Friday, January 27, 2023

Serious business …

Morning all, a few quick bits and pieces for you.

A report in from the Belgian press reckons that today is the day Arsenal will officially announce the signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga. He’s been in London since last week, isolating after international travel, and according to other reports, everything is signed, sealed and delivered.

We’ll have more on him as and when it happens, but he’d become our second signing of the summer, and like Nuno Tavares, you can see why the profile of the player makes sense. Young, relatively cheap, wages quite low, someone with potential to develop, but also someone who, if they don’t quite hit the level we need, can be moved on with relative ease.

Which is fine. We need squad players, and midfield needs reshaping. Dani Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi have gone; Granit Xhaka is hanging around the departure lounge like Tom Hanks in that film about that bloke who lived in Charles de Gaulle airport; Lucas Torreira probably wants to go; and we haven’t made up our minds yet what we’re going to do with Ainsley Maitland-Niles or Joe Willock.

However, while Lokonga will add some depth to an area of the squad which badly needs it, unless he’s some kind of Vieira reincarnation who wows everyone from his first appearance, he doesn’t do much to move the needle forward in terms of the first team. The Partey Partner is still a key component of this summer’s rebuild, and as yet that hasn’t happened.

While the team are in Scotland, where is our Technical Director? Well, according to one Portuguese publication, he’s chatting up Jorge Mendes over the £35m signing of Ruben Neves; from Italy come reports that he’s set to try and convince Manuel Locatelli to eschew the advances of Italian giants Juventus with a ‘speech’ to convince him to join Arsenal; and via social media we learn that he’s been in Monaco with Raul Sanllehi and Kia Joorabchian.

In a summer when he has plenty to prove in terms of his capability, this just set my spider senses tingling a little bit. We were linked with Barcelona’s Neto – not for the first time either –  as a possible goalkeeping signing (represented by Kia); the new five year deal Barcelona gave Lionel Messi is going to require a significant clear-out from the Camp Nou and I’m worried we might help them by taking Philippe Coutinho (that could well be just me fearing the worst case scenario though); and while dealing with agents is an inevitability and personal relationships/friendships don’t always have to intersect with ‘business’, there’s been too much of it in the past not to worry a little that we’re not being as clever as we’d like to think we are in terms of our recruitment.

Now, there could be very good reasons why Edu is in Monaco aside from having a lovely time at the Yacht Club with Raul and Kia. The world is small these days, technology means you can work from anywhere, but the optics of hanging out with an agent whose main client at the club, Willian, has come back from his summer holidays looking like the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, and the former Head of Football who mysteriously left his position weeks after the club’s owners appointed to someone to provide some oversight – at the same time as the ins and outs at Arsenal are so pressing – aren’t particularly great.

Now, to be fair, I think more stuff will happen soon. I’m not a betting man but I’d put some money on Ben White being done and dusted relatively quickly. I think that’s as close to a sure thing as you can get, bar some kind of 11th hour hitch or gazumping, but there’s so much to do this summer to make this club better, there’s little tolerance for stuff which doesn’t look serious. That goes from executive level to the playing squad. If you return from your summer holidays looking overweight and unfit, how is anyone supposed to believe that you’re determined to contribute positively to the team?

Elsewhere, some reports after Mikel Arteta’s recent comments about Joe Willock that we might be about to loan him back to Newcastle for the season. Unless they are paying a monstrous loan fee, and we actually do something like tie him down to a new deal before we sanction this, I don’t really get it. I can see both sides of the ‘Keep him, we need goals’ vs ‘Sell him, he’ll never be this valuable again’ argument, but a loan just kind of fudges the issue and kicks the can down the road a bit.

It could be that this is a consequence of the market we’re trying to operate in, that loans might actually be a way of generating some cash. I think I remember David Ornstein reporting that when we were linked with Ivan Perisic in the January we brought in Denis Suarez, Inter Milan were looking for something in the region of €6m as a loan fee. I don’t think Joe Willock would command quite that, but a few million and Newcastle paying his wages provides a little boost to the coffers. Anyway, let’s see what happens with that one, and how the rest of this week plays out ahead of the game against Rangers on Saturday.

Right, that’s it. Back tomorrow with more, and a brand new Arsecast too. Until then, take it easy.

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