Sunday, October 2, 2022

Reborn in the USA?

Morning all, 

Yesterday evening a 33-man Arsenal squad landed in the USA for our second pre-season training camp on foreign shores. 

All of the first team – as listed on the club website – made the journey, plus 17-year-old right-back Reuell Walters. What a huge opportunity it is for him. 

Somewhat surprisingly, some of the better-known kids – Charlie Patino, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Omari Hutchinson and Marcelo Flores – were left at home. Perhaps there are loan moves in the pipeline or maybe we just have too many senior players. Either way, I suspect they’ll be a tad disappointed to miss out. 

The travelling party face a hectic schedule in the next 11 days. There’s a trio of fixtures to fulfil, first against Everton in Baltimore on Saturday, and then versus Orlando City and Chelsea in Florida. In between the star jumps and shuttle runs, a number of supporter-facing events will take place, one of which should include a kit launch for the new black away kit. 

I know for a fact that the Stateside Gooners are very excited about the players’ latest jaunt across the Pond, all the more so after last summer’s visit was canned at late notice due to a Covid outbreak in the camp. 

It’s been three years since we last visited the States and it goes without saying that a lot has happened at Arsenal since then. I just checked the starting lineup for the match played against Real Madrid in Washington DC – a 3-2 shootout defeat after a 2-2 draw in normal time – and the only survivor is Granit Xhaka. 

Emi Martinez, Carl Jenkinson, Sead Kolasinac, Sokratis, Calum Chambers, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Joe Willock, Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil have all left the club. 

Of course, squad churn is nothing new. We’re carrying a lot of fat at the moment and I fully expect a decent number of the lads currently on tour to be gone by the time the transfer window closes on 1 September. 

“If you ask me what I want, it’s 22 outfield players and three goalkeepers,” said Arteta in April when asked about his ideal squad size for the 22/23 season. By my reckoning, there are as many as 11 players who could leave in some capacity but as things stand, very few are anywhere near a move. 

Seeing as it’s relatively quiet, I thought I’d run through where we’re at with each of them…

Bernd Leno

A surprise inclusion for the US tour given negotiations with Fulham are ongoing but, at the same time, it’s not exactly hard to fly back to England if he needs to undertake a medical. There were suggestions that the Cottagers want us to lower our £11 million asking price but when you consider he’s a full international in the prime of his career, they’re being fucking cheeky. The 30-year-old is a dead cert to be playing his football elsewhere after four seasons at the Emirates. 

Alex Runarsson

Brought back into the fold after his loan spell with Belgian side OH Leuven, the Iceland international knows his future lies elsewhere given he’s behind Ramsdale, Turner, Leno, Okonkwo and Hein in the pecking order. I’ve not seen any clubs linked with him yet but it’s only a matter of time before some random continental outfit spots his name on a database, shrugs their shoulders and makes an offer we can’t refuse. Use of a Benidorm timeshare in 2027? Done. Where do we sign? 

Hector Bellerin

The poor bloke had such a great time at Betis that he was in floods of tears when he said goodbye after their last home game. Despite taking a wage cut to help get the loan deal done, he’s probably realised it’s not too clever to wave goodbye to wads of cash on an ongoing basis (footballer careers don’t last very long), so he’s back at Arsenal rather than moving to Seville on a permanent basis. Under contract until next summer, we’re in the last-chance saloon when it comes to raising a half-decent fee for the Spain international. AS Roma and Atletico Madrid have been mentioned as possible destinations but there’s nothing concrete. Personally, I believe he’s a better option than Cedric as backup to Takehiro Tomiyasu but we’re not going to make him stay if he’s keen to leave. Having had a taste of life elsewhere, I think that’s the case. 

Nuno Tavares

He might be the captain of chaos but clubs in Spain, Italy and France are reportedly lining up for the 22-year-old. He reminds me of that kid in the Mighty Ducks – Luis Mendoza – who is an incredible skater but doesn’t know how to stop. Basically, he scares the shit out of me when he’s on the field and I think Arteta feels the same way, hence the attempts to sign Lisandro Martinez. Even if the Ajax man proves to be out of reach (looking likely), I think we’ll keep scouring the market until a suitable competition for Kieran Tierney is found. A year on loan could well do Tavares the world of good and we’ve not much to lose; he’s under contract until 2025 and we only paid £7 million or so. 

