I’m back! As if you couldn’t tell by the convoluted title. A week in the fresh air will do a soul plenty of good you know, especially when those woods have been blessed with the gift of internet access since last I visited. And it’s a good thing too, because I would have missed the transfer market being blown to pieces by some exceptionally wealthy men.
Yes, the PSG purchase of Neymar for an absolutely ludicrous €222 million from Barcelona has completely shattered whatever imaginary glass ceiling that the Oligarch class of owners had up until now at least pretended to respect. Still hoping to get Mbappe for under £140 million now Arsene? Keep dreaming. Think you’ll ever be able to buy a thoroughly average fullback for under £50 million again Pep? Don’t waste my time. And Ed Woodward, well… he will spend silly money no matter what.
Of course, we cannot avoid the giant, diamond encrusted elephant in the room. Because PSG is going to have some explaining to do. The Quatari run club should at least get together with FIFA and work on how they are going to make the deal look FFP (Financial Fair Play) compliant, because if there are two things that will never change in football, they are the utter toothlessness of FFP in stopping these clubs from doing whatever they want, and FIFA will choose the most corrupt option. But still, I find myself most annoyed at how much this helps Barcelona, both in giving them some much needed financial breathing room, as well as the equivalent of the entire GDP of the Repubic of Kiribati to play with in the last month of the transfer window. Expect them to do so.
Grading the Signings (So Far)
I know, I know. Arsene Wenger is slow to pull the trigger on the market. It would be easier to get the money for a big transfer from a pre-enlightenment Ebenezer Scrooge. Give the average fan his budget, and Thomas Lemar would have been here 3 weeks ago for £60+ million, or whatever Monaco are asking for.
But alas, Wenger considers so many more factors than the average fan. Having just broken the team’s transfer record to buy Alexandre Lacazette, would it negatively impact the team to spend £10 million more on a 21 year old player who would not even be guaranteed a place in theo starting XI? How would Lacazette feel about being displaced already as Arsenal’s most expensive signing by his younger compatriot? How would Giroud feel, sure to make less than his newly arrived teammate in wages? Would Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez see it as a sign of intent from the club, or would Alexis in particular see it as a younger player in the same position ready to replace him, as Arsenal’s quest for profitable mediocrity continues? And finally, is Lemar prepared to force his way out of Monaco in such a way that leaves them no choice but to sell him? Gooners will be hoping that this transfer doesn’t end up going the way of the 6 years of the Karim Benzema saga
Sead Kolasinac: A-
In what will surely go down as one of the best pieces of business of the summer, new signing Sead Kolasinac is rapidly becoming a favorite of the fans. When you score a tying goal against Chelsea in the nearest thing to a competitive match in your club career, you can expect such treatment from the Emirates faithful. Even Arsene Wenger, usually so careful to not add additional pressure on a new player was nearly effusive in his praise.
Built more like a rugby player than a footballer, Kolasinac represents the perfect sort of Wenger signing; young, talented and in on a free. His bulk hides the true extent of his pace, although with that sort of mass to move, he is not what you would call agile. Having come from the Bundesliga, his transition will be less drastic than Lacazette’s will be from Ligue 1, but despite Wenger’s hesitance to throw him to the lions in he Community Shield, he found himself on the pitch for the final hour after a worse-than-it-looked gash to the face of Per Mertesacker forced the captain off. He would make his mark with something very solid defensive work, and he flashed some quality in the air on his authoritative equalising header.
One good game does not mean he has fully acclimatised, however, and he will still need time to get used to the nonstop intensity of the English top flight. Despite his quality going forward as a fullback or wing back, the system he played in at Schalke was a lot more direct that Arsenal’s with his favourite move being a low whipped cross across the goal mouth. In North London, he will be expected to combine down the flanks or perhaps slide towards the middle to to bolster numbers in the centre of the park. His versatility means that there will be plenty of opportunities on the pitch for him this season, and once he catches up to the pace of the Premier League, he could very well become a force for the Gunners for many years to come.
Alexandre Lacazette: B
Now let’s be clear about something: this is just his grade so far. The Chelsea match was the first in which his full range of clever movement was a consistent factor, and he put a bending strike just off the post which, despite it not being a goal, was an excellent preview of the sort of goal the clinical Lacazette is capable of scoring.
Obviously in need of adding some strength to his frame to bang around in the box with the Premier League’s ultra physical defenders, Lacazette has shown glimpses of his talent since joining before the summer tour in Australia and China. As he settles into the team, his grade will almost certainly rise, but he has not yet been a huge factor for the Gunners.
With many wanting to make the comparison to Ian Wright, Lacazette has a ways to go to equal the Arsenal legend’s prolific career in North London. Far from the towering presence of his fellow countryman, Olivier Giroud, Lacazette instead gets his goals with his incredible short area burst, as well as a poacher’s sense of when to arrive in the box ready to bury a pass or loose ball. As Arsene Wenger has suggested, he will need time to acclimate himself to the Premier League, but there is little doubt in my mind that he will succeed for Arsenal. He excels when combining with his teammates, and the return of both Ozil and and Alexis should make the Gunner attack as dangerous as it has been in years..
In the continued Thomas Lemar saga, some fans have become concerned that deal may not happen. Despite the reports from last month claiming that Lemar wants to come to Arsenal, Monaco are in no hurry to keep selling the entire squad that brought them a surprise Ligue 1 title last year. As a result, writers and the team alike have been widening their focus into the search for another young forward/winger to add to the squad.
Last week, I had mentioned Lucas Moura of PSG might potentially be available for the Gunners should they try to enhance their attacking options before the end of the window. In 2012, PSG paid a whopping £45 million for the winger, and the with his electric pace and dribbling ability it was easy to see why.
As predominantly a right footed left winger, Lucas could do much to add depth for the Gunners should Alexis decide that it is time to leave. Despite never having lived up to his massive potential, Lucas is still plainly talented and Arsene Wenger is known for helping to unlock the potential of players like him. With Neymar now in Paris, Moura is likely looking for another team with which to ply his trade this summer. Why not take a chance? If not, there is always Ousmane Dembele right?
Deadwood Getting the Message?
Oh, to be a handsomely paid backup in the Premier League. Well, that’s not quite right. Due to their peculiar socialist wage system, Arsenal are the best of the bunch if all you want for several prime years of your career is a fat wage packet.
Despite the messages being quite clear this summer, to date there has been very little movement at the back end of the Gunners’ squad. Depending on who you ask, Lucas Perez, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson, Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers and Mohammed Elneny could all find themselves turning out for a different clubs by the end of August. With the exception of Lucas Perez, none of the players seem in a particular hurry to leave. With such bloated wages, it is highly unlikely that Arsenal will receive anything approaching market value for these players unless they offer to offset the cost of the payer’s new wages. Ultimately, one feels the Perez, Debuchy and Jenkinson are the most likely to leave by then end of the window, with the remaining players surviving at the club until at least the winter window.
What do you think Gooners? Are you excited for the season? What would you do in the last month of the window to get this team over the top?