Morning all. I hope you enjoyed your day off yesterday. There are a few bits and bobs to get our teeth into today.
Let’s start with Emile Smith Rowe, who is on international duty with England at the European Under-21 Championship. He outlined the severity of the groin problem he’d been playing with until he had surgery last September:
I had an injection which would make me not feel my groin at all, even when kicking the ball. That was the only thing helping me get through games.
He aggravated it in the warm-down after our game against Man Utd at Old Trafford, and had to go under the knife. As we know, he struggled for minutes even when he was fit again, leading to understandable speculation about his future. That was killed pretty early this summer when the club let it be known that he was part of the plans and not going to be sold, but the challenge he has now is to get back into the team. He says:
Arsenal are my club and I’m not going to give up until the manager says he doesn’t want me. But that’s not the case. He wants me as part of the team and I want to fight for my place and get back in the team.
I’m pleased he’s staying, and hopefully these U21 tournament games can help him get match fit, so when he returns to pre-season he’s fully ready for that fight. Quite where he’s going to fit into the team will be an interesting one. There was talk of him being re-trained as a left 8, that Granit Xhaka role, and I think it’s within his capability. He can provide cover on either flank or for Martin Odegaard, but it’s likely to be a bigger squad next season, especially when you consider we’ve added Leandro Trossard and look set to bring in Kai Havertz from Chelsea.
Then again, Mikel Arteta spoke about wanting a much deeper pool of players to choose from, as well as getting more from some of the players who didn’t contribute much last season. Smith Rowe is very much an internal solution in that regard, and I really hope he stays fit and gives the manager some difficult team selection decisions.
Another player who fits that criteria, Fabio Vieira, is sadly out of the U21 tournament due to injury. There doesn’t appear to be any detail as to what the problem is, but having missed pre-season last summer, let’s hope it’s nothing that serious again. He had an underwhelming first campaign, and he needs to keep up now, not fall behind.
In terms of transfers, there’s nothing major stirring – perhaps the end of the internationals this week might open up the lines of communication a bit more. However, there was an interesting tidbit dropped by Fabrizio Romano who reckons there’s a ‘concrete’ chance that Thomas Partey could leave this summer.
🚨 Understand there’s concrete chance for Thomas Partey to leave Arsenal this summer. Clubs are interested and there are discussions about his exit. #AFC
Current contract expiring in June 2025 and no talks to extend as of today.
Arsenal priority remains Declan Rice. pic.twitter.com/LwrUPhQ6sF
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 18, 2023
With Granit Xhaka set to join Bayer Leverkusen, there would be an element of risk in allowing another experienced, high quality midfielder depart in the same window. Of course, that risk could well be offset by potential arrivals. We all know about Declan Rice, but the reality is if you let Xhaka and Partey go this summer, you need more than just one signing – regardless of how high profile that deal is. Whether that makes anyone feel more confident that we could splash out on Moises Caicedo, we’ll have to wait and see.
There is talk of interest from Saudi Arabia in Partey, which could be important because of the fee that might be paid. The more you bring in, the more you can spend, and perhaps a midfield target that looked a little out of reach might well come back into play. I know it’s still early days in this window, but it does feel as the developments in the Saudi Arabian league may well have a significant impact on the European transfer market this summer.
Finally, Flo Balogun got off the mark for the US, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win over Canada (watch here). I know he spoke about wanting to play regularly, but I do think there’s a conversation to be had around him and Eddie Nketiah. Eddie just doesn’t really score unless he starts, but his role in the squad is that of a back-up player who makes a lot of substitute appearances. There’s a bit of an issue there.
I know there’s a ‘chance’ to cash in on Balogun after his goalscoring exploits in Ligue 1, but I’d definitely be tempted to give him an opportunity to do better than Nketiah. Whether that’s something he wants or not, that’s another question. A player’s desire is often the driving force behind a club’s decision, even if it’s not one we’d have made ourselves. Let’s see.
Right, I’ll leave it there for now. James and I will be recording an Arsecast Extra for you this morning. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.
We should have the podcast for you around lunchtime at some point. Until then.