Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Transfer Deadline Day: Something or nothing?

Good morning. It is transfer deadline day, but of course you knew that already. It’s been on every Arsenal fan’s mind for the last month, and here we are.

The question is: will there be something, or will there be nothing? Right now, as I type this around 6.30am, I’m leaning quite heavily towards the latter. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Niente. A great big empty box of oblivion, causing the kind of online meltdown that will feel seismic to even the most grizzled veterans of Arsenal Twitter.

Here’s the thing: Arsenal need a striker. I think we can live without a midfielder, because with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka back, with Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny and even Martin Odegaard as a decent option in there, we have sufficient cover for the 17 games that remain between now and May. What we don’t have are enough goals.

Well, let me put it another way. What we don’t have is a striker who scores with the kind of frequency I think we need to really continue the fight for a top four place. To say we don’t have goals isn’t quite correct, because with the group of players we currently have, we scored 14 in four games in December against Southampton, West Ham, Leeds and Norwich, so we do have some attacking threat against teams of a certain calibre. However, as the game against Burnley before the break demonstrated, a more clinical presence up front might well have been the difference between one point and three, and that’s what we’re lacking.

When the young players like Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe don’t deliver – which will happen because that’s football – we don’t have the centre-forward who can step up and ease the burden on them. There is a player, but it looks like he’ll be somewhere else, as David Ornstein reports:

The only thing that gives me a smidgen of hope is that over the weekend I was told that there would absolutely be nobody coming in unless we could move Aubameyang on in some shape or form. There are obviously financial considerations with regards to his salary, but last summer’s spending spree comes into play here too. There isn’t an unlimited pot of money available, and believe it or not there are still some Premier League financial regulations that the club have to stay the right side of.

Nevertheless, you would have to say it’s a bold strategy to let more than a handful of players leave during the January window, including a top level striker, and not replace any of them. Especially the striker because you need a striker. If Aubameyang to Barcelona goes through, it’s the final nail in his Arsenal coffin. His race is run, his goose is cooked, and to be honest, I think it’s a shame it’s ended like this. I think his powers were waning, and fast, but whatever happened between him and Mikel Arteta – something which goes way beyond tardiness – has led to the situation becoming terminal.

I also believe this is a major spanner in the works for Arsenal, an unanticipated scenario which has led us to a point where we’re in desperation mode on deadline day. I’m sure the plan was to see out the season with Aubameyang, knowing you have Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah as back-up, and then hit the market in the summer to bring in the next guy. If Lacazette and Nketiah see out their contracts and leave in June, it’s not a major issue because you need to move on from them anyway, and you have the new guy and another 12 months of Aubameyang before his contract expires.

Now we’re in a situation where, in all likelihood, the striker you want in the summer isn’t going to be available in January, so what do you do? As much as I feel we need a signing, I can’t advocate spending big money on someone we don’t really want. That just gives you another expensive problem down the line. We’ve done it too often in the past, those deals are basically mistakes that reverberate for seasons, and at some point you have to stop and learn your lessons.

So, unless there’s a major shock today, unless Real Sociedad are made an offer they can’t refuse for Alexander Isak (release clause or something close enough to it for them to accept), I think the best we’re going to get is someone on loan. Then you have to wonder who is out there and available on loan in January that might be at the level we need. Last year we did a brilliant loan deal for Martin Odegaard, and perhaps that might be the way to go. If there’s a young talent somewhere not playing a lot, we could give that a go. Otherwise, you’re looking at an experienced player who has been around the block a few times, but those guys are usually so underwhelming that you might as well not bother and see if an internal solution is the best option.

All we can do is cross our fingers, wait and see what happens, then react in a calm, considered way when the window closes. And by calm and considered, I mean …

Whatever happens, we’ll cover it in our now traditional transfer deadline day live blog, which will run right up until 11pm this evening. Click here to follow that.

Also, Nick Harris @sportingintel is doing a survey on Premier League ownership, so if you had 2 minutes to respond to this survey, he’d be very grateful I’m sure.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. James and I will be recording the Arsecast Extra later on this morning so keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

Pod should be out by lunchtime. Until then, take it easy.

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