A quick Saturday round-up for you.
Reports yesterday say that we’ve sealed the deal for 19 year old Sao Paulo winger, Marquinhos. He’ll cost around £3m, and will be here for pre-season. There was that story about how he’d signed a pre-contract agreement with Wolves and there was the potential for legal complication because of that, but it’s either unenforceable or some kind of agreement has been found with them to make it all go away.
At this point it’s hard to know what kind of role he’ll play, but as we discussed on the Arsecast on Friday, there’s definitely a need for another wide forward in this squad. Making the assumption Nicolas Pepe will want to go somewhere and play next season – and that we can find someone to pay an acceptable fee – that leaves us with Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka (as it stands).
With Premier League, Europa League, and the cups, that’s nowhere near enough, especially if you harbour some concerns about the burden placed on these young players. With 3359 minutes under his belt last season, Saka in particular is vulnerable to the stress of that workload, even if he does seem like a pretty robust player physically. However, when you add in his international minutes (another 435), you have to think very carefully about it.
The fact that he, and the other players, still haven’t had a break – and won’t get one until next week having played four games in ten days – is absolutely ludicrous. Remember, he went all the way to the final of the Euros last summer, taking the final kick of the tournament, had a little bit of downtime, then played in every single Premier League game for us last season.
As we look ahead, pre-season training starts again early next month, there will be tours and friendlies, and the new season begins on August 6th, brought forward because of the mid-season World Cup. I have strong suspicions that next season is going to be a bit helter-skelter because of it, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the second half of it isn’t very significantly impacted by the tournament in Qatar. If we see an uptick in big injuries, or even a spate of small, niggling issues which affect player availability, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
Back to us though, and as Mikel Arteta think about squad building and the season that lies ahead, this is certainly one of the things they need to consider carefully. We have a duty to the player himself, and a responsibility to the team as well, to make sure that he isn’t worn down and over-played – and I think you could probably say that we’ve come close to that line already.
We’ve already seen Emile Smith Rowe suffer a little from the physical demands of regular football at this level (he too is still playing … for the England U21s btw, along with Flo Balogun), and the last thing we need is for our player of the season to break down. So, whether Marquinhos is ready, we’ll have to wait and see. If he’s not, then a credible back-up/alternative/competition for Saka on the right hand side is important, and may mean another foray into the transfer market.
To be fair, Gabriel Martinelli has played there before, but he prefers the left and I think he’s better on that side. We have seen Reiss Nelson played there before, but with 12 months left on his contract, I think the most likely thing for him this summer is a departure rather than reintegration. Anyway, I’m quite sure this isn’t something the manager etc are unaware of, so let’s see.
Right, I’m gonna leave it there for this morning. Have yourselves a great Saturday, more from me here tomorrow and if there’s anything stirring, we’ll cover it on Arseblog News.