I can’t look at Twitter this morning because everyone seems to be talking about the finale of Game of Thrones. It is absolute trash but having come this far with it I don’t want to have the ending spoiled. Who wins? Is it the mad dragon lady? Is it the intense beardy bloke? Perhaps the small alcoholic lad comes out on top? Or is there is a surprise and as the battle reaches its climax we hear some 80s synth music start to fade in, and in flies Falkor from The Never Ending Story having spent years as a cocaine addicted rentboy he’s got clean, bulked up in the gym and he’s about to take what’s his. With Limahl on his back and a pair of aviator shades on he wipes out everyone and declares “IN THIS GAME OF THRONES, I AM THE WINNER!!”, the screen goes black and then we hear the opening bars of “Do not stoppe believething in thyself’.
I literally can wait to find out.
I’ve been thinking a bit about transfers over the weekend because I’ve seen stories linking us with a move for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha. You can see why we’d be interested. He’s an exciting, quick wide player who loves to run with the ball. We don’t really have anyone like that. We ask Alex Iwobi to do it, but I’m not sure that’s really his best quality, so you when you look to fill the gaps in the squad this summer a player of that profile fits the ball.
He got 10 Premier League goals last season. After our two strikers, the next best was Henrikh Mkhitaryan on 6 and Mesut Ozil on 5. He also got 5 assists, behind the 6 for Iwobi and Ramsey and the 8 for Lacazette. At 26 he has plenty of Premier League experience, and having not made the breakthrough he’d have liked at Man Utd during his time there, maybe now is the time is right for him to move to a bigger club.
Then you look and you see that Palace have slapped a £40m price-tag on him and that’s pretty much that. If we don’t beat Chelsea in Baku, that’s our entire transfer budget – unless, of course, we sell to generate more funds. But realistically, you can’t spend everything you’ve got on one player. Not when you’ve got to get a good central defender, not when you need a central midfielder, not when you probably need two or three other additions too.
And this is where our summer gets interesting. You hear people talk a lot about how we should buy players from other Premier League clubs because there’s talent further down the leagues. That’s very true. The list of players who could walk into this current Arsenal side grew massively in the final few weeks of the season as we went down and down and down again against teams we were reasonably expected to take points from.
Look at that guy! What about that bloke? Why don’t we buy him?! Anyone’s better than what we’ve got!
Sentiments I think we can all connect with. When you see the same failings manifest themselves over and over again, it’s natural to want to get in there with a massive great broom to give everything a good sweep out. You might even choose to use the broom to whack some of them out the door, or bring a heavier implement – perhaps with some nails in it – but the end-game is the same: out with the old, in with the new, and we go into a new season feeling a bit more confident about things.
I just find it hard to tally the work we have to do this summer with the desire to buy established Premier League players. It’s not that I don’t think some of these players would improve us, or aren’t good enough to improve us, but Premier League players are expensive. Especially if they’re English. That is the reality, and for a club with a budget that is potentially as small as ours, does it make sense to pay that tax when it comes to our transfer business this summer?
You look at some of the names mentioned as possible targets, and they’d all be pretty expensive. David Brooks at Bournemouth; James Maddison from Leicester; Ryan Fraser at Bournemouth (who’d be ‘cheap’ at £20m because he’s only got a year left on his contract). Just examples, but even if we’re considered bigger and better than those clubs, their transfers would probably be out of reach financially. Maybe Champions League football will make one or two more affordable, but it’s still likely to be a considerable outlay.
So, what are the options? First, we could try and identify these players before they move to the Premier League. Brooks came from Sheffield United, Maddison from Norwich, Fraser from Aberdeen. Andy Robertson ended up at Champions League finalists and title challengers Liverpool via Queens Park, Dundee United and Hull City. Do we have the scouting set up smart enough to do that? We don’t even have a Head of Recruitment yet, and the man tipped to get the job is someone who was part of the previous scouting set-up for years and I think we can all see that’s long been an area that needed improvement and regeneration. We did that, in fairness, with Sven but now he’s gone and rather than try something new we’ve gone back to what sort of worked before … sometimes, now and again, occasionally.
The second option is shopping abroad. Not Sainsburys. Not Waitrose. Definitely not Harrods. But Aldi and Lidl. They have some lovely stuff, no doubt about it. It’s quick and efficient, and the prices are good. It can be a bit hit and miss, but if you need to feed your family on a budget it’s a perfectly cromulent shopping experience. The same applies if you need to embiggen your squad.
It seems the best way to stretch limited finances, particularly when there’s so much to do and I suspect that’s going to be what we do this summer. The final, the final, the final … it’s going to play such a significant part in our plans. The fact we won’t know until the end of this month is a factor too. The club are briefing they’ve got irons in the fire, they’ve got their targets, but if we know anything about the way this club is being run, they’ll be much further down the road with the ones who can come in on on a Europa League budget than a Champions League one. Perhaps that’s the right way to do it, but so much rests on Baku.
Even with victory (fingers crossed!), I can still see us looking for value in the market, so those hoping for a number of established additions from within the Premier League are likely to be disappointed. That’s just how we’re going to cut our cloth this summer, so let’s hope Raul’s big book of contacts and Emery’s Spanish scouting missions pay dividends.
James and I are recording the Arsecast Extra this morning. As always, if you have questions or topics for discussion, send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.
That’ll be available before lunchtime. Until then, have a good one.