The Pre-season is upon us! It seems only a few days ago we were celebrating yet another FA Cup victory and Jose Mourinho shockingly had yet to grossly overpay for a player. And yet here we are, with the team landing safely in Australia, stuffed to the gills in brand new Arsenal merchandise. Oh, and Mourinho finally spent silly money!
The “Special One” (a moniker that loses a bit of its shine every single day) is spending £75 million on the worst first touch in the Premier League in Romelu Lukaku. That price, of course, doesn’t include the enormous fee that will undoubtedly find its way into super agent and Manchester United chief recruiter, Mino Raiola’s pocket. Manchester United are getting their man about one week after Arsenal were successfully able to snap up Alexandre Lacazette for the comparative bargain of £52 million + add-ons.
It could be said that both teams got the right sort of player for their clubs, yet both come in with extremely large price tags and question marks about each of their skill sets. Lacazette has been prolific the last 3 seasons at Olympique Lyonnais in Ligue 1, but despite the massive tracts of untapped potential throughout the French league, the pace, tactics, and physicality of the Premier League are a different level. Arsenal will be counting on him to bag a proper striker’s haul of goals in his first season at the Emirates, with many fans expecting him to pot more than 20. It remains to be seen how well he adapts to the new league, but generally, quickness, intelligence, and composure in front of goal are traits that tend to stick with players, regardless of which league they play in.
For Romelu Lukaku, who scored 25 last season for Everton, the production in the Premier League is already there. An extremely raw talent when he first arrived in England, Lukaku is still more of an imposing physical talent than he is a technician of the game. With United’s ability to pepper balls into the box all game long, and the 24-year-old still very much improving, it would not be a surprise to see his goal tally rise. But is he worth that much more than Lacazette? Fans will naturally look to see which club got the better deal next season, but I believe both clubs got players that fit what they are trying to do.
Thanks, But You Can Go Now
Although the majority of the team are participating in the club’s tour of Australia and bits of Asia, several players have stayed behind. For some, including the infuriatingly coy Alexis Sanchez, their omission from the squad is due to the need for rest after participating in summer tournaments. Both Alexis and Shkodran Mustafi (Germany) played in the Confederations Cup and young centre back duo Rob Holding and Calum Chambers saw action with the England u21s, as did Hector Bellerin with Spain.
For the remaining players still in England, including, Wojciech Szczesny, Mathieu Debuchy, Lucas Perez, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs, some could be in different shirts by the time their teammates return home. All indications are that Lucas Perez will be returning, rather less triumphantly this time, to Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga after a difficult season in which he was impressive, but scarcely on the pitch for any impactful minutes during the season, seeing most of his time in League Cup matches. This will most likely be Perez’s second return to his hometown club from abroad, and his story is one that illustrates how a big transfer figure and a new wage packet are not always enough to insure a player is able to settle in at a club. One really feels for the striker, and he is sure to head back to Spain with a few more fans amongst the Arsenal faithful.
If Lucas Perez is moving back down to a comfortable club, it seems that goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has most likely earned himself a move to Juventus in order to replace Italian legend, Gianluigi Buffon. It is plain to see that the Polish keeper made the most of his time at Roma, now attracting the interest of one of the world’s best clubs.
It is a bit interesting to see the hesitant reaction to the news, and there are some fans clambering to keep the long time Arsenal man in town. It seems that many forget the years of struggle he had at Arsenal, with moments of brilliance too often marred by stoppable shots leaking through and in infamous shower cigarette incident that initially earned him his first season shipped out on loan to Roma. His retention makes sense for both the player and the club, but in reality, perhaps a fresh start at another club is best for Sczcesny, while Arsenal can now turn their attention the bringing in the next promising young goalkeeper.
It seems that despite Arsene Wenger squeezing the most out of his team last season after switching to the 3-4-2-1, requiring versatile players for the wingback role, he is seemingly not impressed with the full-backs he has available for selection in his squad. Kieran Gibbs is the most likely of the trio to land an impact role for a Premier League club, with Newcastle United rumoured to be interested. It probably would take somewhere in the £10-20 million range to get a deal for Gibbs done.
For both Carl Jenkinson and Mathieu Debuchy, life at Arsenal has gone far from according to plan. As most are familiar, Debuchy was signing to be a starter from Newcastle in 2014. In a common occurrence for the Frenchman, it would be injuries that would force Hector Bellerin into the starting XI for the first time, and the rest they say, is history.
For Jenkinson, he has seen his young career similarly undone by injuries, including a major knee injury suffered while on loan at West Ham United. After returning, Jenkinson seemed to suffer a crisis of confidence, and despite the dire need for a reliable right-sided fullback this past season, he quickly found himself on the outside looking in on both the squad and the fan’s affections. What Jenkinson needs most of all is a nice mid-table side where he can go and rebuild his fragile psyche. A change of scenery will do him well.
A Quiet Extension?
Though nothing has been confirmed, there has been elevated chatter the last few days about the possibility that an announcement on an Ozil extension is imminent. The German has had a much less dramatic summer than his Chilean partner in crime, Alexis Sanchez, choosing instead to relax on Holliday and satisfy his new sponsorship with a Mercedes-Benz and nearly daily selfie sessions in his driveway.
It is thought that the German playmaker will be receiving approximately a doubling of wages, with rumours ranging anywhere from £200k-£350k a week in new wages. Though he was always bound to attract less attention than Sanchez this off-season, given his languid style and patchy performances last season, he has also never given the same sort of messages of discontent that seem to leak out of Alexis’ camp on a weekly basis. Here is hoping this rumour is true, as locking up a player of his calibre should be seen as top priority business at the Emirates.
A Ridiculous Rumour
Some of the latest stories have Arsenal redoubling their efforts to sign Southampton lock down defender, Virgil Van Dijk. Valued at a staggering £70 million, the St. Mary’s star caused havoc for many an attacker last season, attracting the interests of England’s biggest clubs in the process. In fact, a move to Liverpool was all but a done deal until Jurgen Klopp decided to emulate Chelsea’s Ashley Cole capture a decade ago, scuppering the move amid reports of a ‘tapping up’.
£70 million is an obnoxious fee to pay for a defender, but Southampton will find a suitor in the deep pockets of the big 6. Van Dijk is the sort of physical presence you notice on the pitch, but with other needs around the pitch, and already 4/5 of the back line are younger, ascendant players. He would be one hell of a luxury for Arsenal, but one that should prove prohibitively expensive in the end. Look for Mourinho to make another stupid offer this summer to lock down a player of Van Dijk’s quality.
Finally, recent reports have shown that not only are Arsenal definitely interested in Thomas Lemar, but they have already put in a second, improved bid for him to Monaco. All indications are that the player is interested in a move to North London, and some have even stated that personal terms between player and club have already been agreed. Whether or not this deal goes through(and rest assured, Wenger wants the player, not season ticket sales, as the old conspiracy goes), the implication is clear: Arsene Wenger and Arsenal are here to do business this summer.
What say you Gooners? Are we satisfied with the direction of the club this summer? Is Arsene identifying good players? Which big club will Van Dijk eventually sign with? As always, for those answers and more, we will be back with the Midweek Memo!