So the lads are in the US prepping for the MLS all stars game and as a result of that Arteta has been speaking ahead of the tour to the press. It’s been covered fairly extensively and you can read word-for-word what he’s said here, so I thought I’d pluck out a few of the nuggets that got me particularly excited when listening to him talk to the media.
Firstly, on the man of the moment Declan Rice, you can tell that he’s absolutely over the moon to get that deal done early. What was interesting when talking about him though was that Arteta talked about his physical qualities that we lacked last season. We all know that Thomas Partey isn’t one of those ‘blood and thunder’ players who is a chest thumper in a more traditional mould, but it’s not like he can’t win tackles or provide good defensive cover for us. His defensive numbers last season put him in the 74th percentile for tackles, the 77th percentile for clearances and the 79th percentile for aerial duels won, so it is not like we have a slouch here. Yes, Rice is higher on interceptions and clearances based on last season (95th and 83rd percentiles respectively), but when it comes to tackles and aerials won he actually fairs worse than Thomas Partey last season.
I do think there are a few people sleeping on just how good Partey was for us and whilst we all know just how great Rice is, I don’t think we should just make the assumption that Rice is going to better in everything he does compared to Partey, assuming that he is looking to take his position, that is. It is also important to note that Rice played in a defensive team that sat a lot lower in their block than Arsenal; so will Rice’s numbers remain that high when he operates higher up the pitch? Possibly, and I am in no doubt that I think Rice will be a fantastic addition for us, but I just think it isn’t as simple as I’ve seen some people suggest. What will be important is how he integrates and that is probably why Arteta has also asked Arsenal to really push the boat out on this signing; he is English, his personality looks such that he can slot in seamlessly with his new teammates and as an Athletic article I read at the weekend said, Arteta has asked the Arsenal England players to give full feedback on his personality and mentality too.
Arteta also didn’t close the door on transfers either, which I’m sure none of us would have truly expected to be fair, but I thought he’d be a little more guarded in his response. He said there’s still time, but there is time for exits too, which I think all of us agree that will probably be the focus now. Because of the main bulk of the business being done early, Arsenal are also arguably in a good position now, when it comes to outgoings I think. I mean we’re not exactly going to get £20million for the likes of Pepe and Cedric each, but we are in a position now where from the outside, we don’t have to be bullied and low balled in to a sale. It is not as if we’ve briefed to the media that we have to sell before we buy; the investment of £200million on the three incomings shows we have already got that sorted. So clubs can’t come to us looking to pinch players for a song and a prayer. If they want to prize some of our better players away from us then they need to come with sensible offers.
Of which Flo Balogun to Inter for €30million is not one. This is a guy who has lit up the French league, has just become the main man for the USA men’s national team, who has two year’s left on his contract and is of an age where he could so supernova within the next couple of years. He represents so much more value than Lukaku at €40million if you ask me, so if they want our guy Flo then they surely have to get closer to the £50million Arsenal want. If he was a Reims player, or an Ajax, or even an Inter player, they would want a minimum of £50million, so why shouldn’t we demand that? I’ve seen some noises of €30 – €40million plus incentives like sell on’s or buybacks. I would have thought we’d want a buyback on him anyway, regardless of the fee, because if he does absolutely bang in Italy, for example, imagine if we could pick him back up for £50million in two season’s time if we’re looking for a main man and Eddie hasn’t worked out, Trossard has past his peak and Gabby Jesus isn’t the answer at number nine we wanted. It could be a steal to do a deal like that where you sell for €40million and then have a clause that means you can buy back for €50million instead of what Inter would probably charge if he bags 20 goals two seasons in a row, for example. They sold Inter to Chelsea for £100million and you can bet your bottom dollar they’d say the same back to us in two year’s time if we wanted him back.
We do probably have to raise some cash this season though I suspect and the three players you’d imagine that would fetch the biggest fees for us would be Balogun, Tierney and possibly Partey if the noises from Saudi Arabia are true. As I already talked about yesterday, if they’re willing to give us £45million for a guy who is 30 and one of our top earners, you probably do have to consider it. But we need to be ready to go again with a replacement if so. But that’s all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ at this stage and probably not worth delving too much deeper in to at this stage.
That’s pretty much it from me for today, but just before I go, a little something non-Arsenal related that has been bugging me this morning after something I read on Twitter. It relates to Moises Caicedo to Chelsea from Brighton and comes from comments made by the journo Ben Jacobs, who has obviously been doing some digging from the Caicedo camp. They are apparently annoyed that Brighton are holding out for close to £100million for his signature and Chelsea are standing firm in saying they do not want to go anywhere near that. They’ve bid £70million plus add ons for the player and apparently that’s going to get rejected. The Caicedo camp feel like a club record fee received – which is what that would be – would be fair and feel like that’s what Brighton had led them to believe would happen in the summer if a big club came calling. Because there is no bidding war though, Brighton aren’t able to whip up that price like the Rice situation, so Chelsea are standing firm. The thing that is bugging me is not Brighton wanting that amount of money, nor Chelsea standing firm, it is why on earth Caicedo’s agents agreed to sign that deal in the first place. Alright, it put more cash in Caiceo’s hand right away in January, but if he’d have just waited until now he’d have a year left on his deal and Brighton would have been much more willing to find a compromise. As it stands Caicedo has given them the leverage they need to play hardball by the fact that he has some extra years added to his deal.
Why on earth did he think that Brighton would honour any kind of ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ come the summer? No football clubs do that. Just look at Wilf Zaha; when he signed the deal that has just expired, he thought that it would be a great big payday, then Crystal Palace would let him go if a big club came in. We came in during the Emery year’s but Palace wanted a fortune and as a result he didn’t get his move. He’s now of an age where he’s a free agent but none of the big clubs in England are sniffing around him because of his age. It was the same with Harry Kane when he went on strike; Levy gave him a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that he would let him go, but when the offer from City came in, suddenly Levy decided that he didn’t want to do that deal. Football is littered with examples of where clubs change their minds; I think even we did it with Koscielny before he went on strike. Caicedo was poorly advised in January and as a result this saga will probably drag on for a little while longer, although I suspect Brighton and Chelsea will eventually find the right figure. But my point is more that some football agents never seem to learn.
Right, that really is it for me for today, as I’ve got a day of work to do. We’ve got our penultimate ‘one in, one out, one to bang’ tomorrow evening and if you want to join me from 7.30pm you’ll be able to find me on the Same Old Arsenal pod here. Catch you later folks!