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Gunner Thoughts

Transfer Warmup: Emi, Julian, Saliba

The transfer window is just warming up! Here are a few thoughts on some of the link Arsenal are connected to.

It’s that second time of the year, a transfer window, which means that the whole world lights up with news-hungry sleuths and just about everyone loses their mind for a month. Admittedly, the January window is quite a bit less dramatic than summer, but it still presents a major opportunity for Arsenal.

Tasked with almost a full club overhaul, Arsenal have to make full usage of their windows. However, this window may not be about ‘buy, buy, buy” as much as ‘move, move move”. It’s because of that mindset that I have been extremely pleased with the way Arsenal have at least kicked off their window. There is a lot left to do before anyone will grade this month as a success, but coming out the gates by loaning Kolasinac and Saliba, who we will talk about later, shows a proactive intent. By all accounts, these two will be far from the only ones leaving on loan as the Gunners look to trim down their bloated side, and become something a bit more lean and mean.

Just a few weeks ago, Arteta made a statement that said they have what they would like to do in January and the summer planned. Now it’s time to see if they can bring that plan to life. After all, every avid fan can lay out what they would like to see from the window, just check Twitter, but making it happen is the only part that matters.

To get my own thoughts wrapped around some of this, and to get back into the transfer writing groove, I thought I would talk about about Emi Buendia, Julian Brandt, and final thoughts on the William Saliba loan.

Emi Buendia
By all accounts, Arsenal have been scouting Buendia extensively, which may make the question less about “if” Arsenal try their luck in landing Norwich’s best, and more about “when” they will. Buendia is reportedly one of several creative, attacking midfielders that Arsenal have on their list, but that list seems to be narrowing down more and more when it comes to potential January signings.

When it comes to Buendia, there are a some sticking point, few of which are his stats and production. He sits on a Norwich team who are leading the Championship, hoping to get promoted, and he plays major role in that being a real possibility or not. Because of that, he’s on a team that doesn’t want to let him ago unless they are thoroughly compensated. What once was a potential £15m deal, has now seemingly been raised to a whopping £40m.

It leaves Arsenal with a few routes to get him. First, they will need him to push for his own sale, which doesn’t sound like an issue if a deal actually solidifies. Next, Arsenal would need to decide between forking over that whopping sum or looking into a cash + player deal, which is rumored to revolve around Willock and/or Reiss Nelson. Whether or not their involvement in a deal like this is on a loan or permanent basis, would depend on what Norwich would want, how much money Arsenal would save by doing it, and whether or not the Gunners are willing to part ways.

My thoughts:
As far as talent and skill level goes, there is little doubt in my mind that Buendia can perform in the Premier League, succeed, and make Arsenal a better team. Having just turned 24 he sits fantastically within the age bracket that Arsenal should be scouring for, and it presents plenty of time for growth which is a major plus.

Positionally, things could get interesting. While he has played an attacking midfield role for 35 matches yielding 5 goals and 7 assists, he is far more successful on the right wing where he has played 96 matches, yielding 16 goals and 33 assists. I think it’s fairly obvious why this gets brought up. Are Arsenal intending to put him into the middle of the park and risk forcing an oval peg into a round hole, or are they going to purchase another pricey right winger after spending in that spot extensively? I say oval peg because, well, it’s not quite a square one in this case.

Personally, I love his skills, I love when he does on the ball, what he produces, and the idea of adding such a prolific attacker to our front is very appealing. What I am not sold on, is the belief that Arsenal could purchase him, stick him in the number 10 role, and have it all come off seamlessly. Chances are, if he is bought, he slots into the right wing where we then see Bukayo Saka make another positional switch or Arsenal undergo another period of formation testing. The best outcome would be that this purchases pushes Arteta to switch to a true 4-3-3 and finds a way to fit both Saka and Buendia in the side, while also catering to Emile Smith Rowe’s talent in the attack.

It that possible? I believe so. Is it worth the £40m risk to find out? That’s for Arsenal to determine. But if they do, they better be extremely confident that he is a fit for the long haul. I believe it’s clear that Buendia could have a lot to offer the side, as I mentioned, however I am not sure he waltzes in on day 1 and everything in the side clicks together seamlessly. His inclusion feels like a change that needs time to come together, which may make the summer a more apt time for things to blend. Conversely, if he came in, played RW, and didn’t miss a beat, that also wouldn’t surprise me.

When it comes to the cash + player option, any loans are fine by me but the permanent sales seems, well, too permanent. If it were Willock, I could wrap my head around it, but something in me says it would definitely be Reiss Nelson, and that doesn’t feel as good. If Arsenal need to part ways with a prospect to enhance their team, I suppose that is part of sport business, but it would certainly raise the stakes should this not pan out. I am cautiously hesitant about including Nelson in any offer that contains a true swap and not a loan.

