The Australian leg of the tour ended with a 3 – 1 win over WSIWYG FC, more comfortable than Thursday’s victory and only the woodwork stopping it being a rout. Arsène made wholesale changes which, more or less, means the tour party has played ninety minutes each. Some haven’t but those expected to be in the XI against Leicester all have game time under their belt this week.
We move on to China, with Bayern and Chelsea as opposition. Anyone for another 5 – 1? Presumably the pattern of wholesale changes will continue through both matches to maintain progress toward the start of the season. The Emirates Cup might give us a better idea of Arsène’s starting line-up for the Community Shield and the opening match of the season.
One man who shouldn’t feature nor even need to be on the bench, is Alexis. In his native Chile and uttering his first words on the subject of his future, it’s pretty clear he is leaving. Primarily, he says, to win the Champions League. He may earn more elsewhere but at that level, it’s almost irrelevant whether he gets £25k more or whatever; the contract leaves him financially secure.
However, winning medals is what it is about once that hurdle is crossed. While he doesn’t say it outright, the biggest prizes will always elude Arsenal. There is, in his mind, no shadow of doubt over the decision:
The truth is that the decision doesn’t depend on me. My decision has been made, but now we wait for a response from Arsenal. It depends on them, on what they want.
In other words, ‘I’m leaving, it’s whether Arsenal want a fee or not?’ Arsène said recently that Alexis was staying and left the words ‘for the rest of his contract’, hanging in the air but unsaid.
Know Your Right
While there are all sorts of sums which make the £50m or so fee coverable from other sales, it’s still too much for the club to walk away from. I suspect some contingency planning is going on which means that cash will be used as a backstop in case we are entering a period where Europa League football becomes our natural habitat.
Arsène is positioning it so that the final decision is down to the board. He’s made it clear he wants the Chilean to stay but is realistic enough to know that is unlikely.
There’s not much more to say on the situation. Mismanagement of his contract by the club has, in part, put us in this situation but crucially so has last season’s catastrophic form. Had we challenged for the title and come close, persuading him to stay off the back of a strong summer in the transfer market might have been easier; Ifs, buts and maybes.
Replacing him won’t be easy and neither Kylian Mbappe or Thomas Lemar is likely to be that man. The former is in Arsène’s view likely to stay at Monaco, the latter likewise according to almost everyone. Wenger denied we’d made a £120m bid for the player as the Spanish media claimed but didn’t refer to the ‘cheeky’ £85m offer earlier in the summer.
Not that it matters beyond being another addition to the ‘nearly signed XI’, the most impressive Arsenal side ever.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Elsewhere, Olivier Giroud may think it’s an option to leave the Emirates but Arsène doesn’t. He’s reiterated his desire to keep his compatriot, praising his performances, contribution to the tour and squad as a whole. It’s a World Cup year so players want to keep in their national coach’s mind, which is mostly done by first team football.
It’s a dilemma Theo Walcott faces. Despite travelling to Germany in 2006, he’s never played for his country in the finals; this is his last chance. West Ham were linked with both Giroud and Theo but this morning sees Everton preparing a £30m bid.
To me, that money is a no-brainer. Theo will be a bit-part player this season, very good to have coming off the bench. For the player, it’s counter-productive; reinforcing the notion in Gareth Southgate’s mind that Walcott isn’t a starter for England either.