Two Arsenal players were involved in a European final last night: Reiss Nelson played 74 minutes for Feyenoord as they went down 1-0 to a Roma side which had Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the bench. It’s obviously a shame for Reiss, because the Italian side winning means there is a very happy man this morning who I prefer to be not happy at all, but I suppose Ainsley gets a winners medal so that’s nice for him.
Both of them will return to the club with a year left on their contracts, and their futures need to be decided this summer. Of the two, Nelson’s appears to have been a better loan spell (there’s a good piece in The Athletic (£) with Art de Roche in which he talks about some of the benefits), while Maitland-Niles played quite a bit at the start for Roma but fell out of favour. In a transfer window in which selling well is more important than ever, it will be interesting to see what kind of fees we can muster for two young English players.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch and Mohamed Elneny put pen to paper on a new contract with the club, with Mikel Arteta saying:
Mo is a really important part of the team. He brings endless energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the team and is loved by everyone. He’s an important player for us on and off the pitch, a real role model to our younger players and I’m delighted he’s staying.
I’ve written a bit about this before, but this makes a lot of sense in the context of what we have to do this summer. Nobody is in any doubt that our midfield needs an injection of quality this summer, and it’s clear that the stories about Youri Tielemans being our main target in that area are spot on. Whether that’s the extent of our midfield recruitment remains to be seen, but when you consider what else we have to do this summer in terms of ins and outs, sorting this out with Elneny seems fairly obvious to me.
Next season we have Premier League, Europa League and cups in which I hope we’ll go a bit further than we did last season. Our midfield options are Thomas Partey (who is prone to the odd injury), Granit Xhaka, and Albert Sambi Lokonga, a promising player who is still developing. It’s clear you need to add someone like Tielemans anyway, but four players is not enough for that kind of fixture schedule.
At Academy level I don’t think there’s anyone quite ready to make the step up, so you either re-sign Elneny, or you go and get another player of that level in the market (making the assumption that we’re not flush enough for two big money signings in this area). This way is much less complicated, you know what you’re going to get from a very decent squad player who you know has good character and understands his role completely.
It’s a one year deal with an option on the club’s side for one more, so it’s not as if you’re committing yourself to a player on a massive wage who you can’t then shift. It’s a common sense approach to squad building, ensuring that we don’t splurge funds we have to invest in other positions as a matter of priority. Also, going back to the duration, if a Charlie Patino or someone else really takes a step forward after a season on loan, it doesn’t block their pathway in any significant way either.
There’s also talk of a new deal for Eddie Nketiah, which I think is a bit surprising given his desire to play regularly, but one that also makes a bit of sense. Arteta has consistently said he wants to keep him; there’s the depth issue again; someone like Flo Balogun would probably benefit more from another loan season than some fleeting Europa League/early cup appearances; and I do think Nketiah showed this season he can offer something to the team.
I don’t believe he’s ever going to be the main man at Arsenal, but 5 goals in 8 starts towards the end of the season was more than I thought he’d produce – and he’s just turning 23 so it’s not unreasonable to think he can improve. I’ve seen a lot of chat about a supposed £100,000 a week wage, a figure I’m a little dubious about, but a bump in salary plus a signing-on fee included in the calculations might go some way to explaining that. Also, even if it is that, in Premier League terms, £100,000 was a lot 10 years ago, not so much nowadays.
The other thing to consider is that this summer Eddie could – and still can for that matter – leave for free. If we complain a lot about not getting value for players when they depart, I wonder if part of this is about ensuring that we get some kind of fee for him if he does leave in the future. If he continues to develop, scores goals, but doesn’t quite get to where we want, we can sell. I still expect Arsenal to buy at least one marquee forward this summer, but as with other positions we need back-up/depth and he does provide that.
I have a suspicion that this is one of those scenarios that might have played out a little differently if we’d had Champions League football. The greater revenue might have allowed more scope for a second BIG signing in the forward department, which would likely have led to Eddie’s departure – but Europa League means we go all in on the main signing (Gabriel Jesus), and there’s enough playing time to offer for a new deal to make sense for Nketiah too. Sometimes you have to cut your cloth accordingly, but hopefully the improvements we’ve seen from him when he got some regular minutes this season will continue next time around.
Right, that’s it for this morning, we’ll have any news throughout the day on Arseblog News as we head into transfer time, and I’m back tomorrow with more and a brand new Arsecast.