Well how about that? A trophy already this season!
Don’t worry, I haven’t lost it. A pre-season trophy, as most fans are able to conclude with little difficulty, is not a real trophy. Yes, beating Bayern Munich by the slimmest of margins to win a match against their least favorite matchup in Europe had to give Arsenal some small sense of vindication. That is all well and good, but does any fan actually believe that Arsenal could beat the Bavarian giants in a cup final with several players suffering illness? I certainly don’t. But hey, if it counts as a trophy in Mourinho’s eyes…
There are still several positives to take away from Arsenal’s victory in Shenghai on Wednesday. Alex Iwobi, the man responsible for equalising in stoppage time, has really shown up to play this pre-season. Though he certainly showed off a proper footballing brain and clever feet, the physical demands of the Premier League caught up to the youngster, whose berth in the starting XI had all but disappeared by spring time. Iwobi looks stronger and quicker this year, and if he is able to maintain his current levels, he may force his way into more matches than fans might assume, particularly on the grueling Thursday nights of the Europa League
With the Transfer Window slowly inching shut, the rumours have really started flying around. There have been some absolutely mammoth fees paid by the Gunners’ Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester United as the talent arms race between England’s top 6 clubs continues to intensify. Many Gooners, already so excited to see Alexandre Lacazette join before the team left for Australia, will be hoping that Arsene Wenger pulls out all the stops and signs another top quality player or two before the season starts.
First up on our list today is one of the rumours that we have been following for a while: Wojciech Szczesny to Juventus. After initially low balling the Gunners with a laughable offer of less than £5 million, Juventus have finally managed to land their man, with the fee expected to be around £10 million. Considering Giuanluigi Buffon cost the club €51 million (100 billion lire) in 2001, the ‘Old Lady’ have gotten themselves a steal. As I said last week, don’t anticipate a similar career path to Buffon’s after joining Juventus, as the fee suggests that Szczesny is closer to a temporary fix than long term solution. Still, after two years of loans to Roma, the Polish keeper must be thankful to have landed at such a big club.
For the second straight season, Jack Wilshere is in danger of losing his place for good in the Arsenal side to his own worst enemy: his injuries. After the first half of last season, Wilshere’s move to Bournemouth was looking like a perfect bit of business for both club and player. However, after an injury to Santi Cazorla at Arsenal, his parent club probably could have used his skills in the centre of the pitch. Any residual benefit to the south coast move was wiped out as Wilshere finished the season again with a broken leg and a career well and truly at a crossroads.
According to reports, despite Arsenal holding out for a bid of around £20 million, they have already received a £6.5 million bid from Serie A side, Samdporia. The press currently has West Ham United in the lead for Wilshere’s signature, with Crystal Palace also said to be interested. Though perhaps he has been robbed of too much of his career to ever become Arsenal’s chief creator, as he was destined to for years, he could still help a great many teams across Europe when healthy. If Wilshere leaves for good this summer, It will be a sad day for fans and the player alike. Should no offer worth entertaining come along, Arsene Wenger would likely be content with allowing him the opportunity to win back his place in Thursday night Euro League matches.
Elsewhere, it is stated that Championship side Derby County are interested in securing a loan for current Arsenal and former Barcelona youth product, Jon Toral. After a reasonably strong showing in the Championship last season, Derby will be looking to add more goal creation to the mix, and the creative Spaniard could help them in that regard. Most likely reaching the end of his time at Arsenal, should his career trajectory continue to level out, Toral could find himself in a struggle to find regular top league football in the future. With smooth skills and good vision, there is still time however for the attacking midfielder to make his mark on a club and fulfill his potential.
For what feels like an eternity now, Mathieu Debuchy has been angling for a move away from the Emirates, most likely back to France. In the past, it has been Debuchy’s unwillingness to accept a reduced wage that has prevented him from moving on, and according to some reports, that could be the case again, with Nice now the latest to balk at his wage demands. With still others claiming that this deal is likely to be official in the next 48 hours, it seems that the disgruntled fullback could still end up on the French Riviera playing for the great Lucien Favre.
Despite Arsene Wenger telling the press in Shenghai that Arsenal have decided not to sell Alexis Sanchez, many sources have either yet to get the memo, or refuse to believe the Frenchman. Recently this week, a familiar name has begun popping up once again in connection with Arsenal: Karim Benzema.
I want to be 100% clear here. Once upon a time, Karim Benzema would have made sense as a target for Arsenal. However, despite his quality in linkup play, Benzema is now a year older than Alexis and declining. Never known for his elite physique, the French striker has added weight to his frame, and is certainly running out of time as Real Madrid’s line leader, with Cristiano Ronaldo expected to assume a more centralized forward role in his remaining time at the club. Karim Benzema is NOT going to be an Arsenal player this season. Period. End of story.
According to some, Arsene Wenger has personally requested star Napoli centre half Kalidou Koulibaly be signed up to the club. Without back up from many other sources, and given Chelsea’s apparent struggles to land the star defender last season, I just don’t see where the truth could be hiding in this rumour. Wenger bought two centre backs last season, and despite an alleged £16 million bid, still has Calum Chambers in the squad. To then turn around and spend such a high fee on a defender doesn’t make sense.
In another totally ridiculous rumour, Ross Barkley is allegedly wanted by Arsenal, with the price expected to be around £50 million. And I thought the Kyle Walker deal was bad. Much like William Carvahlo at Sporting in Portugal, certain players seem to always be attracting big money interest, despite a move ultimately never materializing. Sometimes, players just don’t want to leave, or with all that stands to be worked out in a deal, it becomes a difficult move to make. In the instance of player’s like Barkley, it is simply because the player just isn’t that good. In the minds of many reporters and Barkley himself, he is a superstar. In reality, he is just another in a long line of massively overhyped English talent. There is no chance this move happens.
Finally, in the same article with the Barkley rumour, is was also claimed that Arsenal are pushing to be able to sell Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Chelsea in part exchange for Nemanja Matic. When first seeing this rumour last week, I actually lost a large portion of my beverage through my nose, and this week, I find it equally as absurd. I mean really. Why would either team try to help the other? Particularly Arsenal, who in this swap would give up on of their best young talents in the Ox for a 28 year old combative central midfielder. Matic is a very very good player, and hugely important to what Chelsea do in central midfield, so I see both clubs benefiting most of all from simply not making a deal for the two.
What do you think Gooners? Is Matic a yes? Which players would you hold on to for the future?