Look, the last half-week to 4 days of Arenal news and PR has been an absolute firestorm, sending fans on a rollercoaster of emotions and opinions that are so contradictory it’s enough to leave anyone mentally in a state of disarray.
It’s hard to believe that in just one week everything has gone from anxious excitement to tense, pregame nerves, to pure elation in the wake of beating Chelsea, winning the FA Cup, and having some sense of ending the season on a high. That followed by yesterday’s polarizing breaking news that has some, including the players, up in arms.
Heading into this week felt excellent. My Monday blog was all about the feelings of ending on a high, feelings a loosening of the proverbial hands around Arsenal’s financial neck, and looking forward to unpausing any of the negotiations that had hit a standstill while Arsenal’s fate was finalized.
Arsenal had achieved their goal of reaching the Europa Leauge, had done the job to get a few extra funds, and put their best foot forward in supplying the club was an argument as to why funds should be found, if possible. To add to it, they had achieved a checkpoint that would see 5% of their wage cut returned for giving the club an extra avenue of funds.
Yesterday, Arsenal announced, 55 redundancies that needed to be removed in order to “invest in the team” and to make sure they are “creating the right organisation for a post-Covid world”, in a statement titled, “An update from your club”. Take the message how you will, there really are only two ways to look at it, but the announcement was a crash back to Earth as the rollercoaster took another dip.
Some are content and understanding with the decision, while others are up in arms at the club’s timing, usage of COVID as a way to cut scouts and restructure, the feeling of missing morality from a club looking to play businessman on their terms, but never missing a step to promote the community involvement they have and verbalize their commitment to the people. I made my stance pretty clear, yesterday, and it has hardly changed.
The new development today is the reveal that players within the club are unhappy about this news after being told that their wage cut would ensure the club did not have to do this. I found myself feeling bad for Arteta and Bellerin who lobbied on behalf of the club to garner the attention, affection, and agreements of players, quickly, who now may feel a bit lied to or used. I cannot speak for them, but I understand those upset by the news.
It’s fair to guess that on the back of this poorly received news, the PR-Machine may rear it’s head once more soon to announce something positive and deflect fan’s attention. Not an uncommon or unheard of move! The question is who will it be?
It is widely agreed that Aubameynag may be one of the best signings Arsenal can capture during this window. His role in the team and proven ability to make diamonds from coal is something Arsenal would have to pay through the nose to capture in someone else. While there is an argument to be made about his potential sale price being worth reinvesting in the midfield and backline, it’s hard to imagine letting him walk away without a fight.
At 31, there are certainly a few skeptics that are unsure what his level of sustainability is, but his production of 22 EPL goals this year and 29 in total suggests his decline is a ways off, or at the very least, will be a slow decline, giving Arsenal plenty of time to put the proper pieces around him.
What will be interesting is to see the terms of an agreement if one is reached. While Aubameyang isn’t even the older player Arsenal are considering this window, offering him a 3-year extension with a sizeable bump in pay certainly will give some vibes of Mesut. That’s not to say the result will be the same, but the fear is there. Locking him in early would be a great start to the window and could be a token used to entice others to sign their own transfers to join him.
While it is another contentious move that splits the opinions of fans wide open with a long list of pros and cons, it seems as though Arsenal are on the brink of sealing the Brazilian winger’s signature. Similar to Aubameyang, the terms of the deal will play a major role in how people react to it. Willian may be a “free transfer” meaning Arsenal don’t pay a fee to Chelsea to bring him in, but that could come with a hefty weekly salary that some will feel bogs down Arsenal’s wage bill and, given his age, restricts their ability to move him along.
It would be unfair to not mention some of the qualities Willian offers. His presence would give Arsenal a player immediately ready to perform in the Premier League and a relatively consistent streak of appearances and production to his name. His game offers an injection of creativity and it goes without saying that his presence in the lineup would help make Arsenal better in the short term.
