The Transfer Monger Week 3: Has Monsieur Wenger Gone To Ground?

If the beginning of the summer transfer season (as nobody actually waits for the window to open, do they?) led some Gooners down a path of reluctant excitement, the last two weeks have assured these unsure fans that Arsene Wenger really is passed it. In two weeks time, the team will find themselves in preseason training, and Wenger and the staff will have to divert their focus from transfer business back to football business. With the assurances that Wenger would have the majority of his transfer business wrapped by that time, that leaves a lot of work to be done for a club that has been tipped to make some major signings this summer. Though Arsenal have reportedly been in on some very big names, and surely any major signing this summer will obliterate their current record transfer fee paid, it cannot stop the very vocal Wenger skeptics from being alarmed at the lack of activity.

Karim Benzema

Can you believe it took this long for this one to come back? Yes, finally this week a “news source” has taken the annual plunge into the claim that THIS will be the season Arsenal “finally get their man”. Despite this being a move that would have had the potential to make many supporters happy just a few short seasons ago, at nearly 30 years old, with fitness issues and coming off a disappointing season, that is no longer the case. Arsene Wenger is not likely to spend big for a player closer to the end of his career than the beginning, no matter how French the player is. Consider this to be a rumour that has been recycled to generate hits more than a valid story of Arsenal interest.

Thorgan Hazard

Well if an old striker from Madrid doesn’t whet your fancy, then what about a player from the Bundesliga that the English press seems to know only as “Brother of Chelsea star, Eden”, despite being a very good footballer in his own right? Watching Thorgan Hazard play does not immediately remind you of his lightning quick brother, but he does possess a similar level of technique. He has the ability to finish and create, but too often he has failed to exert himself on important matches. After leaving Chelsea for Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014, Hazard was considered an exciting prospect, but his development appears to have slowed since then. This is a transfer that I could conceivably see happening for Arsenal, but it would be my sincere hope that he would only come in as a squad option. For a player of his pedigree and approaching the prime of his career, Hazard has not yet shown the ability to contribute regularly to the scoresheet at a mid-level Bundesliga squad, so it hardly seems likely that he should be able to move to a tougher league and suddenly change. Wenger does love a bargain, but in this case, I’m not sure he would bring him in when he was already unable to give consistent playing time to some very good players in the squad.

My Revenge On Ben Foster

Juan Cuadrado

Was there some massive policy shift in the sort of player Arsenal target for transfer that I am not aware of? Yet another target painfully close to the age of 30, Colombian Juan Cuadrado has been linked to the Gunners, who supposedly have already had a bid of £20 million rejected by Juventus. A very direct player with tremendous pace, Cuadrado loves to dribble at defenders. In many ways, he has a skillset similar to the younger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, even spending a couple matches at wing back as called upon. Though clearly a very talented player, Cuadrado lacks discipline and concentration at times. One has only to look at his rapid sending off in the Champions League Final, mere minutes after coming on as a sub to see this. Despite our interest apparently confirmed by having already submitted a bid for Cuadrado, I just don’t see how adding more underachieving talent helps this team score goals and win matches. Chalk this one up as a “might happen, hope it doesn’t” transfer.

Carlos Bacca

Ok, seriously though? Another old one? Alright… 30-year-old AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca has been another name that has been linked to Arsenal in the recent past. Despite having a strong reputation for his finishing ability, Bacca is rather limited as to how he can play within a side. He lacks the ability to play in buildup effectively, and he often finds himself squandering his best opportunities in on goal with poorly timed runs, giving the linesmen a sore flag arm in the process. Bacca also lacks any kind of desire to impact the match defensively, which would severely limit a Gunners side already prone to leaking goals in how they can defend from the front. This is a transfer rumour that represents everything flawed about the logic adopted by many in the media this time of year. Why would Arsenal, a team that is clearly on a higher level than AC Milan currently are, want an ageing striker that has not even been particularly effective in recent seasons? This one is a no. Just no.

Mateo Kovacic

Finally a rumour that makes sense! Kovacic has been something of a revelation for Real Madrid this season, proving to be extremely capable of holding onto the ball for his team in open play. At 5’10, the Croatian has enough size to excel in the middle of the park for any top club in England. An accomplished dribbler who functions best in a role charged with keeping possession, he also possesses extremely good vision for the final pass. He has good athleticism, and would function in a more advanced role (similar to the one Aaron Ramsey executed to close out the season) than last season’s new acquisition, Granit Xhaka. Despite not being the strongest midfielder in the air, nor quite possessing the elusiveness of players like Santi Cazorla, Kovacic is a well-rounded midfielder with good technique. Coming from Real Madrid, where he has been able to carve a role out for himself in one of the world’s most talented squads, he should have no problem adjusting to the Premier League if he decides to join Arsenal, though he would perhaps need some playing time assurances if he is to leave arguably the world’s biggest club.

Still Linked

Alexandre Lacazette, Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Riyad Mahrez are all still being linked often to Arsenal, with Lacazette perhaps being the most prevalent right now. The latest report on Mbappe is that he has chosen Real Madrid as the only place he wants to go, but part of me (probably the Arsenal fan that wants him) isn’t so sure this is true. It just seems entirely far-fetched to think an 18-year-old would believe the time is right for a move to Real Madrid, where even world class internationals can find themselves buried on the bench somewhere. I applaud his confidence if this turns out to be a true report, but I just can’t see why Wenger and Arsenal wouldn’t be the better choice for him right now, at least for a few years.
One factor that could determine whether or not Mbappe decides to leave Monaco is how many of his fellow talented teammates decide to leave while their values are so high after a successful league campaign. Thomas Lemar, in particular, could be a big factor for the young striker. The two formed a frightening duo to spearhead the Monaco attack last season, and both still have years of development still to go. Should Lemar decide to leave the Riviera this summer, Mbappe could be itching to follow suit rather than face an immediate rebuild of this past season’s most pleasant surprise.

Departures

It was a quiet week on the departures front for Arsenal, with few new names being mentioned as on the way out. Wenger will need to make decisions on players like Matthieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs, with the former having been ready to leave for what seems like an eternity. The Bellerin to Barcelona rumour has appeared to quiet down a bit, but it seems that two of our French contingent are potentially out the door in Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny. Of the two, I only see Giroud’ departure as probable, as Koscielny will most likely get the captains armband when on the pitch again this season.
That’s all for now Gooners! Just remember, they are ONLY ever rumours until the team announces the deal. It is definitely too early to panic about a lack of transfer activity, however, should we find ourselves reading about how training is going in Australia in a couple weeks time without any new signings after Kolasinac, it might be time to start being concerned. We’ll be back again later this week with the Midweek Memo.

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