Masters Of Bidding, But Not Really Bidding

Opinion

Arsenal are linked with a host of signings this summer, should we be excited? There are people who seem to think that the Mbappe interest amongst others is a sign that there’s a elevated appetite to strengthen the squad relative to the hunger shown in the last 10 years. I’m not sure I agree with that. Let’s not forget that in the last 5 years although we’ve seen some big players come in, we’ve also been ‘serious’ about players like Suarez, Higuain, Cavani, Rabiot, Draxler. Weren’t we even apparently ‘monitoring the situation’ with Rooney a few years back? That phrase really bothers me by the way – ‘monitoring the situation’. What does that even really mean? Flicking Sky Sports News on in between episodes of Impractical Jokers to see if anything’s changed?

As far as I’m concerned, unless you get the signing over the line it’s hard to accept that there’s hard evidence you were serious in the first place. That sounds harsh but the dynamics around transfers mean that there as so many reasons why you would ‘bid’ for a player or show significant interest without ever really expecting to sign them. I mean let’s take Suarez as an example. Arsenal want you to believe they didn’t sign him based on an unfortunate and inconceivable event where Arsenal believed a clause existed when it basically didn’t in the way the club understood it.

Take a beat and think about that.

Are we really suggesting that we were serious about signing Suarez and then couldn’t because we couldn’t figure out what his release clause was? Are we suggesting that minimum release clauses can be prevented from being activated by a selling club not telling you what it is exactly? Are we suggesting Suarez is too stupid to know what his contract says? Ok yeah, maybe he is. Are we suggesting Suarez’s agent wasn’t able to properly articulate what his release clause was when we asked? Does anyone really believe a potential multi-million pound deal for one of the best players in the world not happening because we didn’t do the contractual due diligence? That can be done in a day. You fork out £50k in legal fees to one of the big law firms and they’ll leave no room for misinterpretation. If we were serious about signing Suarez, we would have done it. We would’ve paid the extra money that apparently Liverpool would have sold for. The player went out of his way to give a “come and get me” plea to Arsenal in a national newspaper. He would have pressed for it if we had been serious. We weren’t. We were never seriously in for Luis Suarez.

That brings me onto this window. Could this be more of the same? All the ITKs are convinced the Mbappe interest is real. What constitutes as real in this case though? If a club have set an asking price and we’re not willing to meet it yet know others will be, then is the interest real per se? Or really, is this interest in Mbappe just a ploy to get other players we’re genuinely interested in pushing their agents to make a transfer happen? Is this basically just like going to a party and flirting with the hottest girl in the club just to get the other girls interested and get respect from the other lads? We know that Arsene fancies Lacazette and we know he’s had a bit of a thing for Mahrez. Does our interest in Mbappe cause the likes of Mahrez and Lacazette to ask their agents to drive their asking price down in order to attract bids from Arsenal?

Other tactical wins by “pursing” Mbappe include propping up his high asking price requiring the eventual buyer to fork out more which in turn activates the classic transfer merry-go-round. If it is Real Madrid that buys him eventually it means two things: 1. Mainly that Madrid may have to sell to help balance the books and there’s a number of players who I’m sure Arsene would take and 2, Madrid don’t have money left to tempt away some of our big players. What other tactical wins? Goodwill generated from the fans. We’re pretty fickle and will probably give the club the benefit of the doubt in at least trying. Also, our existing players dithering on new contracts may think we’re showing ambition and sign da tings. Another win, is similar to Wenger’s pursuit of Ozil. Wenger wanted Ozil at Arsenal before he joined Madrid but Ozil rejected us and joined Madrid. I don’t think that Mesut at that point in his career would have signed for us over Madrid, and I think Wenger knew that too. However, what Ozil went away with was that Arsene Wenger rates him and really wants to work with him. So what happened when Ozil became unloved at Madrid? Arsene picked up the phone. Ozil still says that Wenger was a/the key factor in him signing for Arsenal. So in the Mbappe case it could be the same. If he joins Real Madrid and eventually needs a move, Arsene/Arsenal could be high up on the list because of the investment we made in building our relationship up with the player.

So put it this way, having a very public interest in Mbappe is a no brainer. There’s no scenario in which this doesn’t play out well for Arsenal. If we sign him for £100m then yeah, Stan might be upset he can’t buy another ranch this summer, but he’s 18-years-old (Mbappe not Stan) and has outrageous natural attributes that could surely only be hindered by a long-term injury. Most short, medium and long-term permutations suggest it could be a smart move financially. However, if we don’t sign him or have no real intention of signing him, then for all the reasons discussed earlier it is a smart move.

So look at the end of the window, I don’t think Mbappe will be an Arsenal player, and I don’t think we can claim that our interest in signing him this summer was real, or perhaps better to say it wasn’t pure. We have been in similar situations before, let’s not forget the past. I do think we’ll end up with a couple of players like Lacazette, hopefully, Lemar but maybe Mahrez instead. If we end up losing Ozil and Sanchez then even signing those 3 players wouldn’t be enough to improve us. However, I think if we do lose those players the club are mitigating the reaction from the fans by leaking our pursuit of a number of other players across Europe. It’s a classic move, and one we shouldn’t fall for time and time again. If we’re serious, we’ll go out there and pay what’s needed. If we’re not, then we won’t.

With Arsenal, I’m very much in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” camp. I encourage you to join, there’s enough for everyone but the drinks aren’t free.