There has got to be some sort of rule in the future against calling a quick two games on one continent a “tour” of that country. Arsenal, for about as long as it took the team to produce about ten hours worth of promotional videos for the team’s internet channel, arrived in Sydney a week ago in what turned out to be a very classy affair for the club, reflecting well on the players, coaches and marketing department, to whom Arsene Wenger gave much of the credit for such a successful journey.
In fact, Arsenal have a reputation, particularly under the stewardship of Wenger, of being very gracious guests indeed. One only has to look at the team’s storybook FA Cup run from last season, in which clubs like Lincoln got to experience their generosity first hand. Arsene Wenger appreciates what kind of an impact playing against a world renowned team like Arsenal can have on a small, lower league type side, and has always demanded his team reciprocate respect, instead of just blowing into town, training a couple days and fulfilling the absolute minimum commitments to the fans and media (cough-Liverpool-cough, cough).
Of course, as every Arsenal fan is surely aware, Wenger has stated that the club are still on the lookout for players on the transfer market this summer. The Frenchman also commented on the current market so far, stating that fans should expect a flurry of activity across Europe in last few weeks, after a rather slow start for many teams one would have expected to be active on the player market. It’s time to take a dive in and see whether Arsene Wenger has been hard at work this week on the market despite being half a globe away from home soil, or if he has simply gone back to his room to see if the toilet really flushes in the opposite direction Down Under..
Though there are many people out there in today’s world with an opinion and a platform to share it, some members of the British press still cannot seem to follow the thread that they themselves are often responsible for. If there was perhaps a more considered approach to reporting rumours around Europe, then members of the media might better spot an absurd rumour, one that common sense and logic alone would quickly snuff out.
And so it goes in the recent report that Arsenal are not only amenable to, but practically falling all over themselves to sign Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic, who reportedly is unsettled at Stamford Bridge. To make the story even less likely, it is also claimed that Arsenal would offer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as part of the deal. Now, it very well may be that Matic wants to leave Chelsea, and with it the superhuman amounts of running that manager Antonio Conte’s system requires of its central midfielders, but there is no way the shrewd Italian would sell him to Arsenal.
To be fair it isn’t hard to see why these pipe dream type links between rival clubs continue to happen so often. After all, not many other clubs in the world can afford the wages that many of the players are on at a Big 6 club in England, both teams play a three at the back tactical system that requires similar skills in their centre midfielders. However, there is no conceivable reason why Antonio Conte would take one of his most consistent players from a title winning campaign and ship him out to a rival. Especially a rival like Arsenal, who bested the Blues in 2 of their 3 meetings last year.
The Bookie Opinion
Nemanja Matic is not the only central midfielder to be linked with Arsenal this summer. In fact, one football oddsmaker now has Inter Milan youngster Marcelo Brozovic as the favourite to be Arsenal’s next signing. On the surface, it appears to be a move that would make sense for the Gunners, as they reportedly are on the lookout for cover in central midfield, until one notices that the entire premise is based on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deciding to leave the team this summer. And then I also remember that bookies make great money when they take bets on all of these transfer rumours. A real possibility I suppose, but if you like Brozovic, save your cash on that bet.
It is starting to look like a woeful lack of playing time and another year of age are not enough to keep other clubs from being interested in Arsenal want-away Lucas Perez. It seems that Turkish giants Fenerbahce have thrown their hat into the ring, seeing no issue with Arsenal’s asking price, now said to be around £13 million, or about £4 million less than the team paid for him a year ago. The Turkish side are joined by Perez’ former side Deportivo la Coruna and fellow La Ligament sides Real Betis and Sevilla in their pursuit.
Everton’s Itchy Purse Strings
Despite the fact that Arsene Wenger has already seemed to put to rest any notion that Olivier Giroud would be leaving the club this summer (and for what it’s worth, Oxlade-Chamberlain as well) for France or fellow Premier League side, Everton. The Merseyside club, earlier linked with a £30 million move for Giroud, appear to be intent on spending that amount on another attacker from Arsenal, perhaps in an attempt to get in on some of that 5th place action: Theo Walcott.
Though some Gooners have seen enough from the 28-year-old winger to want to cash in on him now, while a decent fee is still possible. However, as is always the case for a big club in England, even if the intent to let the player leave is there, it can sometimes still be a major hurdle finding a club to assume the astronomical wages of some players. At over £100k a week, Walcott’s contract would be a large enough hurdle to make most clubs shy away, especially with his track record of inconsistency. Walcott did end up bagging 19 goals last season, however, and his pace could still be a real weapon late in matches, when the opposition is trying to push on for a goal, on the counter attack. I believe ultimately he stays, unless a club comes along willing to pay his fee and his wages.
The Saga of Thomas Lemar
Thought now to be Arsene Wenger’s primary target of the summer, and receiving an incredibly rare public mention by club executive, Ivan Gazidis, Thomas Lemar to Arsenal is appearing to become more inevitable with each passing day. In fact, in a report that was backed up on Sunday, it is thought that Arsenal have already agreed a deal with the player and possibly the team as well. It has also been posited that the two teams are merely waiting until Arsenal return from the second leg of their pre-season tour in China, as well as Monaco lining up a replacement. An alleged fee of around £53 million could also have been agreed to, if a respected transfer insider is to be believed. This is sure to be exciting news for Gooners all over the world, who have been treated to a much more publicly active and decisive Arsene Wenger. I am almost ready to call this one totally credible. I wouldn’t be biased at all, would I?
In related news, Arsene Wenger seems to have squashed to rumour that Arsenal have submitted a bid of over £100 million to Monaco for the striker, suggesting instead that the teenager would probably stay. Perhaps he has too much choice at the moment, according to the Frenchman. Despite his likely decision to stay in France, Mbappe is sure to move on next season, and after a strong recruitment effort from Wenger this summer, a strong showing domestically and in Europe would see Arsenal slot once again into a leading position for his signature.
The Continuing Saga of Alexis Sanchez
Today, how confident one is in whether or not Alexis stays at Arsenal or not seems to depend on whether one has watched the Chilean’s recent public comments, or merely heard about them in the British press. According to his words, he has made a decision and the ball is now in the team’s court. He also said he has ambitions of winning the Champions League, and it is this part that formed the basis for the gleeful headlines in England stating that he clearly had made up his mind to leave. What the delightfully biased football media often failed to mention in reporting his comments was his final thought, in which he says he has a contract for another year at the club and that he will be expecting to honour it. A minor insignificance, no doubt, for those with an agenda to their narrative, but an important detail all the same.
It appears likely now that Sanchez will wait to be sufficiently impressed with the direction that the club is going in before he considers signing on again. With all of the positive transfer news on Lemar and other exciting names, it has many fans worried that such an impressive haul of players this summer would merely be in preparation for losing their Chilean talisman. In fact, with the team impressing so far in pre-season and with its aggression on the market, should Sanchez come back motivated and in top form, Arsenal can mount an honest to goodness title challenge this season. Of course, if he leaves…
Let us cross that bridge when we get to it.