For Arsenal Football Club, this summer transfer window is club-defining.
What transpires from now up until August 8 could ultimately set the Gunners en route towards the upper echelons of the Premier League, or begin the spiral towards mid-table mediocrity that looms large in north London.
Granted, I did indeed make the claim that the club are already beginning their descent, but one must search deep within themselves to muster up some glimmer of hope – or else what is the point?
That said, given the calibre of player Arsenal have been linked with this summer, that may be somewhat short-lived.
From the downright ridiculous to the frighteningly plausible, now is the time to assess the strengths of those players Unai Emery is supposedly eyeing up for another year of Thursday nights in Belarus.
Samuel Umtiti – Barcelona
Might as well start with the blatantly ridiculous.
The Story: A World Cup winner, freakishly talented and at one of the biggest clubs in world football – naturally Samuel Umtiti was linked with a move to the Emirates this season. The Frenchman only signed a new five-year-deal with the Blaugrana last summer, yet has allegedly been made available for transfer.
Strengths: He’s not just good, he’s like, really good. Umtiti embodies the modern centre-half, daring in his approach, equally willing to play the ball out from the back or make a surge into midfield as he is content to hit row Z with a clearance, he’s got it all.
The 25-year-old has no issue putting his body on the line, although often times it isn’t required as he reads the game like a children’s book, thus eliminating the need for last-ditchness, as it were.
Likelihood: While Barcelona’s tedious pursuit of Matthijs de Ligt has cast a shadow of uncertainty over Umtiti’s future in Catalonia, fat f***ing chance he will be making the move to north London this summer.
Since the season ended, reports emerged of Arsenal’s interest in the centre-back as a potential replacement for club captain Laurent Koscielny, but there is simply no way in hell that Umtiti would see Europa League football with Arsenal as a viable option. Moreover, thought to cost somewhere in the region of £53m, he already costs more than the entire budget Unai Emery has on his hands.
Move on, shut up, stop talking about it.
Yannick Carrasco – Dalian Yifang
A half-decent winger looking to reignite his career? Intriguing.
The Story: Having grown fed up with China and failing to settle in the country, former Atletico Madrid winger Carrasco has made no bones about his desire to return to Europe. One season with Dalian Yifang clearly was enough, with a host of sides looking to offer the Belgian an escape route. One of the said clubs is Arsenal, who are reigniting their interest in the winger after failing to secure his signature in January.
Strengths: If you were unaware, Arsenal need wingers. Its an area of the squad painfully lacking, with Emery desperate to find someone to fit the profile of a wide and direct threat who attacks with intensity.
Unusually with wingers who played in Spain, he actually tracks back. A trait that would appeal to any Premier League manager. It is, however, going forward where he shines. A keen dribbler with a direct nature to attack in wide areas, he’s got a tendency to cut inside on to his favoured right foot, where he actually shoots from outside the box. A facet unheard of for Arsenal fans, Granit Xhaka-s**t aside.
Likelihood: While the attempted move to bring him to the Emirates in January was dead before it began, given the club had £0 to spend, there is actually an air of possibility about this one.
A few of the necessities for any transfer to take place are already affirmed: the player wants to move, there is a club playing in Europe interested and the fee is not astronomical. A supposed £25m will be whats required, which is more than half the budget, however, player sales should bump that up a bit. Therefore, this one could well materialise.
Ryan Fraser – Bournemouth
Bournemouth’s Player of the Season, a player to potentially catapult Arsenal’s upcoming season?
The Story: Arsenal have been heavily linked with a move for the Scotsman this summer after he emerged as one of Emery’s key transfer targets. Cherries’ Supporters’ Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year caught the eye with some consistently impressive outings for Eddie Howe’s men, courting the interest of Emery, who is on the lookout for wingers.
Strengths: Look no further than the stats. With 14 Premier League assists, Fraser ranked only behind the now departed Eden Hazard on the leaderboard, while a further seven league goals is most certainly not to be scoffed at.
One of the first words that spring to mind with the 25-year-old is industry. Unquestionably a fighter, Fraser closes down tirelessly and never backs out of a challenge – possessing the kind of work rate that has abandoned so many Gunners players this season.
Likelihood: While at the beginning of the window this one appeared to be gaining traction, it has slowly petered out and looks less and less likely by the day. Given Arsenal’s current plight of being unable to attract Champions League stars, Fraser posed a more than adequate option who would have added some much-needed creativity from the flanks.
This once hot rumour appears to be heading for an early bath.
Kieran Tierney – Celtic
He’s not Nacho Monreal or Sead Kolasinac, therefore an immediate upgrade from….Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac.
The Story: Unquestionably a fine servant for the club in his six-and-a-half seasons in north London, unfortunately, few Arsenal fans would like to see 33-year-old Monreal featuring in the starting XI for Emery next season. Similarly, while effective (at times) going forward, Kolasinac is frighteningly suspect at his primary job (defending), thus signing a suitable left-back is an essential this summer.
Kieran Tierney of Celtic has attracted admirers, with many making the blatantly obvious link to Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson given he’s, well, a left-back and, well, Scottish. Nevertheless, the Gunners are interested, with reports claiming a bid is imminent.
Strengths: Emery has toyed with both a back four and a back three this season, implementing a an outright left-back as well as wing-backs. Tierney’s ability to play in defensive and attacking fullback roles to such a high standard makes him a valuable asset. Lining up as a left-back, supporting his midfield in transition, he excels, while slotting into left wing-back he does with consummate ease.
An engine akin to that of, umm, Robertson, he is capable of bombing up and down the left hand side for 90 minutes and beyond, something vital in Emery’s set-up.
Likelihood: *TOUCHES ALL THE WOOD IN THE HOUSE*
Unlike Fraser, links to Tierney are starting to escalate, having been linked with the Gunners for a number of windows now. Its in Arsenal’s court, knowing if they pay the right sum of money they’ll get their man, its a matter of pulling their respective fingers out and paying Celtic what they ask for. A position in the team desperately in need of reinforcing, fingers are firmly crossed for this to come through. A £15m bid has been knocked back, with the a revised bid in the pipeline.
William Saliba – Saint-Etienne
Young and promising centre-half who is highly rated in France?? Oh, he’ll cost that much?
The Story: With Arsenal boasting less money than your local Jamie’s Italian, naturally links have been made with a number of lesser known centre-halves across Europe. While Saliba isn’t a household name, he’ll cost more than all our houses together, at a whopping £25m.
The links have been strong throughout the summer, although the suggestion of paying such a sum then loaning him back for the season seems utterly farcical, yet very Arsenal.
Strengths: I will not claim to be some French football prodigy, and give you all the ins-and-outs of the 18-year-old’s skillset. What I can relay, however, is that the general feeling around the player is that he will be a long-term replacement for Laurent Koscielny, and he’s been dubbed the ‘new Raphael Varane’. He’s supposedly a very skilled technician and a powerful athlete, and slotted easily into Les Verts’ first team this season.
Likelihood: As previously mentioned, there have been strong links thus far. Arsenal have apparently struck a deal on personal terms with the defender, with just a fee to be agreed. The stumbling block is, of course, that his parent club want him loaned back as part of any agreement.
I mean, spend over half your budget on a player you won’t see for 12 months? Might as well, I don’t know, sign someone you knew had a broken back. Now that would be funny.