At 25 he finally became a household name in Germany, finishing the season with 8 goals and 19 assists for the newly promoted side, helping to power them to a shocking second place finish in the Bundesliga. With this seeming such a total Arsene Wenger move, with him being lesser known, a creative attacker, and rather far down the fans’ wishlist, the only question remaining is whether the papers will call him the ‘New Ozil’ or the ‘New Ljungberg’ when he dutifully signs on. Well, that is of course if you don’t believe additional reports that claim RB Leipzig will refuse to sell their principal creator, though that is sometimes code for “our player’s aspirations have outgrown our club, but we still want to hold out for a ton of money”. This could be one of those reports that is everywhere when it first hits but then quickly fizzles. In my opinion, at 25, he is not looking to go to a team where he could get lost on the bench, so if he is to move this summer, he will probably look for assurances of a place in a starting 11.
A newer name to pop up in connection with Arsenal, but one that already attributes the Gunners with a likely £10 million bid. Golovin, who plays in central midfield, but also sees some time on the flank, is only 21, having successfully broken into the CSKA first team in 2015. He is not a prolific goal creator, but he is a smooth customer in the centre of the pitch, providing a reliable link between the defence and the attack. Wenger had mixed results the last time he looked to Eastern Europe for his last major signing from the region, Alex Arshavin, who flashed brilliance at times for the Gunners, so it would be interesting to see if he pulls the trigger. With an industrious and fearlessly front footed style reminiscent of Aaron Ramsey, his signing could very well end up being met with a collective groan from a fanbase clamouring for another star, but if he fulfills his potential, it may turn out to be a prudent signing. I give this one a decent chance of happening, given his agent’s first reaction to an Arsenal question was “Nice information”…
As I said before, this was mostly a negative Arsenal news week, at least in terms of progress, as that seems to have affected recently linked players as well. Kylian Mbappe has been spending the week with the French national team, so a decision on his future should hopefully follow shortly afterwards. It seems that some publications have figured out what Alexandre Lacazette is valued at, with that number coming in around £53 million, which in this market could very well end up being a bargain. Elsewhere, Henry Onyekuru has allegedly stated that wherever he goes, he would like playing time assurances. This could cause some concern for the Gunners, as Onyekuru, despite his immense talent, is still only just 20, and playing time at Arsenal is a fierce competition. One cannot blame a young player who understands the importance of his development though.
There is also a story that I had initially been dismissive of that refuses to go away. James Rodriguez has decided that he doesn’t not want to waste his talent on the bench at Real Madrid any longer. The mercurial Colombian midfielder/winger is undoubtedly talented, but Arsenal have enough talent, it is the winning mentality that seems to be in short supply. However, with the reports of Alexis Sanchez leaving picking up steam recently (more on this in a moment), it seems that a talent shortage could also rear its ugly head for the Gunners. In that case, I would reluctantly pursue the Colombian, hoping all the while that consistent playing time would bring out his best. Not one I want to see happen, as I feel that it will mean that Sanchez has moved on.
The Mass Exodus
That bad news I spoke of? With the caveat that these are indeed transfer rumours, and far from reported fact, there were many troubling stories this week regarding Arsenal players potentially leaving. It is a worryingly talented list of players allegedly beating their way toward an Emirates exit.
Though stories of the Chilean leaving are far from a new occurrence, the latest are that he is actually on the verge of signing for Manchester City at a club record £275,000 a week in a wages. This screams of wishful thinking by some, and revisionist thinking by others. It is clear that a popular narrative this summer is one of an Arsenal club in collapse: a stagnant squad with an over the hill manager. The fact is, however, that Arsenal are no further from a title than Manchester City, and despite Pep Guardiola’s past brilliance, he has yet to actually prove his tactics can win the Premier League. Beyond that, Arsene Wenger will also likely refuse to sell Sanchez to a direct rival, particularly with other major clubs interested. Expect to see the token, too soon “Welcome to City!” YouTube videos, but ultimately, no sky blue shirt for Alexis Sanchez
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
Oh good, it isn’t just interest now, but a valuation and/or offer of £40 million. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it would be a monumentally silly decision for the former Southampton star to make. It is yet another instance of the delusioned media describing a lateral move as an improvement for a player who would most likely be better suited to staying put. This is currently still deemed unlikely in my book.
Finally, we have the last major, oft repeated rumour, Hector Bellerin to Barcelona. Earlier this week saw the Spaniard being absolutely abused on social media by Arsenal “fans” who used the reports of him leaving as an excuse to question his gender identity, sexuality and talents, among anything else these people could think of. To Bellerin’s credit, he refused to listen to the overreactions of some misguided fans, instead writing the simple message “Don’t believe everything you read.” It is nice to see one of these stories at the pushback phase, as it seems that most of the online and print media would really like to sell us all on a failing club about to lose its best players. Bellerin stays. Period.