Happy Friday one and all, and after a week not nothing much it’s all kicking off as it looks like two brand new players are on their way to sign for Arsenal in transfer deals. I know, what larks!
Both of them are coming from La Liga. Lucas Perez, the 27 year old striker we talked about yesterday, is on his way after Arsenal agreed to pay the full clause in his contract after earlier reports had said Deportivo la Coruña had rejected an earlier bid. Maybe they did, all I know is that the easiest story to write in sports journalism is one which suggests Arsenal have lo-balled another team by offering half what a player’s worth and a couple of bags of garden vegetables.
‘But of course they did!’ is the immediate reaction, whether they did or not. I mean, they probably did, but still. Maybe we threw an extra bag of beets in there but in the end it was sufficient for Depor and he’s expected in England today for a medical and to tie up the formalities of the deal. We discuss his signing on the Arsecast today, on its own merits and in the wider context of our transfer business this summer. He might well be a very useful capture, but is a near 28 year old with one very good season under his belt the best we can do after a long, hot summer of transfer machinations?
I’m always of the opinion that a player can only be judged after you see him play, and I’m absolutely on board with that in this case. If we were going to buy Jamie Vardy after one good season, and most people were pretty ok with that, then can we have genuine objections for a younger, less racist version? Still, I understand why people would ask questions, although I think I’ve said a few times this summer that I expected our forward signing to be a player that few of us had ever heard of, someone we hadn’t been linked with at all, and here we are.
I asked the Guardian’s Sid Lowe, knower of all things Spanish football, if Perez would be a good fit for Arsenal and English football. He said:
in principle, yes, he should be. Quick, very busy, will get the space he likes, a more open, faster game.
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) August 25, 2016
So there you go. I watched a video of him yesterday, a kind of behind the scenes in a game thing that Spanish TV love to produce, and I liked it a lot. He looks like a hard-working guy who isn’t afraid to get in people’s faces, no respecter of Barcelona’s reputations etc, and I’m all for that kind of thing. We’re definitely too nice, so if he can add bit of spikiness to us then bring it on. And ultimately, he’s a striker, we need one, and I also wonder if there’s something in Wenger’s mind about playing a quick left-footed player on the right hand side of the Arsenal attack at times. I guess we’ll see.
For more on him, here’s a nice piece from a Deportivo fan.
And if that excitement wasn’t enough, it was confirmed that we’re close to signing Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi for a fee in the region of £35m. It’s a pretty enormous fee for a central defender, even in the current climate, and I do have to wonder a little about what has gone on behind the scenes here. Was it our dilly-dallying that saw the potential fee rocket so high when we might have had him cheaper a few weeks ago, or something else entirely? Either way, I’m not sure I care, to be perfectly honest.
In the end what we needed was to fill a very important gap in the squad and it looks as if we’ve done that. At 24 years of age his age profile fits with how we need to build the squad. Koscielny and Mertesacker are 30+, Chambers and Holding are early 20s, and in Mustafi and Gabriel we’ll have two central defenders in their mid-20s, who have enough experience but still time to develop further. Koscielny was only 24 when he joined back 2010, and was still quite raw, but hopefully Mustafi’s career path takes him on a similar journey.
As ever, there are questions to be asked over the timing of the deals. We’ve had all summer and we’ve already played twice and dropped 5 points, but my overall feeling this morning is ‘better late than never’, and when both players are assimilated after the international break the squad looks, in terms of numbers at least, pretty much complete.
I do think we’ll see some outward movement between now and the end of the window too and it would be a surprise if there weren’t loan moves for the likes of Calum Chambers, Chuba Akpom and a couple of other youngsters. If we can find a buyer for Mathieu Debuchy I think we’ll do that too, so it could well be a busy few days before the window closes on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the Champions League draw took place last night after another awful ceremony. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. They do this every season, they have so much money to pour into them, but it becomes more amateurish, more cringe-worthy, and more toe-curling than the year before. It’s so bad, it’s genuinely difficult to watch. Still, it was nice to see us avoid the usual faces and places, and we’ll come up against three new teams.
We’re in Group A with PSG, FC Basel and Ludogorets from Bulgaria. We’ve only ever faced PSG once, that was in the semi-final of the Cup Winners Cup in 1994, Kevin Campbell’s winner at Highbury sent us through to the final in Copenhagen that year. Worked out pretty well in the end. We’ve never played Basel, but there are connections as we bought Mohamed Elneny from them in January, and Granit Xhaka began his career there – not to mention his brother plays for them at the moment, so that’s tasty. And Ludogorets is new territory entirely.
Not the most high profile draw, but interesting enough, and it’s a group we should be capable of winning. I know, it’s Arsenal in the Champions League, and our ability to make life difficult for ourselves is matched only by UEFA’s ability to make draw ceremonies humiliating for all involved, but a man can dream for just a little bit, can’t he?
Right then, time for this week’s Arseacst, and I’m joined by Tim Stillman and the Man from East Lower to discuss the Champions League draw, the potential arrivals of Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi in the context of our transfer business in general, how they might fit into the team, and what it might mean in terms of departures for one or two others. We look ahead to the Watford game, there’s one day fantasy football with Fan Duel, and all the usual waffle.
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For some extra reading this morning, Tim Stillman’s column this week touches on the anti-Arsene Wenger singing at the end of the Leicester game last weekend. We’ll have all the press conference news – perhaps some more info from the manager on the new arrivals too – over on Arseblog News this morning and throughout the day.
For now, have a good one.