Monday, December 11, 2023

Sunday round-up: Making room

Morning. A quick Sunday round-up for you.

We play Chelsea today as pre-season heats up. However you want to look at it, a game like this has some significance, not least because we’re also playing Chelsea in the second Premier League game of the season on August 22nd.

This is one of those where if we win it won’t really matter because it’s just a friendly, but if we lose it’ll be disgusting because nobody like losing to Chelsea at any point – even in pre-season. The calibre of the opposition makes today a bit more interesting, in fairness, as they are one of the teams we’re playing catch up with, but for the most part this is a training exercise, and a chance for Mikel Arteta to try a few things out.

New signing Ben White was in training yesterday, and it could be our first chance to see him in red and white. Similarly, the other new arrivals, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares, will get a run out and in front of the fans at the Emirates, that’ll be a nice introduction to Arsenal life for them.

I suppose the other thing is that we’re likely to hear from Mikel Arteta post-game, so if there are questions about the squad, incoming and outgoing business, and more, we’ll get some insight into that. In as much as he is willing to share that information, of course, and as I’ve mentioned previously, he does like to play his cards close to his chest. And by ‘close to his chest’, he’s got the nine of hearts staple-gunned to his nipples. Anyway, let’s see if anything emerges.

Elsewhere, some transfer stuff with James reporting for The Athletic (£) that we’ve had some genuine encouragement in the pursuit of Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez:

Sources have indicated, though, that Lautaro would be a simple deal for Arsenal in terms of negotiating with his club. Inter just need an acceptable offer on the table for a deal to be done.

If a much needed midfield signing looks difficult because of squad congestion, the same very much applies to striker. Clearly there’s a need to address this position at some point because of the various issues we have with the players. Aubameyang is 32 and not getting any younger; Lacazette is 30 with one year left on his deal; Nketiah has a year to go on his deal; Folarin Balogun is talented but has never played a single minute of Premier League football; and we’re yet to fully understand where Gabriel Martinelli will play long term. Which is to say there is space in the set-up for a mid-20s striker, but unless we can move a couple on, it looks unlikely.

This, perhaps, is where Arsenal need to balance the need to refresh with the understandable desire to maximise the value of the players we sell. We’ve seen it tip one way with Granit Xhaka, and to be fair Roma’s bid was nowhere near what a player of his experience and stature should go for. We can’t be seen as a soft touch, and it seems apparent that the Italian side were expecting us to fold. Why wouldn’t they? This is the same club which saw a £10m bid for Henrikh Mkhitaryan rejected, only to get the player for a cursory £1m 6 months later – although this was right at the height of the pandemic when nobody really knew what was going to happen with the transfer market.

Suffice to say though, we gave them enough encouragement for them to think a low-ball bid for Xhaka would be sufficient. It wasn’t – not this time around – and the Swiss international could feature today, but as I said, there’s a fine line between selling cheaply and getting money in (as well as making space in the squad for the new players we obviously need).

We could face similar situations with Lacazette, with Nketiah, and others, and maybe there’ll be a few deals where we have to compromise in order to get them done. Everyone now knows we want a new striker, and everyone knows that for it to happen we have to sell a couple of players. Why would any club come in hot for the players we’re willing to move on? It’s not an Arsenal specific challenge, by the way. This is the reality faced by all clubs when it comes to the market, but it’s now August, and the most substantial outgoing deal we’ve done is Matteo Guendouzi to Marseille – and even that’s a buy now, pay later arrangement, like he’s some kind of home appliance.

So, much to do still for Edu and Dicky Garlick, and as ever I wish them the very best with it. Right, let’s leave it there for now. Thoughts on the Chelsea game tomorrow, and James and I will have a brand new Arsecast Extra for you too.

Until then, enjoy your Sunday.

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