Pablo Mari 

All the reports suggest six months at Udinese did Pablo the world of good. He put injury issues to one side, got match sharp quickly, boosted his confidence and has had a number of clubs, including newly crowned Serie A champions AC Milan, asking after him this summer. The player has said he doesn’t want to write off working with Arteta again – who he clearly respects – but also that he’d be happy to stay in Italy. At 28 he surely has to be somewhere he can play regularly and that’s not going to happen at Arsenal. He’s under contract until 2024 so he’s ripe for another loan move. 

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

“God can turn around any situation” – that was the biblical quote the England international posted on Instagram on Tuesday. It’s so cryptic, that you could read it a number of ways. A second chance at Arsenal? A new beginning after two lacklustre half-season loans with West Brom and AS Roma? Who knows. Like Bellerin, I maintain he’s a more enticing option than Cedric, however, he’s clearly down the pecking order at both right-back and in the centre of the park. At 24 nobody, including Ainsley himself, seems sure of his best position and that’s an issue. He’s also out of contract next summer meaning we’re pressed for time if we want to generate funds. He was linked with Nottingham Forest two weeks ago but that’s gone flat. I have a gut feeling, he might stick around and the next couple of weeks are a prime opportunity for him to get back on track. 

Lucas Torreira

It was a real kick in the teeth for Lucas to see a move to Fiorentina collapse given his impressive performances for them last season. Since then he’s reiterated his desire to leave Arsenal and told all and sundry that he’s available for €15 million. Yesterday his agent revealed that the 26-year-old has an agreement with Valencia, who are now coached by Gennaro Gattuso. I think I’m write in saying that Gattuso had also wanted to sign the Uruguayan during his short-lived tenure at Napoli. Perhaps the Italian is finally going to get his man?

Nicolas Pepe

If you Google ‘Nicolas Pepe transfer rumour’ you just get a series of tumbleweed GIFs and the occasional picture of Raul Sanllehi with a manic look in his eye. The Ivorian might have changed his agent in May but I’m starting to think they work in the wrong field. “Nicolas, there’s an opportunity next Thursday. The BBC are casting extras for Casualty. It’s a 9am start in Cardiff and they pay cash in hand. How about it?” Under contract until 2024, maybe we’ll shuffle him out on loan somewhere and pick up the tab. That would probably be on the proviso that we sign an alternative, something we’ve clearly thought about given the interest in Raphinha. 

Reiss Nelson

He made the mistake of trying to fight for his place at the start of the 20/21 campaign and effectively lost a year at a vital juncture in his career. I’m pleased he grew in stature last season at Feyenoord and was surprised that the Dutch side couldn’t find the cash to make the move permanent. All the more so given he’s out of contract in the summer and we don’t have much of a bargaining position. Reiss is clearly talented but in contrast to Bukayo Saka, who plays with so much freedom, he always seems inhibited when he wears an Arsenal shirt. Interestingly, The Athletic hinted earlier in the week that he might be offered the chance to stick it out at the Emirates, presumably on the off-chance he experiences an Nketiah-esque renaissance. 

Folarin Balogun

Having tasted regular first team football at Middlesbrough in the second half of last season (3 goals and 3 assists in 21 appearances) another loan move wouldn’t be surprising. That said, with the Europa League group stages and the early rounds of the Carabao Cup due to take place before the World Cup starts in November, there’s a lot of football on the horizon and only two bona fide strikers ahead of him in the pecking order. Assuming we don’t buy another striker, I can see us keeping Flo around and then rehousing him in January. 

Marquinhos

Billed by Edu as “a player for the future”, it’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact Marquinhos makes in the States. If he does what Martinelli did three years ago, Arteta might be tempted to keep him around as a bit of a wild card until January. Reports claimed that Wolves, who had an agreement with the player before we snatched him from under their noses, were going to send him to Swiss side Grasshoppers for the year. Clearly, we wanted to take a closer look at him first before making any such decisions. 

So…in summary, there’s definitely lots for Edu and Dicky Garlick to do. 

Elsewhere, I had to chuckle when I saw the ASDA (Arsenal Supporters Detective Agency) attempting to verify rumours that Youri Tielemans had put his 5-bedroom house up for sale. 

How did they do it, I hear you ask? In a picture of the kitchen on the estate agent’s listing, they spotted the names of the Leicester player’s two daughters on a ‘chore list’ pinned to the fridge door. Incredible. Also very creepy. 

The optimist in me wants to believe this is a clear sign that he’s moving to the Emirates. Unfortunately, having written the draft confirmation post for Arseblog News way back in June, I’m pretty sure I’ve jinxed it, so don’t get your hopes up!

I think I’ll call it quits for today. Arseblog Tom is on duty tomorrow and I’ll be back on Saturday morning. Until then. 

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