Monday, May 20, 2024

A risky midfield revamp on the cards?


The transfer rumour mill is well and truly heating up. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too hot, then go on fire. What would we do then?

Let’s start with Thomas Partey, and increased chatter about his departure. After the initial report on Sunday which said there was a good chance he could leave, we’re now hearing that three Saudi Arabian clubs are interested in him. James Benge reports that Al Nassr (Ronaldo and Ospina), Al Ahli and Al Khaleej fancy taking on his services, while David Ornstein says that both Arsenal and the ‘Partey camp’ are working on ‘possible exit solutions’.

Much will depend on the will of the player, of course. He might feel this is a great opportunity from a financial perspective, but maybe not quite as important from a sporting one. Still, you can understand why Arsenal might be willing to let him go. He’s 30 now, he’s had fitness issues ever since his arrival from Atletico Madrid, and he has two years left on his deal. If there was a decent amount of money on the table now, it’s the kind of scenario you have to make the most of. There would be much less cash this time next year, if it was on offer at all, and the year after he could leave for free.

If not quite surprise money, it’s probably money that we might have held out some hope for, but never really expected. Now, with the developments in the Saudi league, it’s potentially giving the club a really interesting decision to make. With Granit Xhaka set to depart, allowing Partey to leave on top of that sees you ‘lose’ two thirds of a midfield which was extremely effective last season. Sure, we ran out of steam but these two were basically ever-present, bar a few games here and there, and when we played our best football, they played their best football too.

So, while the financial side of things is something you absolutely have to take into consideration – especially in this current market, which feels a bit tip of the iceberg-y right now – there are footballing aspects to think very carefully about too. The opportunity to cash in allows you to reinvest, but you have to be very sure that the players you bring in are going to be ready.

Leaving aside the reportage/online drama about another Declan Rice bid being rejected (and then immediately leaked to the press for reasons which obviously suit West Ham), the Hammers’ captain is certainly Premier League ready. How quickly he can get up to speed with what Mikel Arteta wants from him is another question, but undoubtedly conversations between player and manager have already been had. Not to mention we wouldn’t be prepared to spend the amount of money we’re going to spend if that was a major concern.

It’s what comes next that will probably define whether a Partey departure is a good idea or not. There’s continued interest in Kai Havertz, but he feels much more like another option for the forward line than someone who will be part of our midfield set-up. Romeo Lavia is a very impressive young player, but only 19. Is he ready to do that kind of heavy lifting, both domestically and in the Champions League? He certainly has the potential, and while future-proofing is always an important part of squad building, you also have to think about the immediate future too.

It does make me wonder if there’s something cooking we’re not fully aware of. Yes, we have Jorginho and Mohamed Elneny, and I reckon the former is very much in Arteta’s plans for next season. However, it feels like we need more than that to replace what we’d lose with that double departure. James made a great point on the Arsecast Extra on Monday, we’re looking to replace the Granit Xhaka who got 9 goals and 7 assists last season; and for most of last season, Partey was imperious in that deep-lying central midfield role. They are big boots to fill, and big decisions to make, because there is a significant element of risk to that much change in one window.

Elsewhere, there are suggestions we’re open to offers for Eddie Nketiah, but whether that’s because we want to let him to in order to keep Folarin Balogun is another issue. That’s another decision where the player’s stock is very high right now, and that might well be the key. Is Havertz the other option at centre-forward, bearing in mind we have also seen Leandro Trossard used in there? With Emile Smith Rowe pushing for great involvement next season, and I assume some of that will be from the left where he has played a lot, do the club consider that sufficient forward depth for the season that lies ahead?

Time will tell. It feels busy at Arsenal though. Arteta said this was a transfer window that we had to ‘nail’, so the importance of it internally is fully understood. Let’s see.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. Have a good one.

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