‘A top central defender, a box-to-box combative midfielder, my kingdom for somebody of quality!’
Ambition, speculation and opinion drive the football world. On one side, the ambitions of footballers and clubs alike is the groundwork with which to build from. The foundations to sculpt a new chapter in your respective side’s history and set on a path towards new riches.
Speculation keeps the intensity up. It offers fans with those slithers of hope that their clubs’ aspirations may be heading in the right direction as opposed to veering off course.
And then there is opinion. Whether it’s those working in the business having their say on matters, or the supporters down the pub insisting one player is rubbish while his pal swilling his pint refutes steadfastly and proclaims this player to be the ‘next big thing’. Even matters on the pitch are opinion-based, starting with the man who has a whistle in his mouth.
When it comes to transfers, all three of these facets often roll into one bitesized 280-character message.
In the case of Arsenal, these are often hourly occurrences linking X,Y and Z to north London, with Mikel Arteta rigorously jotting down his masterplan to save the Gunners.
You’ll most likely have heard Dayot Upamecano’s name been flung around. You’ll also likely have heard Thomas Partey’s name cropping up on more than one occasion. Furthermore, you’ve probably also heard utterings of Layvin Kurzawa’s name…unfortunately.
For the first two of those names, the resulting figures might also have been noted: €50m+ apiece.
Which, even with my poor maths skills, equates to a lot of money. More money than Arsenal have, at least.
But expecting big-money deals to come pouring through the door when the transfer window eventually opens is only doing harm to yourself. I know how blind faith can act as a smokescreen to reality, where the odd murmur here and there gets your toes tingling to the point where you’re 100% sure that, when you wake up in the morning, said player will be holding your club’s shirt aloft.
I also know how often these fairytales never reach their ‘happily ever after’ conclusions, and the seeds of hope previously sown remain dormant underneath, never to see the light of day.
Does that sound depressing? It does a bit, doesn’t it? But in order to conjure up some of the fantasy signings that have been linked with Arsenal over the past few weeks and months, the necessary dose of realism must be applied to both the speculation and ambition.
For Upamecano and Partey, the fee itself should be enough to quell expectations. Throw in the fact both players are currently playing Champions League football and would, one can assume, like to continue doing so. Or perhaps some other sides holding an interest might be a slightly more enticing option for those involved? Maybe, just maybe, that’ll calm the rumours a tad.
Is it likely even one of these two moves to north London? No. Is it completely out of the equation? No. But my lord, we’d need a rather colossal number of variables to fall neatly into place, as well as a significant chunk of wages and players exiting the Emirates Stadium for that to come to fruition.
Am I one to stop people from harbouring such desires? Absolutely not. But speaking from experience – and there are plenty of Arsenal fans with much more of that – very rarely do they come off. And that’s coming from an era where the club weren’t staring down the barrel of a third successive Europa League campaign. The likelihood of such acquisitions this summer then? Rather slim.
What is far more likely to play out is that those walking through the doors will do so with a minuscule – if not non-existent – price tag following them.
William Saliba is already making his way across The English Channel sooner than expected after Ligue 1’s swift cancellation, and seeing players in the ballpark of his £20m fee is much more probable. That’s one to be excited for as, even in his teenage years, he looks like he could improve the defence.
Ryan Fraser, I here you say? Yes, while it may not be the Nicolas Pepe-level of marquee signing fans are harking for, the imminent free agent has been on the club’s radar already, so with no transfer fee required, that’s the sort of calibre of player (and fee) fans should expect.
Unknown 18-year-old from Ligue 2? That too is a similar kind of situation. There will be some attempts to sell deadwood, whether successful or not, and Pablo Mari will be signed permanently despite making one lowly top flight outing thus far.
With exciting youngsters coming through the academy and putting their stamp on the senior squad, there is even less chance of big-money additions. Add to that the not-fully known extent that the coronavirus outbreak will have on finances and Stan Kroenke’s unwillingness to splash the cash, and the club have got every factor going against them this summer.
Does the club need established, top-quality squad additions? Without doubt. Will the club be in a position to sign established, top-quality additions? Doubtful. That’s opinion, but one that won’t sit well.
Arsenal are craving the mega-money players noted, who, it’s worth adding, are just a handful of the names mentioned. But truth be told, it’s best to shelve those thoughts for this summer at least.
Could something bizarre and completely out of the blue take place this summer? I suppose, yes. Should you hang your hat on that thought and ride with it? Probably not.