July 5. Not bad timing to lock down the second quality signing of the summer. I know many places will bang on and on about this being Arsene Wenger’s first signing of the transfer window, but despite it being on a free, Sead Kolasinac was a member of the Bundesliga team of the season and most certainly Wenger’s first summer signing.
The question now is where do the Gunners go from here? Wenger has indicated that the team will likely sign 3 players this summer, leaving him one more potential acquisition. It seems that he has decided to focus on the attacking flanks, with the vast majority of Arsenal transfer rumours being about a striker or a wide midfielder/attacking midfielder. The next phase of the summer, as the players have returned to the training pitches, is to sort out which players could be on their way out. If Arsenal are able to start paring the squad down now, Arsene Wenger would have an opportunity to move for a late addition should an early season injury crisis strike the squad.
Official At Last
Well it’s true Gunners! After 3 years, an initial reported value of £15-20 million, a second summer in which he most likely would have come for a fee in the £35-40 million range, Alexandre Lacazette was at last sold to Arsenal, in a deal in which the price ended up being £52 million + add ons, a new Arsenal transfer fee record. Lacazette is reported to be coming in on £200k a week wages, certainly giving a clear indication that the club will pay top wages for top talent.
The book on Alexandre Lacazette begins and ends with one thing: Goals. That is all the man does. He scores. And despite the worries of some that he pads his stats from the penalty spot, over 100 of Lacazette nearly 130 career goals with Lyon came from open play. Whether it’s with power or one of his favorite, placed side-foot finishes, Lacazette has fantastic touch around the 18 yard box. He walks into the Arsenal squad immediately as arguably it’s best all around finisher, with perhaps only Alexis Sanchez having anything to say about that.
While not nearly as explosive or dangerous with the ball at his feet as Alexis, Lacazette still has the work rate, vision and passing ability to contribute in build up play or quick combinations on the edge of the box. The possibilities with he, Ozil and Sanchez are dizzying to imagine. If Arsenal opt for the same 3-4-2-1 formation they used to close out last season, the three attackers will be given plenty of freedom to stay forward, potentially improving on last season in which the team played some of its best counter attacking football since Thierry Henry donned the cannon on his left breast.
While Lacazette does not possess the same pure top end pace as the longer limbed Danny Welbeck, he is better and quicker than his English counterpart in tight spaces. He is able to slip into half spaces and time his runs extremely well, which will become all the more important when he arrives in the Premier League next season, where space and physically weak defenders are in short supply.
If you were tuned in to the Confederations Cup Final this past Sunday, you could be forgiven for believing that the answer to Alexis’ Sanchez future would be revealed following the match (possibly because the player himself said so, but here I go being all speculative..). In actual fact, Gooners got to witness a familiar sight for those who happened to catch a match this past season between the months of December and April: a distraught Sanchez. As could have been predicted, the match came and went with no news on the Chilean’s future, but in the day following the match, there were some reports drifting out of South America that he might be staying with Arsenal after all.
It is well and truly about time that Arsenal resolve their star’s situation. There are valid arguments to be made both for selling him now while the money is good, and also for keeping him and at least having him play out his contract. He will be 29 next summer, and for an attacker whose game is predicated on first step quickness and an all action style, and who has spent several years playing non-stop football for club and country. The signing of Lacazette could signal to him that Arsenal mean business in their title challenge. Though I suppose he could also be Alexis’ replacement…
Elsewhere, it has been reported that despite interest from Liverpool and elsewhere in the Premier League, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is inching closer to singing a new contract with Arsenal. Coming off the closest thing to a breakout campaign in the talented midfielder’s young career, it would be a crushing time to lose the player just as he is starting to realise his potential. This rumour has had a lot of movement, with I myself changing course once or twice, but it seems that his one, for now at least, is moving toward a positive conclusion. After the Ox, the club must then turn their attention to the contracts of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.
