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Gunner Thoughts

Deadline Day: Single-minded Goal

Arsenal head into deadline day with one dire goal in mind: land defensive midfield depth.

Another January deadline day arrives, and with it comes a familiar feeling: the need for one position to bolster Arsenal’s depth.

Last season everyone knew Arsenal were in need of a striker signing if they wanted to seal their spot in the top 4, and instead the club took the risk and pushed the signature out until summer. Arsenal missed out on top 4 after stumbling at the final hurdles, but sealed the signature of Gabriel Jesus early this last summer.

Whether that short-term pain has been worth it in the long run, to land the strikers services that have contributed marvelously this season, is a debate that would probably spiral out of control quickly if you put ten different people in the room.

This season, the need for a central midfielder to backup Thomas Partey might feel the same, but the stakes are potentially higher, like astronomically higher. With Arsenal pacesetting the Premier League after 19 matches, theres plenty of reason to believe the only two things that stand in between them a title is Manchester City and Thomas Partey’s hamstring… or ribs… or any extended injury.

The margins at the top are just too tight to afford dropping points, and therefore too tight to afford letting your level of play drop because you didn’t field adequate depth.

“Adequate” is a vague word as many Arsenal fans have very different perceptions of what is and is not adequate, but one thing just about everyone can agree on is that Arsenal can hardly afford to leave this window with nothing to show for it after Elneny’s injury.

The club was in a similar position at the end of the Summer transfer window when it attempted to land Douglas Luiz in the dying moments, but couldn’t find a deal. This January they seemed ready to kick the central-midfield can down the road one more window and wait for summer, but injury has forced their hand. Given Partey’s track record, it’s fair to be concerned, but how Arsenal will respond is anyone’s guess considering their two options stand on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Caicedo

The blockbuster name on everyone’s lips, and the player that is driving Arsenal fan’s madness, is Moises Caicedo. The 21-year-old, Brighton midfielder is a star prospect that the club states is unequivocally off the menu.

As I wrote about in yesterday’s blog, there are more than enough reasons for Brighton to take this stance and feel they have no need to cave to Arsenal, regardless of price. Of course, in the football world, money talks and there could be a number that Arsenal put on the table that is too good to turn down, but after seeing Brighton turn down £70 million faster than Usain Bolt runs a 100 meter dash, it’s fair to say that offer — if it exists — is pretty damn high.

Sure, the player has said he wants to move to a big club and he recognizes that a move to Arsenal immediately plunks himself in the midst of a heated race for a league title, but players are fickle — see: Mudryk — and Brighton hold a good amount of leverage in this matter. The ability to sit him down, convince him it’s better to see this season out, and move in the summer is probably one with some very convincing points for player and agent alike.

News broke late yesterday that KSE has approved an increased offer believed to be ~£75m, but that remains to be seen as both factual or enough to erode Brighton’s resolve.

Fans are all too willing to boisterously voice their opinions around “what’s another 5 or 10 million”, but it’s far more likely that Arsenal find Caicedo to be a player worth £55-60 million and therefore are already £15-20m into “what’s another 5 million for a title charge” justification territory.

I would also wager that Caicedo is a player highly respected and admired by Arteta but not the favorite defensive midfielder for Mikel’s project, as much as the favorite one thats availably, unavailable at the moment. Arsenal have already been linked to Declan Rice in the summer, a whole window early, and while Arsenal know they need something now, they seem unwilling or unable to truly throw the full £80-90m sink at it. My assumption is that starts to pull too far away from their assessment of Caicedo’s value and take too much money away from having a chance at Declan Rice. Or it’s simply cash the club can’t find a way to comfortably move after spending on Trossard and Kiwior.

The number of defensive midfielders in the world truly worth £80 million could probably be counted on a single hand missing fingers, but Arsenal can’t afford to do nothing.

Jorginho

In one of the largest Arsenal transfer meltdowns… of this window… Arsenal fans found themselves seething once more and cursing the name Edu Gaspar as a move for Jorginho was suggested as a possible outcome.

Sifting through my internal desire to immediately rage, I simmered and definitely feel as though he is a name and deal that is entirely contingent on price and personal terms.

I really don’t have a desire to see him incorporated into this project, and at age 31 he offers little in terms of longevity, but also people have gone overboard in their anger when it comes to denying any credence to the idea.

Arteta and Edu have shown an interest in Jorginho in the past, and while he is certainly not a like-for-like profile match with Partey or this project, he is a player with the ability on the ball to keep an attack moving. It would likely require a tweak in how the setup uses Xhaka, Zinchenko, and Ben White to add central mobility and more defensive shielding, but it’s too much to suggest there’s nothing in the idea. Fans simply find themselves locked in on Caicedo and are unwilling to accept the drop-off as well as Brighton’s stance that he’s not an option at the, very fair, price Arsenal are offering.

It’s probably bottom of the barrel stuff, and the £15-20m price that Chelsea have suggested is laughable, but Arsenal have found themselves stuck between a rock and hard place. If a deal can be worked for a pittance in transfer fee given Jorginho’s contract ends in 6-months, and the player’s camp is content with an additional year of financial security in the form of an 18-month contract (sorry, those calling for 6 months, ain’t happening, he won’t ever agree to it), the damage can be limited to a semi-costly, immediate write-off.

The goal is depth, and ideally it’s a player that sees very few serious minutes the rest of the year, but can come in as a substitute or in a pinch and carry the experience to keep our attack moving. It’s an Elneny replacement more than a Partey-level replacement, and Jorginho probably offers us that, albeit in his own profile’s way.


There have been a few other names tossed around, Tielemans, Bamba, Zubimendi, but Arsenal seemingly find issues with the bunch. Tielemans has been priced high and probably isn’t as good of defensive midfield cover as some believe. Bamba is a nice prospect but it wouldn’t be hard to believe that Arsenal feel he isn’t ready to step into this role and be an effective, experienced cover for Partey. Zubimendi seems both happy to stay with his team and Arsenal would have to trigger a sizable release clause and pay it up front, after getting the player to come around.

There is some confusion on my part on how Arsenal feel there are not options, or few to none, outside of Caicedo or Jorginho. The gap between the two seems extremely far — opposite ends of the spectrum really — which makes it difficult to believe there is nothing between the two out there. But maybe this really is a case of Arsenal creating a problem for themselves by coming into the window unprepared to purchase in this position and having their hand forced. It’s scramble time and the final grains of sand have all by fallen in the hourglass.

To be honest, this blog wasn’t a settling piece to write. Usually writing my thoughts out provides a level of catharsis and clarity. Here I am left feeling anxious and a bit ill. It’s difficult to imagine an outcome today that feels entirely positive. Obviously sealing Caicedo’s signature is the most ideal, but paying that fee invariably carries a knock-on effect into the summer. Yet signing Jorginho, or god forbid nobody, feels worse.

It would feel like a lesson unlearned from last year. And with the stakes this season tenfold the stakes of Arsenal’s last January window, the club cannot afford to have learned no lessons. It almost feels like Edu would need the title more than us at that point and that is not a comforting feeling.

See you all on the other side.

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