Monday, May 16, 2022

Signings and contracts and greatness

What better way to not talk about football than to talk about transfers and stuff? It seems premature given that we still have games to play, but as I mentioned yesterday I’m trying to keep myself on the straight and narrow until tomorrow night.

Man City’s capture of Erling Haaland was announced yesterday, and that’s surely going to have an impact on Gabriel Jesus. Let’s remember, City also have Julian Alvarez arriving from River Plate in the summer too so they’ll have two new forwards in their squad which will somehow find a way to get knocked out of the late stages of the Champions League next season.

There was a bit of debate on the Second Captains podcast about whether or not City and Liverpool could be considered ‘great’ teams. Are City great if they don’t win the Champions League? Are Liverpool great if they’ve only won one Premier League title with their best team in decades?

It’s a bit like the debate over whether a player is world class. Does he score in big games, in finals etc, and ultimately it’s subjective and doesn’t really matter, but I do think if you’re Man City with all the resources you have at your disposal and you manage to cock-up the Champions League year after year it does leave some kind of blemish on your reputation. It’s not as Liverpool haven’t spent money, but I do think the question of how bottomless your resources are comes into it.

Liverpool have won a Premier League and a Champions League with their team. City have won the Premier League lots of times and nobody outside of their fanbase bats an eyelid when they rack up a record number of points and goals because what else can you expect when they’ve got as much money as they want despite Pep saying they ‘cannot compete’ when it comes to other teams’ spending. As if. There’s is tacit acceptance that their money is a major part of why they are so strong.

If anything, that makes Liverpool’s Premier League even more of an achievement in my opinion, but look, I’ll let you guys debate that in the Arses. The point was about Gabriel Jesus, and Haaland to City increases his chances of leaving. Whether he comes to us remains to be seen, perhaps a top four finish is a non-negotiable of that deal going through, but with a year left on his deal, plenty of well-reported contact between him and us, he is set to become either a sure-fire signing or this summer’s Gonzalo Higuain.

I’ve also seen us linked with Raheem Sterling, as well as former Gunner Serge Gnabry. How much interest we have in either I’m not sure. At 27 and 26 respectively, they’d be ‘now’ signings, players who will come in and do the business straight away because of their quality and experience, but it’s interesting to see us linked with wide players as well as strikers.

You can never say never for any player (as Mohamed Elneny showed), but I think Nicolas Pepe’s time at Arsenal is done and dusted. It’s a sure-fire thing that we’ll at least try to sell him this summer – there are already stories that Sevilla are planning a bid for him – which would leave us with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe (who I suspect might end up playing more internally than wide). There’s definitely room for one more, especially with a Premier League and European schedule to think about, but whether it’s a marquee signing like either of those two, or someone more aligned with the age profile of last summer we’ll have to wait and see.

The striker situation also includes Eddie Nketiah it seems, and it’s interesting the ‘Should we give a year to Lacazette?’ chatter has died down completely as Eddie’s performances in the last couple of weeks have shown just how marked the physical deficit is there. It’s not that he can’t do a job, he just absolutely can’t do the one Nketiah has done, and the goals against Chelsea and Leeds don’t happen without him in the team.

There’s talk of another contract offer, and to be fair Mikel Arteta has said for a long time that he’d like to keep him, so it’s not just a consequence of his recent performances. However, Eddie might be wondering why, if the manager is so keen to retain his services, he barely played until Lacazette completely ran out of gas. I can understand it to an extent: the Frenchman took the armband after the Aubameyang stuff and I suspect that, and his relative experience, played a bigger part in team selection than it should have.

However, the bottom line for Nketiah seems to be playing time, not money. If Arsenal make Champions League, it could have an impact, because I don’t think there’ll be another English club in that competition offering him a deal, but if we’re talking about Gabriel Jesus and other potential additions to our forward line, it means Eddie playing second-fiddle at best and that doesn’t seem to be what he wants. Money can turn a player’s head, but if he’s thinking seriously about his career and how much he’s going to play, the ball is very much in his court and it seems he’s got plenty of other courts to hit it back to. Probably a few more now after what he’s done for the team in recent weeks.

Right, there you go. I will have to start thinking about tomorrow’s game a bit later on when I chat to Lewis for our Patreon preview podcast (available late afternoon), but for now I’m going to keep my mind off it by playing some golf.

Full blog preview tomorrow, of course – and we’ll have all the news from Mikel Arteta’s press conference this afternoon on Arseblog News. Until then.

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