Let’s focus first this morning on things which have actually happened.
They may not be the most exciting things, but they are definitely real. Arsenal sent two young players on loan yesterday, Omar Rekik joining Sparta Rotterdam while Harry Clarke has joined Stoke.
Rekik, a central defender who joined from Hertha Berlin in January last year, is already a full international for Tunisia, and could be involved in the World Cup later this year. He’s only 20, and a good season out on loan could well be hugely beneficial for him. Like goalkeeper Karl Hein he’s made his full international debut before his full Arsenal one. Clarke has spent time in Scotland, with Ross County and Hibs, but he’ll play Championship football next season.
There’s also talk of a move for young striker Mika Biereth with RKC Waalwijk said to be ready to take him for the duration of next season. He was top scorer for the U23s last season, and made the bench a few times for the senior team without making his debut. These moves definitely feel proactive for players at this stage of their developments, and the fact that there’s a change in the age grouping for the ‘Premier League 2’ next season may be playing a part here.
Via the PL website: The age group for players from the 2022/23 season is Under-21, changing from Under-23 as a reflection of the reality of the age of players in the competition, where the current average is 19.
The other thing to say is that we have a lot of familiar names at U23 level because of how much coverage there is these days. There’s a lot of talent bubbling under, but the reality is that only a very small percentage will ever make the breakthrough for Arsenal. Giving them senior football earlier will certainly help their development and increase their chances of pushing for a first team place here but – if not – that playing time should make them more valuable assets in terms of transfer fees and sell-on fees if and when we decide to move them on.
If you think about the fee we got for someone like Krystian Bielik a few years ago, it was pretty healthy (£10m) for a player who had come through our Academy, but that was because he had loan spells in which he’d impressed. A hot prospect at youth level who can’t do it when he has to step up and deal with the increased pressure and physicality of senior football just isn’t going to generate anything like the same fee, so good luck to these lads and whoever else we send out this summer.
As we struggle to sell senior players, we shouldn’t overlook the Academy as a potential source of decent income.
Back in the main room, there has been a lot of talk about Raphinha in the last 24 hours. One report said it ‘could’ happen this week as interest from Barcelona has cooled; The Times are reporting we’re set to make a £50m bid – but I may have to go and check if they’ve deleted that story without explanation; and a number of Brazil based journalists have been beating the same drum too.
I have to say I’m a little cautious about this. Not because I don’t want the player, I think he’d be an excellent addition and I don’t worry in the slightest that he’s a right sided attacker. We don’t have enough good players, he is a good player, and would add quality and depth to this team as we go into what will hopefully be a 50+ game season.
I don’t think it means anything sinister re: Bukayo Saka because he’s so obviously a big part of Mikel Arteta’s plans, and haven’t we said repeatedly we need to protect him and ease some of his burden? A player like Raphinha helps you do that, a player like Nicolas Pepe does not, as last season demonstrated. The whole point of this summer is to raise the level across the board and signing first team ready players is how you do that.
However, I can’t help but feel this could be part of a push to force Barcelona to make a proper move. I really hope it’s more about our interest than the machinations of the transfer market and agents using the interest of other clubs to get the move the player really wants, but it’s a story as old as time. As much as I want this to be true on the one hand, I think you have to remain a little cynical/sceptical on the other.
The increasingly vague language of transfer updates is another aspect to this one that we can’t ignore. Nobody wants to be wrong, so there’s a lot of possible more than probable going on. How much closer do we have to get to something before it will happen rather than it could happen? I know this is how it works these days, but the tediousness of stuff inching towards a finishing line which is itself always shifting further away ought to make all of us just a little wary of investing too much emotional energy into it. Anyway, let’s see what happens.
Right, I’ll leave it there for now. There’s a brand new Arsecast Extra for you below if you haven’t had a chance to listen yet. Till tomorrow.