Santi Cazorla is never going to play for Arsenal again. Or is it Santi has started two a day training sessions in his effort to get back on the pitch this season. Which of these statements is true, and to what degree is still, as of this moment, the unclear. It is true that Cazorla had recently posted a photo of himself in the gym, but perhaps that is how he has aggravated his injury once again. Hopefully this story gains a little more clarity in the coming days.
It is vitally important that Arsenal figure out whether or not they will be able to get anything out of Cazorla this year. The past two seasons have seen promising campaigns derailed and a juggernaut attacking team get stuck in the mud for extended stretches, and it is no coincidence that their drop in form occurred while the diminutive Spaniard was out injured. Few players in the world can play as creatively as he in a deep lying midfield pairing, combining his ridiculous balance and ball control with a magician’s creative flair and limitless two-footed passing range. That Cazorla plays the game with an infectious smile on his face and the ability to have his teammates in stitches, laughing can only be a bonus whenever he returns. He is truly one of the most valuable players in the world.
Hit The Road Jack!..er..Actually THIS is Your Last Chance. I Mean It!
One player that does stand to benefit (worth noting: I said something very similar about him last year 3 days before he was shipped out to the south coast, so read on with the salt near by) from Cazorla’s time away from the pitch is former England golden boy Jack Wilshere. Wilshere once again is spending the first part of his summer rehabbing from a broken leg suffered last season with Bournemouth. Before his injury, he was starting to regain some of the form that made him the talk of England as a youth.
Wilshere will get the chance to come in and compete with Aaron Ramsey for the starting spot next to Granit Xhaka in the new 3-4-2-1 t this summer, though with both of them having questionable track records with injuries, it could take both players plus a returning Cazorla to fully staff the position for an entire season. Having spent most of his career functioning in the #10 role or as part of the base a midfield triangle in a 4-2-3-1, Wilshere will have an adjustment to make to fit into the new system which was implemented long after he had departed last season. With fantastic passing range, technique and a world class football brain, the Arsenal academy product has all the tools necessary to succeed in that position, but it is vital that he remain healthy in order to do so… Again.
A Worthwhile Replacement
For Olivier Giroud, spending the majority of another season watching the first 75 minutes of every match was not in the plans. Now, despite recently extending his contract, more talk has surfaced once more that the mountainous striker could be on the move, this time to Everton. The Merseyside club have resigned themselves to losing Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea (provided Manchester United to steal him at the last minute), and are perhaps looking to Giroud to help soften the blow.
Giroud is similar to Lukaku in stature, as both are physically powerful players with good height and aerial abilities, but he lacks many of Lukaku’s movement skills. Giroud was essential to salvaging points late in games for the Gunners last season and his loss would have a massive effect on the way the team approaches the end of games in need of a goal, taking away Arsenal’s perfect plan B in the process.
I am still of the mind that Giroud stays in North London. He is too valuable as a super sub, but he will also get many opportunities to start games next season with plenty of action in the Euro League. At 30 years old, it is understandable that he would want to play as much as possible in a World Cup year, but then why sign an extension recently, giving the team further control in the process. I think he stays one more year and then finishes his career either in France or at one of the Premier League’s eternally average mid table sides.
And Still There Were Two
For the second week in a row, after Lacazette, the most common transfer rumours surround Thomas Lemar and Riyad Mahrez. While Mahrez has been linked more through stories of mutual interest than any actual negotiation, it is clear the team prefer Lemar. At 21, Lemar is still on the up in his career, and if any manager can add the final ingredient to the superstar soup, it is perhaps Arsene Wenger.
One thing about Lemar that adds another level of intrigue is the position he played at Monaco. As they transitioned into the attacking third, the wide forwards, including Lemar, tuck inside and attempt to create chances through the channels and half spaces, almost like an advanced centre midfielder. Given his experience in that role, there is some talk that Arsenal could look to use him centrally along with a more defensive option while Cazorla is out. It is because of his age, versatility and INCREDIBLE whip on his crosses and free kicks, that I truly hope that Arsenal get this deal done.
What do you think Gooners? Do Arsenal need to sign another central midfielder? Do they have enough to make it through the whole season with the firepower they have? How do you feel about Lacazette signing for the club?