Can I begin this morning with a quick message to the few people who took yesterday’s blog seriously? I’d just like to recommend they seek out a fantastic documentary called Airplane. It’s all about the aviation industry, you’ll love it.
It’s June 29th. Just two days remain until it’s July 1st and we can unveil the Adidas kit that nobody has seen, and thus announce all the signings we’re going to make. I heard from someone whose brother-in-law works with a guy whose friend knows a bloke whose daughter’s best friend works in the club shop that they’ve called in extra staff in the lettering department over the weekend. And they’ve ordered in a load of extra Zs. Make of that what you will.
If you make anything of it, I would point you in the direction of a fantastic series which gives you searing insight into life as a detective and a busy police headquarters called The Naked Gun. You’ll love it.
There is some Z action though. Not least that it’s being reported that Wilfried Zaha really wants to join us and has asked, if not positively begged, Crystal Palace to lower their £80m asking price so he can come and play for the team he supports. Some other reports say we’re ‘preparing a bid’. I don’t know what kind of bid we could prepare that would come close to that price tag, we simply don’t have that much money. Cash plus a player? Or two players? Or four players? Some magic beans?
I see a lot of Twitter chat about how this must mean we’re going to sell Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to fund a swoop for Zaha. I do not understand it at all. In what world does it make sense to sell your top goalscorer, and your best goalscorer, to bring in a winger who might – if he has his best season ever – score half as many? I know we’re all on board with the idea that we have to sell to refresh and rebuild, but I think we should start by trying to sell some of the ones we don’t want first and see how that goes.
Would I sell Aubameyang this summer? No. Perhaps if there was a crazy offer from somewhere outside the Premier League you could consider it if you also had a very firm plan around how to replace the goals he scores. The links with Manchester United are nonsense in my opinion, but I can’t get my head around people who would be ok with selling him there for £100m. They’re in a rebuilding process too, so giving them an elite goalscorer does them a lot of good and us a lot of harm.
Selling to rebuild is fine. Just don’t be stupid when you do it. As for Zaha, he’d certainly add something to this team, but in a summer when money is as tight as it is, we’re not shelling out twice our record transfer fee for anyone unless there’s an influx of money from the owner and I think we all know that’s not happening.
The other consideration is, as Andrew Allen pointed out on the Arsecast this week, is that we’re not a club that regularly does business with other Premier League clubs when it comes to buying players. Petr Cech was the last one in 2015. Before that it was the summer of 2014 when we shelled out on Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck, and previous to that you have to return to that abysmal summer of 2011 when we brought in Mikel Arteta on deadline day (and nearly cocked up the deal with our last-minute parsimony), and Yossi Benayoun on loan from Chelsea. We just don’t really buy from other teams in this league, and when we do they’re very much hit and miss – with a lot more miss.
Elsewhere, another Z-dude wants to join us, and that’s Borussia Dortmund defender Dan-Axel Zagadou. We definitely need a defender or two this summer, but I don’t know how much truth there is to this one. Meanwhile, Celtic have reportedly turned down another bid for Kieran Tierney. We’ve gone from £15m to £17.5m plus around £7m in add-ons, based on appearances/achievements etc, but they’re holding out for more transfer fee, less add-ons. Negotiations can be tricky, of course, but it does feel as if there’s something of a blockage in our transfer pipes, particularly compared to last summer.
If you think about it though, it’s understandable. In November 2017 we brought in Sven Mislintat to scout and identify targets. Having a de facto Head of Recruitment enabled us to target the players we wanted, and the two executives (Gazidis and Sanllehi) got the deals done. Before the end of June we had signed Bernd Leno, Sokratis, Stephan Lichtsteiner, while by July 11th the deals were finalised for Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.
This year, our Head of Recruitment was frozen out from November/December, the power was wrested from him by Sanllehi who is now the Head of Football. Our MD is raw. We looked to replace Sven with Monchi who was expected to join, people within the club were awaiting his arrival until at the last minute he decided to go back to Sevilla. Arsenal tried to play it down, and insisted it was fine and we shouldn’t worry, but this was April – at which point your summer recruitment plans should be well and truly underway. We then turned our attention to Edu who is supposed to join at some point after the Copa America but nobody quite knows exactly when that will be but with his focus on Brazil, his work won’t begin in earnest until the transfer window is basically closed and his planning will be for next year.
It’s not to see the correlation between a functioning recruitment set up and one which has been sort of dismantled and not properly put back together. It’s June 29th, pre-season begins in a week or so, and we still can’t get a deal for a player from Scotland over the line. That’s not to be snippy about Scotland or the SPL by the way, but it seems clear that there’s a relatively easy way to make the Tierney deal happen. Celtic will sell, the player is open to joining, and all the while we’re dancing around in our Robes of Negotiation throwing flowers in the air while they look at us like weirdos.
Anyway, on that cheery note I’ll leave it there. Have yourselves a great Saturday, and I’ll be back with more blog waffle tomorrow. For your listening pleasure, the new Arsecast is below.