Happy Friday folks – how we all doing? Looking forward to the weekend? I know I am! It’ll be a bank holiday, Arsenal are playing, I’m around the parental units this weekend (and now actually) to spend some time with my family as it’s my brother’s birthday, plus we’ve got a press conference today in which we’ll get to hear from Arteta ahead of the Fulham game.

I suspect he’ll be asked about Pepe now his loan move for the season is done and dusted and I suspect he’ll say nice things about him, but mainly that ‘he needs to play’. That’s fair enough, but as we all know the player’s card has been marked for a while now. I’ve always thought there was talent in there, but as I was listening to Clive last night on the ArsenalVision podcast, he said something that resonated with me. He was talking about player body shapes and how Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard’s body shape has all changed since they became regulars in the Premier League. It is a physical league and you need to have strength to compete in it. Pepe’s body shape never changed and so whilst he’ll got bags of talent in his feet, he never quite worked out at The Arsenal and the best scenario for us all here now is that he lands in Nice and hits the ground running.

If he is successful in his loan spell then hopefully they’ll give us a few million for his signature and we’ll just have to write off the fact that we massively overpaid for him and never ever recouped our outlay on him. If he also ‘bangs’ in France then we might be fortunate enough to have a few clubs vying for his signature and at least that’ll give us some hope that we can make good money back. And by good, I’m thinking £20 – £25million.

The other rumour we are expecting to come true soon is that Ainsley Maitland-Niles is potentially on his way out and Simon Collings from the Standard was reporting that yesterday so it feels like a pretty credible source to me. At Southampton he might do well and he’s of an age that if he can find his way in to the team and then prove his worth, then there might be a deal to be done for some form of cash next summer. His deal is supposed to expire but there’s no way Arsenal let a loan move happen unless they are recouping money back from his departure. Even if it was for just a few million, that would be a preferable option and so if it is true that Arsenal can extend his deal by one year as part of a contractual agreeement they have, then you’d imagine Arsenal will do that and hope to get some cash next summer.

That relies on Maitland-Niles doing the business for Southampton though. The loan move to Roma last season didn’t really work for him at all and if the signs are similar and he doesn’t really get the minutes at Southampton, you’d think we’re probably kicking the can down the road for another 10 months, because we won’t get people fighting for him if he’s had a similar loan spell to the Italian one. Last season he made eight appearances at Roma totalling 488 minutes. That works out as an average of 61 minutes which tells me he probably only started two or three games and then was a sub for the rest of the time. He also only played a half in the Italy Cup, so if we’re talking similar numbers this season then we’re probably getting minimal figures for his signature from clubs. So for everyone’s sakes, let’s hope that he can establish himself in Southampton’s team and we all part ways with smiles on our faces come next June.

The other one of the final players out the exit door is Bellerin but that seems to have gone relatively quiet. I am just hoping for some kind of last minute dash for somebody  who needs a right back for the season and even if they pay us minimal cash for the player, that’s better than nothing at this stage, I guess. Long gone are the days in which we could  command seven figures for the player and with him clearly not in the managers plans by not even getting close to the bench so far this season, it is clear that we need to sort a resolution out. Surely there are SOME clubs in Europe who would take a seasoned pro who has had a good career and by all accounts had a good season last season in Spain? I can’t quite believe that a player who made 32 starts, won the Copa del Ray, played an average of 80 minutes each game and got over 2,500 minutes in a season, hasn’t proved that he’ll be a decent buy for somebody.

I know there are talks about how he only wants Betis but they have no cash, but as I’ve already said a few times, we can’t be allowing a player to just terminate his contract because he fancies it. If Betis want him then they have to pay. And if they can’t pay now then have him for free and make instalments. Pay nothing up front for 10 months then give us a few million for the next couple of summers. They can do that for sure and I bet Arsenal would be open to it. But Betis are playing a game  here in which they want something for nothing and as I’ve said before, I want Arsenal to hold firm, or even have other clubs jump in and offer some cash. And if Barca come knocking and wanting him for free, well, we can tell them to give us the £18million they are about to get for Aubameyang, because let’s face it that cash should be ours anyway. For them to get a bean for that player having shafted us in January of this year is criminal and whilst I acknowledge a lot of that is on us, that doesn’t mean we should be telling Barca to ‘get bent’ at every opportunity now.

Right, I think I’ll leave it there for today. It’s the Europa League draw later  so that’ll be interesting to see who we’ll get,  but before then it is a day of work lies ahead of me before I can kick off my bank holiday weekend so I’ll bid you all adieu and catch you in the morrow.