Morning folks and welcome to another Friday. I was going to say ‘Lockdown Friday’ but I don’t think we’re still in Lockdown, are we? I don’t know exactly when it changed, it seemed to seep into whatever this hybrid between Lockdown and normality is, but anyway, happy ‘Whatever it is’ to you and your kin.

It’ll be even happier if we can get confirmation on Aubameyang extended his stay at the club beyond the end of next season. The talk is of a two year extension that brings him to the ripe old age of 34 and will give him the mega cash that every footballer needs, but after his heroics in the FA Cup final, I don’t think you’ll find many Arsenal fans unhappy with this news as and when it happens.

So we wait. Ever so patiently.

If/when it happens, we can talk about what the future holds for him, the club, etc, but apparently he’s been given assurances verbally over player acquisitions and as Mr ‘Lets Go!’ Fabrizio Romano has reported, it looks only a matter of time before Willian is announced by the club. Again, I’ve kind of said my piece on him, but will take another bit of time to talk about the player as/when/if he signs for The Arsenal.

The other big news from yesterday comes in Ainsley Maitland-Niles flavour, which is that apparently he’s been told by the club he can leave. When this comes from one journo source the response from most Arsenal fans is usually ‘pffffh, whatever’, but this has come from a few sources like The Sun, the Mirror and the Telegraph. The first two still have an element of ‘pfffh’ about them, but the Telegraph reporting it does make you wonder. When a few journos have been fed that line you do wonder how much weight there is behind it and I suspect there might be an element of truth behind the noise.

And look, I know he was very good in the semi and the final, but two months ago we all thought his career was over. Apparently Arteta has said he has really knuckled down, showed he’s willing to work hard – like Ceballos – and the result is that apparently the boss now wants to keep him. I can totally understand that from Arteta. Maitland-Niles is a versatile utility player and with what looks like a manager who will regularly mix things up in terms of tactical set up depending on the opposition, a player like Ainsley – if he is channelled in the right way and his head is in the game – would be exactly the sort of player I’d expect Arteta to love.

In normal circumstances we might be in a position where we’d say ‘only if someone comes in paying megabucks for him’, but we’re in a COVID-19 world now and I’d be surprised if clubs are going to put the big bucks down for him. Depending on what you read it is looking like between £20 – £30million and if it’s close to the £30million mark then you’d have to take a second look at any offer. We’re in a position where we have to sell to buy and if we could get £60million from the sale of Maitland-Niles and Guendouzi, for example, then you are probably looking at Arteta having a fair bit of cash to play with.

But herein lies the problem; I don’t think there are many football teams at a certain level who are going to pay that money. There seems to be plenty of online chatter about how the market isn’t so different now because we’ve seen talk of Sancho to United for £120million, Chelski have spent £47.5million for Werner and £33million for Ziyech, with Havertz being next on their list for about £60million apparently. Man City have £300million to spend and Liverpool will also spend. But these are all the ‘big clubs’ with the ‘big bucks’. The likes of Brighton – who Maitland-Niles is linked to, will not be shelling out £30million for his services unless they can defer for a year, whereas Villareal in Spain aren’t spending the same amount of cash on Guendouzi.

And that’s the problem we face with selling our players; they are going to go to smaller clubs with smaller budgets who simply don’t have the money they would have had in the pre-COVID world. Had we not have had the pandemic you’d think we’d get the circa £30million, but right now I’m not so sure.

Which does make you think about whether it is worth it. I mean, I certainly would rather see Maitland-Niles play more regularly in comparison to Kolasinac, or even Soares on the right, for example. Which does serve to highlight why we bought Soares, unless the feeling was that Maitland-Niles wouldn’t buck his ideas up and now that he has, we have a slight conundrum on our hands. But that’s just football. We need to be able to make decisions based on the best squad available to Arteta and the good news is that I think if the boss was really given the final say – which I think he will – and he’s told “£30million for Ainsley that you can spend on a player in another position or keep Ainsley”, he’d make the decision based on what he needs from this team.

So whilst it’d be a shame to see him go, I think we can all agree that as long as Mikel is the one making the final decision, then we’re good with it.

Catch you all tomorrow.