Gunner Thoughts

Arsenal hit a stagnant, slow point in their preparation

As training sessions get rolling, transfer news is getting a little stagnant from Arsenal.

Life as an Arsenal fan feels very unsettled. Split between keeping an eye on the weekend with the start of the season and one eye on notifications in the hopes of Arsenal bolstering their side with another signing or managing to sell off a player or two to demonstrate progress in their mission. But the signs and moves are confusing, and at times stagnant if that is truly the end goal.

The links and rumors suggest that a foundation and plan of how to get there exists, but getting things done is proving trickier than one might imagine. It’s well known that Lyon’s Aouar and Atletico’s Partey are Arteta’s main targets, but the path is far from straight forward.

Links and rumors connecting Arsenal to Celtic’s Edouard suggest a willingness to involve Lacazette, but are contrasted by rumors of backpedaling to hold onto Rob Holding who was half way out the door to Newcastle. There are links and talks with sales of both Bellerin to PSG and Maitland-Niles to a few teams, but only one of those two can realistically go.

A second offer from Aston Villa of roughly £20m for Emi Martinez was put out there, but that would require to Arsenal to look at purchasing a new backup keeper because it seems like there is a much larger gap between Martinez and Macey than Martinez and Leno. But if that is the case, what kind of quality backup are you getting if you intend to have much of Martinez’s sale be put into the midfield?

All of this to say, that at the moment, each action seems to come with an opposite and adverse reaction, leaving me to wonder where Arsenal are going to find the money for one of their targets, much less both as so many fans are looking for. I wrote in my preseason predictions that I thought Arsenal would only land one of those two and this reasoning played a large part in that. It seems the only way Arsenal could manage both would be to use the seemingly cash poor market in their favor and work out a swap deal.

Which brings us to Matteo Guendouzi and back to Lacazette. These two seem, on the surface, appear to be Arsenal’s two greatest bargaining chips. As I mentioned before, Arsenal are looking to sell Lacazette in the ball park of £30m. Well, again, if his replacement is Edouard, that is also costing Arsenal £25-30m. The other option is a swap, but they have been turned away by Madrid who want cash for Partey and want the release clause met upfront. Madrid seem unwilling to negotiate without that. The other team in contention for Lacazette is Juventus, but who would Arsenal get in return that doesn’t give the deal the feeling of another Mkhitaryan? Much of Juventus comes with high wages and very few feel like an ideal fit.

In the case of Matteo Guendouzi, Arsenal have seemingly shopped him around the world, but when it comes to agreeing to a valuation, the young Frenchman is tricky. Arsenal will want him to count for a fair amount given the potential that is there, while other teams will argue against that given Arsenal want to get rid of him for his attitude or behavioral problems. Just today, Lyon’s sporting director Juninho confirmed Arsenal’s interest in Aouar, but denied the potential for a Guendouzi swap at the same time.

“I get along very well with the sports director [Edu],” he said. “We spoke on the phone. Houssem Aouar is really appreciated by Arteta. There have been some discussions for Matteo Guendouzi who is also a good player. He was mentioned during the discussion, but this is not the profile we need, we were very clear. If it is like that, it does not interest us at all – it is, and we stopped.”

And here lies part of Arsenal’s problem. If you were to tell me that phrases much like that have been said by every team Arsenal has approached, I would believe it. Way back in March, I wrote a piece about the need to reassess Matteo Guendouzi for the betterment of his career. While he has made over 100 appearances, there is much that is game is lacking, especially when it comes to chance creation or the final ball. He is young, with plenty of time to get there, but right now he is more of a promising role player than a budding star, which I can believe makes his cons feel a bit weightier than his pros.

It’s a daunting feeling for Arsenal supporters. The realization that Arsenal’s options may be becoming more and more limited without the funds to get things over the line. I know there are a few sales being talked about that I didn’t mention – Torreira, Sokratis, Elneny, Kolasinac – and they might move the needle, but they also might not. If Arsenal are forced to resign to putting more emphasis on getting their large wages off the book than making top dollar from them, we may run into situations that feel more like Mkhitaryan’s transfer to Roma than Iwobi’s move to Everton.

Many will talk about the fact that the owner could invest, and it’s true. It’s always true… to an extent. If he has made it clear internally to Arsenal that that’s never going to happen, at least not after spending what he spent to purchase the club outright, then sadly we as fans may need to remove it from the table of options for our own sanity before we are driven mad yelling “invest” into the wind.

To be honest, I don’t have a lot of positives to say right now, and I am sorry that that makes this blog a bit of a downer to read, but I hope it is conveying some of the frustration and emotions that you may be feeling in the back of your mind. I do have faith and belief that Arsenal can still find a way to get something done. Maybe the positive is that there is still just under a month left in the window for them to get some momentum. We aren’t yet at deadline day and in need of selling four or five players in order to buy one all in 24 hours. Desperation has not yet set in.

To make things a little better, according to a few, fairly trustworthy Arsenal sources, Aubameyang’s extension has been signed and completed – it’s just a matter of announcing it. What is taking the club so long or what is holding that announcement up? I couldn’t even begin to venture a guess. But his ability to score on very few chances is a positive to hold onto, especially as we head into a weekend fixture with Fulham.

Arsenal will most certainly not have completed their summer business before the opening few matches. It’s a given. But they have brought back in Dani Ceballos, which provides them with the central midfield structure of Arteta’s 3-4-3 formation that found late-season success. Having that in place, with Aubameyang up front, should provide some level of comfort and cushion to start the of a season which features some easier matchups in Fulham and West Ham.

I imagine we will see that 3-4-3 formation once more with some of Arteta’s signature alterations to help provide a more dynamic attack in the hopes of breaking these teams down. Starting off with two wins would go a long way toward making this period of stagnation feel as though it hasn’t set us back.

I will leave it there for today. Truly, I am sorry that my positivity is not on full display, but with the slow news days to start the week, it’s not exactly the ideal race into the start of the new season. I may not go as far as suggesting this slow moving pace has to do with Raul leaving and the entire task being left on the shoulders of Edu, Arteta, and Vinai – one of whom is now distracted by getting his team ready for the season that is approaching – but I can’t imagine it helps.

There is still time. Things move quickly. I just hope that momentum starts building now, before the season starts, and not in the final weeks of the window. Maybe we will get an Aubameyang announcement today to cheer me up! Enjoy the day.

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