Thursday, June 20, 2024

Arteta on Balogun, Rice, and transfers

Morning all.

As I mentioned yesterday, some of the focus has turned towards departures, with reporting of a €40m bid from Inter Milan for striker Folarin Balogun. Arsenal are reportedly open to a sale, but want more than the Italian club are offering.

Mikel Arteta was asked about the player’s future – and his performances last season for Reims – as the team trained in Washington DC yesterday, and he said:

It’s great because he’s done incredibly well. Now we have to think about what is best to do. We want to see him, we want to experience him in the next few games, he played the last game against Nuremberg and he do so again in the next few games, then we’ll make the best decision.

Which might just be deflecting but I do think we’re open to all possibilities at the moment. If he impresses on tour, he could put himself in the manager’s plans, but the fact we have to sell and he’s our hottest property is a significant factor when you’ve spent £200m and brought in £25m. There’s a bit of a gap there.

Balogun himself spoke about his situation, and said:

I obviously went away and the point was to prove I could play first team football. I feel I was able to do that and show people I can play at that level.

I think with me coming back it’s not really much of a situation where I think I can need to try extra hard to prove something, I think it’s a decision that’s not really with me.

Whatever happens I’m cool with it.

I’ve seen some people suggest he’s not willing to fight for a place based on those comments, but I think that’s doing him a bit of a disservice. He will know exactly what Arteta expects from him and every other player in terms of hard work, commitment during training etc, but the reality of his situation is that if Arsenal decide to sell, there’s not a lot he can realistically do about it.

Sure, he could dig his heels in and say he doesn’t want to go, but when a club makes a decision like that and you want to play regular first team football – which is what he has spoken about previously – there’s usually only one outcome. So let’s see what happens. The fact he’s now a US international at a club with US owners might be something that has a bearing on his future, but it certainly feels like if the money is right, then we’d be prepared to sell. Will Inter come back with a bigger bid?

As for more arrivals, Arteta says:

There’s still a lot of time left in the market, and there are a lot of expectations of our players as well. We’ll have to see and how things develop in the next couple of weeks. We will be alert, there’s still time to do things, there’s still time for exits as well, obviously, so I’m sure things will move.

The manager was also asked about Declan Rice, and what it was about him that made the club push the boat out to spend £100m on the midfielder. He said:

It’s his leadership, his aura, the experience he already has in the league. He is going to bring the team to a different dimension I think. I see him like a lighthouse, that he is willing to put light in others and improve others and make the team better and that is a huge quality.

He has the physical qualities we were missing for a while as well. That is why we had to do what we had to do.

The first part is no surprise, you don’t spend that amount of money unless you think the player can elevate your team in a big way. I do think there’s something interesting about his reference to him bringing physical qualities we’re missing though. If we assume Rice is going to play in the deepest midfield position, where Thomas Partey has been the incumbent, does it say something about what Arteta feels is lacking in his game?

I remember one of the later season games, it might have been Man City away, and there was a moment when Partey got absolutely bodied by an opponent he should have been physically capable of standing up to. Add his many injury problems since his arrival from Atletico Madrid to the mix – he was nursed through parts of last season but it became fairly obvious he wasn’t at 100% – and that level of doubt over a player in a key position could well be part of why Arteta pushed so hard for Rice.

And on the three signings made so far, it’s clear the manager is happy about the business we’ve done – and understandably so:

Very pleased, obviously, as you can imagine. We signed the players that we wanted, we signed them early and they seem to have started to adapt to the team really fast. We have some time now to prepare and for them as well, to give them the best chance to express themselves the right way. To do that they need to experience a few days of how it looks at Arsenal.

Despite some of the low-level angst as we waited for the announcements, when you step back this has easily been one of the best summers I can remember. Not just the arrival of three very good players, but contract renewals for William Saliba and Bukayo Saka (on top of the ones we completed during the season), and maintaining a kind of feel-good factor that is going to be important going into the new campaign. Compared to some off-seasons in the past, the club have done amazing work. There’s still a bit to do, but credit is deserved for that we’ve done so far.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. Till tomorrow.

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