Morning all. It’s Monday. It’s also Transfer Deadline Day. The window shuts tonight at 11pm, after which we’ll have our squad finalised for the remainder of the season.
As a reminder, this is what we’ve done so far.
William Saliba – Nice: Loan until the end of the season.
Mesut Ozil – Fenerbahce: No fee, contract terminated.
Sokratis – Olympiacos: No fee, contract terminated.
Sead Kolasinac – Schalke: Loan until the end of the season.
Matt Macey – Hibs: Free transfer.
Martin Odegaard – Real Madrid: Loan until the end of the season.
Mat Ryan – Brighton: Loan until the end of the season.
I would be surprised if we added anyone else before tonight’s deadline, even if I think you could make a decent case that a left-back would be a decent addition. I think Cedric has done fine there in the last couple of games, but I just worry that with a potential departure for Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the cards, we’re just leaving ourselves a little short of cover.
I’ve seen us linked with Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand and over the weekend there were reports of interest in Crystal Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt, both of whom would be reasonable short term options – but I have to stress the ‘short term’ element of that. At 31 and 30 respectively, they’re players of an age profile we need to eschew when it comes to offering permanent contracts. Between now and May, however, you could see how they would provide a measure of experienced cover for Kieran Tierney and that would be very useful.
The Maitland-Niles link to Southampton certainly opens up the prospect of Bertrand being included as part of the deal, but there’s interest from West Brom, and late yesterday David Ornstein mentioned Leicester as a potential suitor too. My initial reaction to that was that we shouldn’t really think about doing a rival any favour in the market, because if we can continue our current trajectory, they’re someone we could be potentially scrapping for a European place with.
Then I look at where we are in the table, how our stock has fallen in recent years, and pretty much everyone is a rival in some way or another. So then what do you do? If, as seems likely, Maitland-Niles’ chances of playing regularly between now and the end of the season are slim, and we’re open the idea of loaning him out, does it really matter a great deal where he goes as long as there’s sufficient financial upside to the deal? He was on the bench on Saturday for the United game, so his presence in the squad is still seen as useful/necessary, so letting him without adding any kind of full back cover could be risky.
As for who else might go, there are suggestions that teams in Spain are interested in Reiss Nelson, including Villarreal – currently managed by former head coach Unai Emery. I don’t know how much truth there is to these reports, and it’s been super quiet regarding Nelson for basically the entire window, but if there’s a chance for him to go there, he should absolutely take it. He’s not even making the squad any more, even with a 9 man bench, and bar a massive injury crisis, it seems clear he’s not going to play.
So, the option of staying at Arsenal and stagnating by turning up to training every day, or going to a club where he might get some minutes – as well as gaining all the experience of a new country/league/language/lifestyle etc – is an absolute no-brainer. He should be open to any move at this point, but if there’s the slightest chance of going to one of Europe’s top leagues to play for a side competing at the top end of the table, he should take it.
There’s also talk of Newcastle being interested in Joe Willock, and like Nelson he’d be well advised to be open to that kind of move. He did very well in the Europa League this season, scoring three goals and making three assists, but in Premier League terms he’s struggled for playing time (just 234 minutes and 2 starts). I think it’d be good for him to get out of the comfort of London Colney to go somewhere and scrap for a place in a team which is going to have to fight hard not to get drawn into a relegation battle. The emergence of Emile Smith Rowe has certainly pushed him down the pecking order, and while I think he has qualities that could be developed to make him a useful squad player for us, he might also be someone who, if his profile remains relatively high, could generate some solid income in the summer. He’s not quite playing for his future but where he plays next season could well depend on what he does, and where he does it, between now and May.
As for Shkodran Mustafi to Liverpool, I made a joke about it on Friday’s Arsecast, and I know desperate times call for desperate measures, but I’d still be gobsmacked if it actually happened. If there is genuine interest though, Liverpool should pay a transfer fee. With less than 6 months left on his contract, it’s not going to be massive, but the idea that we should terminate the player’s contract so he can get a free move to a team with sufficient funds available to pay *something* makes no sense to me. Believe me, I’ll be as happy as anyone to see him go, but at least try and extract something from the deal that benefits us beyond him simply not being an Arsenal player anymore.
I know we usually do a transfer deadline day live blog, but that’s not happening today for all kinds of reasons. However, keep an eye on Arseblog News (@arseblognews) and we’ll cover any official stories on there throughout the day, and all the way through until the deadline later on.
In the meantime, you can listen to a brand new Arsecast Extra, recorded yesterday evening. James and I chat about the United game, William Saliba, Nicolas Pepe and lots more. All the links to listen/subscribe are below. Enjoy, and Patreon members keep an eye out for the Wolves preview podcast dropping later this evening.