T-minus nine days and counting (if you count today) until the kick off to the new season and, as it stands, we’re looking at a VERY familiar line up to the one that led us to two consecutive eighth places over the last couple of seasons. That’s not going to get too many Arsenal fans optimistic that we can close the gap at the top of the league. Especially on a day in which Man City are expected to confirm the £100million signing of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa. An eye-watering sum but what’s more depressing is that with the squad they’ve got they can probably afford to integrate him slowly over the coming week’s. We’ve just had Bukayo Saka return to training with some pics released yesterday and I think most Arsenal fans are just hoping we can see him in week two against the London-based oil whores of Fulham.
What this transfer does is show the mountain we must climb to even hope to hit the summit one day and if they end up getting Kane then that peak will look even further away. Villa have of course moved quickly to secure Danny Ings for between £25 – £30million and whilst he will score goals and that will be a decent move for Villa, I’m surprised at that fee, I have to say. It’s likely that Southampton were well aware that Villa have plenty of cash and more coming in and so stood firm on their lack of desire to sell with one year on the contract. Villa knew they needed top replace Grealish’s goals at least and Ings should do that. But at 29 and with his history of injuries it represents a bit of over-inflation. Probably the same over-inflation they received for Grealish, but Ings missed 61 days – two months – last season and his injury record isn’t going to improve.
So why all of this preamble on an Arsenal blog? Mainly because I’m thinking about our need to sell and certainly Nketiah is a player that springs to mind. He’s 22. He’s already scored goals in the Premier League and Europe. He’s the leading all-time goalscorer for England Under-21s. He’s got a year left on his contract. If you move for Nketiah you are moving for a player who will definitely get you goals if you give him service, he’ll also most likely only get better, plus there are no recorded injuries that I can see online. A club like Southampton would surely be interested in taking a look at a player like that, but it’ll be interesting to see what they do with that £25million.
From an Arsenal perspective we need to hold our nerve. If somebody like Southampton act quickly on a player like Nketiah now (assuming he’s on their radar), then they’ll try to low-ball Arsenal, which is what you’d want if you’re a Southampton fan. But they might also be looking at mainland Europe and thinking that more value can be had than trying to get Arsenal to cough up the cash. So it is a delicate game of cat and mouse that is going to happen over the next three to four weeks I suspect.
From Arsenal’s perspective this is all of our own making. If we’d have loaned Eddie out last January to a Premier League club then there would be more ‘proof of concept’ for other Premier League Clubs to be sniffing around him. It’s the same with Reiss Nelson. But we held on to players, didn’t send them on loan to increase their value, which means the situation we have gives us a slightly weaker hand when trying to maximise our value.
I wonder whether this is where Mikel the ‘Manager’ and Mikel the ‘Head Coach’ has caused us an issue? If Mikel the ‘Head Coach’ was told that we are losing Nketiah and Nelson on loan in January because of the plan to get money in the summer, then he will have been more likely to accept it and make do. But Mikel the ‘Manager’ wanted Nketiah around and didn’t end up using him at all, which hasn’t added to his saleability, but when you are a manager thinking in the short term and your job, you want to keep as many playing pieces as possible to ensure you are still in a job coming August. Perhaps that comes in to his thinking and that’s why we are in a situation like we are in?
I’m not trying to dig Arteta out here by the way. I might have done exactly the same in that situation. But more and more you think about the strength of position of somebody like Edu and if he’d have been a little more powerful at the club he might have been able to force Mikel’s hand for the good.
Oh well, all Captain Hindsight stuff now I guess. What I am hoping is that Arsenal stand firm. We should stand firm in our valuations on players outgoing and incoming, but to a point, because some we just need to find homes for. Like Kolasinac, Torreira, ideally Elneny (although I don’t see him going anywhere), plus more. We should also stand firm on our valuation on players like Maddison. The horrible tackle on Fofana was a disgrace yesterday by that Villareal player, but it might mean Leicester are in the market for a centre half as well as whoever else was on their wish list, which means more cash needed to be stumped up. They might therefore be more amiable to the idea of selling us Maddison, although I suspect they too will want to stand firm on their valuation, of course. It also explains why for them a cash-only deal is what they want. I don’t know enough about how much money they have this summer, nor how much they need to sell to bring in the talent they want to improve their squad. They’ve spent £45million on Daka and Soumare but whether they want to go big on a number of other players remains to be seen. It’ll be interesting to see if Arsenal can tempt with a player or two but I suspect Leicester won’t budge until later on in the window.
And that’s pretty much that for today. Lots of balls in the air with it getting ever closer to the big kick off. I hope Edu and Arteta have some rabbits to pull out of their hats.
Catch you all tomorrow with some more musings of some variety.