It’s summer transfer season Gooners!
It is understandable to feel, as an Arsenal fan, some ingrained apprehension this time of year. Only a few years ago, the month of May was usually reserved for the painful goodbye of at least one key contributor from the previous season. In 2013 that all changed, of course, with the signing of Mesut Özil, but that did not happen until the window had all but slammed shut. In fact, the only time in recent memory we have seen Arsenal act quickly to open a transfer window was last year, with the acquisition of midfielder Granit Xhaka almost immediately.
Never before, however, have we seen this: barely June, and there is talk from reputable sources that Arsenal may be bidding upwards of £100 million on one player. While Wenger only talks of 2 or 3 signings this summer, he insists they must be only of top quality. It seems that there is cautious optimism from some apprehensive fans: does he finally get it?
Optimism there may be, but we are Arsenal fans, and that is NOT how we like to think, is it? So first, let’s take a look at some players reported to be on the way out:
Lucas Perez has all but been confirmed to be on his way out of the club after only one season in North London. Though he impressed in limited action, he never seemed to earn Arsene Wenger’s trust, and was consequently unceremoniously left on the bench for much of the campaign. He is a nice player to have waiting in the wings should anyone get injured, but at 28, he is too talented to waste the remainder of his career on the bench for a club that he has no real loyalty for. A loss to be sure, but with the club seemingly targeting goalscorers this summer, it may be the best option for both parties. He will go to either Spain or Turkey, and I rate this one as nearly certain to happen.
David Ospina also looks a lock to be on his way out. The shorter, stockier built Colombian was never an ideal fit for the war zones that are Premier League penalty areas, but he came up huge in several Cup matches during his Arsenal career, most recently against Chelsea to win the FA Cup. With inconsistent form and an all time great in front of him in the pecking order, he seems to be ready to chase a starting spot elsewhere. Turkey looks a likely destination for Ospina.
Elsewhere looking likely to leave, Matthieu Debuchy has certainly been angling for his departure for what seems like two years now, and fellow underperforming right back Carl Jenkinson may also be in search of a new club after finding his confidence in short supply after returning from a lengthy layoff. Joel Campbell, out on loan at Porto in Portugal, has struggled to make any impact at all with his temporary club, and with the emergence of Alex Iwobi a season ago, Campbell is no longer even needed as a backup. Considering his drop in the Costa Rican national team player rankings, he will be anxious to find a club that values his skills, which at one point two seasons ago had many fans calling for the sale of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Fortune has seemed to smile a lot brighter in the Ox’s career since then, and he has most likely seen off Campbell’s bid for his position for good.
The final player I would rate as having a good chance of leaving is Wojciech Szczesny, the keeper who has spent the last two seasons on loan in Rome. It seems that Juventus and Napoli are interested in his services as well, potentially creating a small bidding war to cash in on the Polish shot stopper. Though marred with inconsistency in North London, he has been a solid presence in goal during his two years in Italy. Juventus signing him to replace Gianluigi Buffon seems a little suspect to me, but then, I have not seen him nearly as much while he’s been in Italy. Perhaps, if he is so interesting to so many clubs, we ought to consider keeping him at Arsenal for when Cech finally walks away.
In addition to those players who will likely leave, several others have been linked with less likely moves away from the club. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been puzzlingly linked to a lateral move to Liverpool, and of course, there are the token references to Hector Bellerin being an eternal homecoming target of Barcelona. Olivier Giroud was thought to be off to France, but he has since come out to say that he wishes to stay at Arsenal, even if that means staying as an impact sub for another season.
Jack Wilshere is heading in to the last year of his contract, but the continued injury saga of Santi Cazorla may yet give him another opportunity to carve out a niche in this current squad. His future with the club will be largely determined by whether or not Arsene Wenger looks to spend another large chunk of cash on a central midfielder during the summer transfer window. Finally, Nacho Monreal, who has seemingly lost his place already to Sead Kolasinac, or perhaps his backup, Kieran Gibbs, may also leave the club this summer. Though less likely, both current left backs could be plying their trade elsewhere next season.
As for potential arrivals, we start with the mother of all hopeful rumors, and that is of course, 18-year-old wunderkind, Kylian Mbappé. Devestatingly quick and in possession of pull-away pace, Mbappé has everything you could ever want in a striker. As a teenager, he already scores the sort of poacher’s goals that are usually reserved for older more intelligent players. For a slightly taller striker, he has incredible balance and acceleration in tight spaces. Should he actually come to Arsenal, he would be the perfect fit for an attacking side that loves to score on the counter almost as much as they love to breakdown the defense with intricate passing combinations. He can do both well already, and he has yet to scratch the surface of his potential.