Overall, I am for Buendia, but this is no small sale, nor do I believe Buendia is quite the savior some would have us believe. He is an excellent, excellent talent, but one that certainly demands Arteta has a plan for well before he arrives and £40m walk out the door.

Julian Brandt
Another attacking midfield option that has sprouted up is for Dortmund’s 24-year-old, Julian Brandt. Similar to Buendia, Brandt has played a lot of games on the wing and a decent amount as an attacking midfielder. Unlike Buendia, Brandt plays on the left wing and has also played matches as a second striker in behind.

Brandt is an interesting figure. Wherever he has played across the the attacking from and midfield, he has tallied a decent amount of assists and goals, something needed drastically by Arsenal, but things things haven’t seemed to pan out for him with Dortmund. In 64 matches he has just 23 G/A. Comparatively, with Leverkusen he played 215 matches tallying 93 G/A.

He is a player out of form, one struggling to find his place within the club, and therefore one that is potentially coming at a greatly reduced price. Today, it was revealed that Dortmund are setting his price around 25 million euros or £22.75m. Much less expensive than Buendia’s services, and much less than the £31m market valuation someone like Transfermarkt puts on him. But he comes with his own type of risk.

When you take on a struggling player and turn it around, you look like the smartest club around — especially for that price. If you take on a struggling player that keeps on struggling, everyone looks at you for the foolish club you are. Like, what else did you expect?

To add to the mix, news surfaced today that Bayern Munich are ending their interest in Brandt because he is too inconsistent in his performances and lacks the “Mia San Mia”, which is essentially the “Bayern feel” if you will. As a club, Bayern have earned a reputation for being an exception judge of talent. For instance, they ended their interest in Pepe before he came to Arsenal because they felt he needed too much space in the final third to be effective. An assessment that is resonating with Arsenal fans right now far too much for anyone’s liking.

But with a price tag like £22m, what to do?

My thoughts:
If that price is correct, this feels almost like a no brainer. At age 24, a player that has played 211 first tier matches netting 86 G/A is someone you spend £22m on, when he fits your attacking need.

He is out of form, he is struggling, he needs a new start, but it is a major risk that he will hack it in the Premier League. On the bright side, if he doesn’t, there is a good chance you are capable of recouping the majority of those funds back in a year or two when he is aged 26 — something Arsenal have struggled to do with a lot of their players lately.

Additionally, as a left sided attacking midfielder, he could play a major role in moving Arsenal toward a 4-3-3 formation playing a LCM or through the middle in a 4-2-3-1. He has droves of talent, but, as Bayern point out in their assessment, there are weaknesses within his game. Is he a finished product? No. But at age 24, does he need to be? It’s the right bracket, again, and he offers technical and creative skills in the areas Arsenal are crying out for it.

If the price truly stays around that 22-25 million mark, I don’t know how Arsenal turn it down. If it starts creeping up closer to 30-35, you have a whole other situation on your hands. Arteta will need to identify exactly the type of player he is looking for, the skill set he wants from them, and how that shuffles around what currently is in the Arsenal roster. Brandt seems to upset the apple cart a whole lot less than Buendia, but Brandt can’t offer proven Premier League success like Emi can.

Willian Saliba
I had planned on writing about the prospect of Saliba going to Nice, but a few hours after the new broke that this was likely his destination, Arsenal confirmed it and OGC Nice released a “Welcome William” social media post. It’s all done on that front which just leaves after thoughts.

It’s a difficult one. I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that Arsenal didn’t handle the early part of Saliba’s time at the club well, which definitely effected the following 3-4 months. It was a major mistake to not register him for the Europa League and it not only meant Arsenal didn’t get to see what he is made of in matches against easier opponents, it also risked ruining his affection toward the club.

When it comes to this loan, I am just glad Arsenal got it done early. Get him to Nice, get him on the field, get him playing. If Arenal were set on him not playing for their first team this season, get him to a place where he will have the chance to start routinely.

At the very least, it is a loan that saves face for Mikel and Edu. Why? Because now it is extremely difficult to argue they were wrong to not play him.

Saliba succeeds on loan? Well it’s back in league where we have seen him succeed already and it’s a bit more expected. Saliba comes back next year and looks great? Good thing he had that loan time to grow, mature, and sharpen his game.

It was fair to hope he went to another Premier League team or a Championship side, but if he did and was outstanding, that doesn’t look great on Arsenal for not playing him.

At the same time, the idea of completing a loan to “save face” is a terrible reason to complete a loan, however, if he does well, comes back, and it a part of Arsenal’s future, it may be a case of all is well that ends well.

I have high hopes for him. Think he is a great player and will be a great Gunner!

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