There is something brewing at Arsenal Football Club. Sure, those with an opinion (know anyone?) cannot yet decide if it is going to be a €140 million world record signing or a mass exodus of valued players for alleged greener pastures, but something will be happening.
Except, to many, nothing is happening. The back room staff additions were welcome to be sure, but were they not made with an eye toward improving the on-field product? Wasn’t Wenger supposed to try and wrap his TRANSFER business early this season, even before the pre-season tour?
If your outlook is a bit more rosy, there are definitely signs that the club is doing a lot of work toward making some big deals happen this summer. The rumour mill has been churning out many of the same names, and it seems that the club is zeroing in on their targets. Provided there is not some massive misdirection campaign going on, or as some fans like to believe, artificial buzz to sell season tickets, the media has also seemed to establish a theme to Arsenal’s dealings.
At least on incoming transfers.
While it seems Arsene Wenger’s summer recruitment campaign slogan (“Are you French? Are you fast? Are you too young to remember when I actually coached in France? Come to Arsenal!”) is now well established, people cannot figure out what in the world is going on in the world of outgoing players. Depending on the source, nearly every player wants to leave this summer. Or sign a new contract. Or both at the same time.
Take Olivier Giroud. A French national, the towering forward had the audacity to show up in France this past week while on holiday, leading to a minor avalanche of people believing he was now being sold to Lyon, or that he would at least represent a makeweight in a deal for a player like Alexandre Lacazette. If this sounds a bit hypocritical, given that recently I made the case that another Frenchman, Wenger, was in his homeland for transfer business, there is one other detail that many forget: Wenger was with Ivan Gazidis. Now, I’m sure it is standard practice for some people to go on holiday with their least favourite person from work, but Arsene Wenger is not likely to be one of them.
In another exciting Arsenal hierarchy rumour, Silent Stan Kroenke is allegedly silent no more! His reason for speaking? To tell Hector Bellerin that he isn’t going anywhere. Not that we shouldn’t have known that already. The case for his leaving, that he bought a house for his parents in Barcelona, is pretty thin when considering the length of the extension he emphatically signed less than a year ago, but such is the way with football rumours these days.
There also seems to be an emerging destination for all players deemed surplus to requirements, and that is local rival, and burden to the taxpayer, West Ham United. This spring and summer has seen them linked with Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy, Lucas Perez and most recently, Theo Walcott. News like this either confirms that West Ham have no clue what their plan is moving forward or that journalists create transfer rumour stories using a storyboard and a fistful of darts. Personally, I fancy both being true.
The Griezmann Domino Effect
One story that could have major implications, particularly with just about every fellow attacker on the French national team, is Antoine Griezmann’s decision to stick with Atletico Madrid through their transfer ban. It was an honourable move from a player that had been tapped for a year as the next big money purchase by Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.
What hasn’t been said enough is the effect that the transfer ban could have on clubs like Arsenal. With Manchester United unable to get their number one target, and unlikely to resist the urge to spend buckets of money, it forces them and other clubs to move to the next player on their list. With the world football super powers only increasing their financial advantage over the rest of the pack, that pecking order of insatiable rich clubs looking for new blood is fairly well established.
At the lower end of the elite level spenders of Europe, Arsenal could perhaps be driven to options further down their list as players previously thought to be off the radar of the Mancunians, Catalans, Madridistas, Parisiens and Bavarians are doused in fresh interest and financial offers. Removing any player from the top end of the expected market can create a vacuum in which some team, somewhere, is left without the man they want.
For the Arsenal of seasons passed, this very well could have been their fate. However, even if they ultimately miss out on their dream prize, Kylian Mbappe, the transfer ban could end up benefitting them in the end. Before the transfer ban was upheld, Atletico Madrid had agreed a deal in principle to purchase Alexandre Lacazette this summer. Since Griezmann decided to stay, he would not need replacing by his international teammate, leaving the door open for Arsenal to swoop for Lacazette.
It is unclear whether the Atleti transfer ban will affect Arsenal in a positive or negative way, but it does seem that the two somehow became inexorably linked this summer.
The Final List (….first draft…)
As was mentioned previously, it does seem that Arsenal have identified their priorities earlier this summer than in years passed. The majority of publications dealing in Arsenal transfer rumours have really homed in on 5 attackers that the club appear to either want, have wanted in the past, or have issued a “come and get me” plea, in accordance with reports: Kylian Mbappe, Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Lemar, Henry Onyekuru and Riyad Mahrez.
It appears that the first four in particular, may factor in to the final transfer haul in some combination. My theory is that they must be looked at in duos, dependent on which striker is signed and for what money. I believe that Arsene Wenger’s ideal combination is Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar. Given Mbappe’s massively inflated price, per reports, it may not be feasible for Arsenal to afford he and his Monaco teammate, Lemar, necessitating a move for the cheaper Onyekuru. If Mbappe chooses another club, or perhaps even signs a contract to stay in the principality, then Lacazette becomes the priority striker signing, almost certainly leaving money left over for Thomas Lemar and perhaps another younger, cheaper signing.
Wenger may be able to increase the legs of his transfer budget with some prudent outgoing business, such as back end squad players like Carl Jenkinson and Mathieu Debuchy, right up to major contributors like Jack Wilshere or Theo Walcott. It is important to remember, however, that Wenger has always favoured supplementation to total squad overhaul, so any signings he does make, with the exception of a world record fee type purchase, will probably not be enough for those convinced that Arsenal are regressing from the mean.
What do you think Gooners? Does Olivier Giroud need to vacation in places with fewer rumours? Will West Ham really sign half of the Arsenal squad? Will Wenger finally make the splash we all crave? Which combination of signings would you prefer? And if Alexis Sanchez got a third dog, would it get its own banner, or would there be a redesign of the existing one?
Let’s hope we find out soon! Much more to come this summer from the club, and if they want to be considerate towards me in any way, they might want to consider giving me a signing to write about in the Midweek Memo…