Depending on the report, and this is where the optimism shrinks, Arsenal have already, will soon, or are talking about, a bid of €100 million to land his services. Some have claimed this is below a bid already rejected from Real Madrid, but ultimately, it is an assertive statement from a club that dearly wants to fight for a league title.
Another young, talented French attacker that has the versatility to play anywhere behind the striker, Thomas Lemar is part of a fearsome duo with Mbappé at Monaco. He had 14 goals and 14 assists across all competitions last season for Monaco. At 21, he is just starting to reach the most productive part of his career and could be ready to take on one of Europe’s top leagues. An accomplished set piece taker, Lemar possesses many of the skills, including the short, powerful build, that make Alexis Sanchez so successful in the Premier League. It would take the majority of Arsene Wenger’s estimated £100-200 million transfer war chest to sign the dynamic duo from Monaco, but it is certainly a move that would go a long way toward alleviating the strain on a frustrated fanbase.
Easily the least exciting name on this list so far in my eyes, the Barcelona midfielder is once again being linked to the Gunners, who had registered their interest before he made his move to the Nou Camp in 2015. A solid midfielder and wide player who is very strong on the ball, Turan may have trouble winning over the Emirates faithful due to comments he made about the club being a cut below his eventual choice, Barcelona. At 30 years old, he is a luxury signing, and one that I would much rather see happen only if many, many others are no longer available
Are we noticing a pattern yet? There is no questioning the talent Leicester’s Algerian possesses, but after a PFA Player of the Year award quality season in 2015/16, he came crashing back to earth in a disinterested heap last season. He looked slight, sluggish and disengaged for much of the season, leading to some questions about where his median performance actually lies. If Arsenal were in desperate need of some skill, this could very well be a good signing, but for a club high in talent but short on winning mentality, Mahrez is not the best option on the market.
This is a player that felt like a done deal earlier in the week, but the story has since been amended to show that an offer has merely been made. Though the price tag for the Eupen player is far lower than some of the other names on this list, Onyekuru has incredible amounts of skill and pace. Though he is rather selfish on the ball, and in truth, may remind some of Alexis at his most stubborn, this could have something to do with the team he plays with not having the level of talent around him that a club like Arsenal might. The most recent reports suggest that he expects a move to Arsenal after he plays the upcoming Nigerian international schedule. His signing would probably mean players like Lemar and Mahrez are out of the plan, but it probably wouldn’t preclude the club from going after a true out and out striker.
And for our final player on the list of this weeks biggest Arsenal transfer rumours, we try something totally different….erm…a pacey French goalscorer? Ok, I lied, he is very much in the same vein, but this year, the big boys have come for him too. Not only have Arsenal been credited interest, but the Atletico Madrid transfer ban being upheld has forced star Antoine Griezmann to pledge he will stay with the club, possibly setting off its own domino reaction that could determine how a lot of strikers land this summer in the Premier League. Manchester United and Liverpool have both allegedly turned their interest toward the powerful, compact Lyon striker.
So why is he still on our radar? Well, for one thing, he keeps on improving. He scored 37 goals across all competitions, and every year he repeats his high goal output, it makes it less likely to be a fluke. The fact is that Lacazette has improved year on year, morphing from a one tool Theo Walcott type speedster winger into one of the world’s most instinctive and prolific finishers. He has proved more than capable of firing Lyon through difficult spells, and he will certainly be ready for a higher level of competition in one of Europe’s major leagues.
So What is Wenger’s Plan?
Well, for the last two summers, it seems that Arsene Wenger has moved quickly to fill his biggest need of the offseason, as he did last year in purchasing a combative central midfielder in Xhaka, and this year it appears that a striker/goal scorer is our primary focus. The obvious choice for improvement might have been the defense, but with the signing of Sead Kolasinac, every one of our starting defenders for next season, save for Koscielny, is of an age where improvement can, and should, be expected. The change to a more stable defensive formation at the end of the season also helped to stem the leaky defence before the season had even ended.
If there is another important note to be taken from Arsenal’s rumoured transfer activity, it is that signal of intent: serious reports claiming Arsenal are willing to spend the kind of money it took to bring Paul Pogba to Manchester last season if it means real improvement for the club. It may have frustrated some to hear him only talk of needing 2 or 3 QUALITY players this summer, with many believe this to not be sufficient. However, fans cannot forget that the team as it is right now thoroughly beat the league champions twice this past season, and are not as far away as some might imagine from being a true contender. Wenger can indeed get away with making few additions, but they must be signings that improve Arsenal both right now, and for the foreseeable future.
There is so much to come! The summer has only just begun! Stay tuned in for twice weekly updates, as we dive into the biggest transfer rumours and start to separate fact from fiction as the stories develop.