What needs to be balanced and considered is what position Arteta sees him playing that doesn’t inhibit others growth, what his value is after 12-18 months, and if that answer is depth – is his £20-30m plus agent fees, plus signing bonus worth a depth player or is better spent on a long term asset.
He could be the first to sign and it certainly would play a role in changing Arsenal’s team-building dynamic for the remainder of the window.
Another creative midfielder on Arsenal’s list is Barcelona’s Coutinho. He, like Willian, is another Kia Joorabchian client which is about the only information needed to know why Arsenal are connected with him. However, similar to Willian, there is little argument over is superior quality in comparison to what is currently in the side. Yet again, the question arises over the terms of the deal. In Coutinho’s case, it is less about the length of the deal and more about the context of a loan versus permanent transfer.
If Coutinho is loaned, Arsenal could be looking at paying £15-20m for a year of his service which puts a real urgency on their need for success. After all, loaning him in only to qualify for Europa League play again is pretty much a waste. It would be worth it if they managed to make the Champions League but that is a huge gamble, as I suspect Arsenal are not only missing Coutinho in their attempt to close the gap on the top 4.
The other option is a permanent transfer. The rumors have calmed down, but there was talk of Arsenal offering Matteo Guendouzi plus £9m in cash to bring in Coutinho on a permanent basis. While this may be undershooting Matteo’s potential value as a blooming star, his relationship with the club has completely soured and it seems time that Arsenal sever ties and get what they can for him. Bringing Coutinho in on a permanent basis is much more appealing seeing as it would offer Arteta multiple years of his service during the middle and end of his prime, however the question then would turn to wages. Coutinho makes a pretty penny and pretty pennies is exactly what Arsenal don’t have at the moment.
Arsenal may need to choose between Coutinho and Willian in the end, but there could certainly be arguments for both fitting within the team alongside one another in a fashion that sees a toothy attack. Whether it makes sense in long run and is compatible with the rest of Arsenal’s player’s ages is another matter. I have little doubt that Arteta could get the best out of him, but shudder at the idea of adding another 200+k-a-week player to this current wage bill. Keep an eye on it.
The final player I will talk about today is Gabriel Magalhaes who undoubtedly offers Arsenal a very intriguing package. He comes from Lille, a club that Arsenal are very familiar with working alongside after last year’s Pepe deal, and at 22 is the right age to offer future growth, raw ability for Arteta to mold, and compatible with Arsenal’s other potential defending gem – William Saliba.
In addition to boasting good passing and defensive stats, Gabriel is a left-footed center back which is something that Arteta is reportedly keen on finding for his backline. His signature may come as a bit of a blow to Pablo Mari who will have had hopes of being the future of Arsenal’s left-center defense, but Mari will have age experience potentially to his advantage.
The reported £27-30m fee is within the range that Arsenal can manage, but there is speculation that it may be on the brink of it. Naturally, it is unclear what exactly Arsenal’s bank looks like at this time, but if they can swing it, bolstering that porous defensive line with someone like Gabriel could be fantastic in the short term and long.
A final thing to note on Gabriel is the chemistry make up he could offer. His Brazilian nationality and time in the French league create an intriguing blend when you consider David Luiz and Saliba as potential partners, Coutinho and Willian in the midfield, or Aubameyang, Lacazette, and Nicolas Pepe up front. It could produce a very intriguing blend of French, Brazilian influence at the club and allow some of those younger players to find comfort as they grow together. Something I won’t mind knowing how tough that transition can sometimes be for players. Torreira a prime example.
Is it the best time for Arsenal to announce a player? Are you Arsenal’s PR team? If you are, then yeah, you might think so. It won’t go unnoticed that it is coming after bad news and feels like an attempt to divert heat away from the club, but business has to get done at some point. How that redundancy issue resolves itself and what players do as their reaction will be something to keep an eye on.
Quick window, quick turnaround. Hard to believe the Community Shield is in 23 days, even if it will feature mostly youth and back ups. Getting players in quickly to help them get up and running will be important.