Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Many midfield machinations

Morning all. A quick, early Friday blog for you.

I mentioned Declan Rice yesterday, and the idea that his future would immediately be sorted after West Ham’s Europa Conference League being a little hasty. I think that’s still true, but the Hammers’ Chairman David Sullivan confirmed the 24 year old would leave the club this summer, saying:

We promised him he could go. He set his heart on going. You can’t ask for a man who has committed more to us this season.

It’s not something we want to happen. We offered him £200,000 a week 18 months ago, he turned it down. It’s cost him £10 million to stay at West Ham in that time.

He wants to go. You can’t keep a player who doesn’t want to be there. I think the offers will start to come today.

Cue countless Tweets/stories about Arsenal’s interest, willingness to bid, preparing a bid, priority number 1 and all the rest. From our perspective, given interest from other clubs, the sooner we can get this one wrapped up the better, but as I’ve said this is much like the Gabriel Jesus deal last summer, in that a lot of groundwork has been done. It’s not a cast-iron guarantee it happens because football transfers can be unpredictable, but this is not a situation where we have to start from scratch to try and find agreements acceptable to all parties.

Come back tomorrow for more updates on how we want to sign Declan Rice but have not yet signed Declan Rice. And would next week’s international games provide some kind of time-frame for what might happen?

There’s further talk about our intention to bid for Moises Caicedo, but nothing concrete on that yet. However, perhaps some rumoured outgoings might well give us an indication as to the plausibility of that. We know Granit Xhaka is heading for Bayer Leverkusen, although that deal which has yet to be confirmed and you can never quite say never when it comes to things changing in the world of the Swiss international.

Earlier in the week, the Belgian press reported Burnley interest in taking Albert Sambi Lokonga on loan. Their manager, Vincent Kompany, was in charge of Anderlecht when we brought the midfielder to the club in 2021, so that connection might well be someone putting two and two together in transfer season to make a story for the paper, but it’s also one that makes a lot of sense.

Lokonga barely played in the Premier League for Arsenal, and after Patrick Vieira was sacked by Crystal Palace, his playing time there plummeted when Roy Hodgson took over. He featured for just 70 minutes of the last 900 he was available for, so it’s reasonable to say that loan move didn’t work out as well as we’d have liked. It certainly didn’t do much to bolster his reputation or his transfer value. If Burnley and Kompany are interested, regular football could positively impact both.

While I’m sure we’ll be looking to generate funds through sales this summer, there’s no real urgency when it comes to Sambi. He has a contract until 2026, so time is on our side there. An option with Burnley could be arranged, but he could also return a more valuable asset if he has a good season. I find it hard to envisage a future for him at Arsenal though, and he’s one of the midfield roster who will more than likely be elsewhere next season.

There are also reports that Lazio are interested in Jorginho. How much truth there is in that, I can’t say. We’re still very much in the early stages of summer and it feels a bit speculative for now, but the links with his former boss Maurizio Sarri lend some credibility to it. One to keep an eye on, and if – and I know it’s probably a big if at this point – we were prepared to let him and Lokonga go, as well as Xhaka, it would necessitate more than one arrival. Whether it’s Caicedo, or someone else, that remains to be seen, but it would need to be a serious player. Not a punt on youth, but a ready-made first team player who can do it at Premier League and Champions League level.

It has been said we’re not letting Xhaka go until we sign a replacement (Rice?), so it might also be a case that we don’t let anyone else go until we’re assured of further incomings, but it does look as if midfield is going to be the main area of attention this summer. Let’s see how it all plays out.

Right, let’s leave it there. There’s a brand new Arsecast for you below, chatting Rice, Messi and much more, happy listening.

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