Sunday, February 5, 2023

Some activity in the departure lounge?

Hello hello.

It’s a bit mad to think that in just under one month we’ll be kicking off the new Premier League season. The starting date has been brought forward to August 6th, so more games can be squeezed in before the World Cup. Our first pre-season game of consequence takes place on Friday, although there was a behind-closed-doors win over Ipswich last weekend.

I suspect there might be a creeping anxiety about the clock ticking inexorably towards Selhurst Park on that Friday night, not least because it feels like we still have a bit to do in terms of the transfer market. Is there an alternative to Raphinha – who still hasn’t completed a move anywhere else by the way? There’s talk that Youri Tielemans might be the subject of an imminent bid, and a midfield addition in that ‘left 8’ space has long been high on people’s list.

We also have to wait and see what happens with Lisandro Martinez and, should he decide to link up with former boss Erik ten Hag in Manchester instead, what other names we have on our list for whichever role we had earmarked him for. Left-back cover? Left centre-half cover? Defensive midfield? I think versatile players are useful, although I do have some doubts about whether or not one player can be at the right level in three different positions – especially in that area of the pitch.

Anyway, as I discussed on Monday on the Arsecast Extra with Tim, the success of the transfer window for me will be based primarily on how we augment the squad with incoming deals. If we can sell well, that’s a bonus, but should we get to the end of the window and then see a clutch of late loan + option/obligation departures, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. The issue for Mikel Arteta might be the fact he’s got some ‘bloat’ on the training ground, guys who just aren’t going to be involved, but that’s something he should be more than capable of dealing with. When you think of some of the things he’s had to contend with since he took over, that feels kind of trivial.

Speaking of those close to the exit door, there’s more chatter about Fulham and Bernd Leno. Having mentioned the fact it had gone very quiet in yesterday’s blog, I’m taking full credit for this and isn’t it remarkable that there hasn’t been a single club in all the world said to be interested in exciting, thrilling, majestic winger Nicolas Pepe?

That should do it.

As for Leno and Fulham, it seems like a good fit, at least for this season. They’ve been a bit yo-yo in recent years, up and down between the Premier League and the Championship, so that might give the German some pause for thought. However, if he wants to stay in England I don’t know who else in this league is actively looking for a new keeper, and from an Arsenal perspective it’s probably very welcome interest because of the potential transfer fee we’d be offered – likely to be higher than a club on the continent.

Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin, who captained the side against Ipswich last weekend, has reportedly rejected a move to Villarreal because his heart is set on a return to Real Betis where he spent last season on loan. Some will say he didn’t fancy linking up with former Arsenal head coach Unai Emery again, but I think it’s more to do with his desire to go back to Betis.

Villarreal were apparently willing to match his current Arsenal salary, and we know that he had to take a considerable cut last summer to go to Los Verdiblancos, but you get the sense from Hector that his primary concern at this point is more about professional fulfillment than his bank balance. It sounds unusual for a footballer, but then in many ways he is an unusual footballer – and I don’t mean that to sound critical in any way. How many players speak out the way he has on issues that have nothing to do with the game? How many of them consistently demonstrate a social conscience the way he has? It’s rare that any footballer sticks their head above the parapet to lend support to issues that will see them criticised and labelled in a negative way. Not for him the PR platitudes or just plain old silence.

So, for me anyway, the idea that Hector Bellerin would prefer one club over another because he has a connection with it, even if he might get paid more elsewhere, doesn’t seem at all odd. Hopefully he can get the move he wants. There are some players who I really don’t care where they go, as long as they go, but as someone who has always had a soft spot for Hector, it’d be nice to see him end up at the club he really wants.

Right, that’s it for this morning. If there’s any breaking news during the day, we’ll have it on Arseblog News.

Take it easy folks, mind yourselves.

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