Stepping on a plug. The sound of someone eating too loudly. Bluebottles that buzz around a window without ever going out. Man, bluebottles are such idiots.
Anyway, these are small things which make people very angry.
Arsenal Football Club. A big thing which makes people very angry. Especially when linked with transfers that don’t make a great deal of sense (at least not in the current scenario we find ourselves in).
On paper, signing a homegrown goalkeeper to provide back-up to, and competition for, Bernd Leno, does make sense. It’s one of the things we’re trying to do this summer. It’s just that nobody seems particularly keen on the man we appear to be targetting: Aaron Ramsdale, with his name almost tripping off the tongue, and the price-tag attached to him.
Reports yesterday suggested Sheffield United were looking for around £32m for the 23 year old, and frankly, that’s crazy money. I think we should stop and make the point that this is what the selling club want, not necessarily what we are willing to pay. Even so, people will wonder if the outlay we might make is wise, especially as we continue to seek first team players.
If we even spent, say, £20m on Ramsdale, that would be an outlay of £45m or thereabouts this summer on a back-up left back, a squad depth midfielder (for now), and a back-up goalkeeper. But here’s the thing, I don’t think a club like Arsenal would spend that much money on a goalkeeper without viewing a pathway for him to become first choice. Leno has two years left on his contract, it doesn’t look as if we have any plans to extend, so we have to start thinking about what to do next. How soon that ‘next’ happens remains to be seen, of course. My guess would be that Leno stays one more season, then departs next summer.
Now, for the sake of discussion: leave aside the fairly substantial issue of whether you think Ramsdale is the best goalkeeper we could get right now, and for the kind of money it would take, I do think there’s an element of timing playing a part in how this is being perceived. If we had already brought in the central midfielder we badly need, and the attacking midfielder that is clearly on the shopping list too, I think there might be a bit less angst. Understandably though, people are worried about what looks to be significant outlay in boosting the squad (not a bad thing in itself, let’s be honest), without enough attention being paid to the first team (the most important thing).
That also plays into stories linking us to Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham. My initial reaction to hearing this was ‘I wish we’d stop signing players Chelsea don’t want anymore’, and to be honest, that’s still at the heart of it. When you think of the players who have arrived from there to here, it’s almost masochistic that we keep doing it. All the same, it does make some sense when you look at our list of strikers.
Aubameyang is now 32 and quite possibly slowing down; Lacazette has a year left on his contract and really should be sold this summer; Nketiah is surely leaving; Balogun is a fantastic prospect but has a grand total of zero Premier League minutes under his belt; and Martinelli could be viewed as more of a wide player at this moment in time. There’s a gap there for a player, particularly if we manage to sell Lacazette – although there have been no rumours involving him this window which makes me think he’ll stay and see out his deal. Abraham has plenty of goalscoring pedigree at Chelsea and his various loan spells, and on that basis you could see the logic.
But, can you spend £20m on a back-up goalkeeper and £40m on a striker without those midfield positions being sorted? I mean you could, but it wouldn’t be smart, and at some point we have to think about how big the squad would be. We still badly need to sell some players, not just to make room but to bring in some of the money we appear keen to spend.
There are reports that Leicester, Southampton and Burnley are interested in Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and while every deal is different, I really think that the sale of Marc Guehi from Chelsea to Crystal Palace needs to be a kind of benchmark for us – especially when it comes to potential Academy departures. He had two seasons on loan with Swansea, and just 2 appearances for Chelsea, yet commanded a fee of £18m.
Between Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah, we have hundreds of top flight appearances, goals, FA Cup wins, European experience, an England cap or two, the England U21 all-time scoring record and, crucially, homegrown status. If we’re selling these players, they need to generate good income. Ultimately that’s on Edu, and Richard Garlick who will be negotiating deals, and I don’t want to see any scabby loan deals with an obligation to buy for £3.50 a week for the next trillion weeks while we give the player a golden handshake and some book tokens which are worth more than the transfer fee itself.
This is in contrast to reports about another player we might be keen on moving on: Willian. It’s pinch of salt stuff from Italian outlet Tuttomercatoweb, but we’re struggling to find a destination for him because … well, nobody wants a washed-up almost 33 year old on massive wages for the next two years. What an extraordinarily generous deal that was. Extraordinary. And all those tiny cameos too which bring with them an appearance fee. We are so, so kind. So kind you guys. Willian was described as a ‘prisoner’ in the report, but you don’t often see prisoners rocking back and forth in their luxury hammocks, being served piña coladas at 11am while a suckling pig roasts gently over a wood fire for lunch. That’s a hell of a jail to find yourself in.
Anyway, to conclude today, Arsenal appear to be lurching between deals which make a lot of sense and are promising as part of a long-term strategy, and rumours which vex us because they seem to suggest the sense part of our business might be less encouraging than we hope. I suppose too it’s worth pointing out that the nature of the transfer window is that we all tend to add huge credibility to the stories we don’t like, while disbelief is the main ingredient of the ones we do fancy. Something to bear in mind.
Keep on buzzing, back tomorrow with more and a brand new Arsecast. Until then.