Friday, January 27, 2023

The first saga of the summer + Arteta on Saliba

Morning, a quick Friday blog for you.

The transfer window is barely open (is it even officially open?), and already we have our first saga. You will have read last week about our pursuit of young Brazilian winger Marquinhos. It already sounded a little complicated, as he’d signed a deal with Sao Paulo, but because of FIFA regulations the duration of the deal wasn’t enforceable, so we stepped in to get him for a knock-down €3.5m (even though some reports said he could have left for free).

It was reported he’d been in England to do his medical and all the rest, and it looked as if he’d be our first signing of the summer. However, yesterday Mr Works met Mr Spanner who got right up in him, and it seems that the player had already signed a pre-contract agreement with Wolves who are now considering legal action against him.

Maybe this is the kind of thing that just goes away with a discussion and a little incentive to Wolves, or maybe it becomes a big thing, who knows? They might consider it a matter of principle and if they do, we might ask if our Technical Director was aware of this potential snag. I know it’s not like a wedding where Edu stands up in front of Marquinhos and his agent and says ‘Should anyone present know of any reason that this player and this club should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace’, but it’s surely part of the due diligence.

‘You didn’t happen to sign anything with any other club, did you?’

‘Er … well …see, the thing is …’

‘I’ll take that as a no!’

One to keep an eye on, I guess.

I realise I didn’t write anything about Mikel Arteta’s comments about William Saliba. When we talk about augmenting our squad for next season, we think of transfers and new players, and while he might feel a bit Like A New Signing, he’s actually an old signing at this point, it’s just that he’s never played for us.

Speaking to RMC Sport in France, Arteta said:

He has to come back. He has the experience and the environment necessary to be competitive with us.

He also made it clear he felt the loan spell at Marseille was the best thing for the development of a young centre-half:

If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League game per week, and with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure.

For his growth and what he can do next season that wouldn’t have been good. William wasn’t with us because he wouldn’t have had the playing time to gain experience.

That’s it, there’s nothing else.

For me, the loan made absolute sense given the player’s age, and I’m sure I wrote a while ago that whatever happens, it has been a good one. If Saliba comes back and is a better, more experienced defender, then that’s good for us. If he agitates and wants to go, his stock his high and we’ll probably get a good chunk of the £28.5m we paid for him three years ago – a deal which I think more and more looks a bit odd. You can make the argument you’re paying for potential, and that’s not unreasonable, but I don’t know too many 18 year old centre-halves barely into double figures in senior appearances who have ever generated that kind of fee.

Anyway, it looks like the manager wants him in the squad next season, something I’d be very keen to see, and if he stays I’m really curious to see how he does. His season at Marseille was generally very good, but not without some bumps in the road – something which is perfectly normal for any defender, especially one aged 20/21. I worry a little there’s a level of expectation around this player that might be counter-productive in some ways, and we’ll have to see what the reaction might be to an error or two in red and white.

Hopefully he can come back and fit in well though. He’s 21, physically really impressive and ready for the Premier League, and let’s be honest, this Arsenal side feels much more a fit for him than previous iterations. The idea that Arteta doesn’t like young players has been well and truly put to bed this season, he can compete with Ben White and Gabriel, we’ll have loads of football to offer given that we’re back in Europe, and we’re not asking him to ‘learn’ from players like Mustafi or Luiz.

The stage is set, let’s see.

Last thing before the podcast this morning, huge congrats to James whose book The Champ and The Chump won Sports Entertainment Book of the Year at the Sunday Times Sports Book Awards last night:

If you haven’t read it already, I can’t recommend it enough as a summer holiday read. It’s funny and touching and personal (if you want to listen to a podcast we did about it, click here), and I’m very proud of my friend … not just for his well deserved award, but everything that went into this book.

Finally for today, a brand new Arsecast, chatting Arsenal’s season, transfers, Saliba, the Premier League in general and lots more with Philippe Auclair. All the links you need are below, get it in your ears!

Have a good one folks.


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