It seems just like days of olde. The Emirates Cup arrives with some vague expectation we will land a big-money signing. Wheeling out Nicholas Pepe pre-match or half-time in the clash with Lyon is a step too far. However, just as Willy Saliba and Dani Ceballos arrived (late) on a day when the suits met fans, nobody would be surprised by a deal being announced to give the day a bit of zing.
This year’s Emirates Cup is different; two matches in one day as per usual but this time, Arsenal Women find themselves sharing top-billing as they face Bayern Munich before the men take centre stage. Tim Stillman wrote a good primer on the Women’s team, as well as a match preview.
Both matches are on Premier Sports; the Women’s game kicks-off at 12.30 with the men following at 3.15pm. There’s a healthy gap between the two matches, time to enjoy the club’s new partnership with the Camden Town Brewery. At last, a decent pint in the stadium. It might almost be worth turning up early for a game…
Will Dani Ceballos make his debut today? He trained with the squad ahead of the game and may play some part. With a trip to Angers in midweek, anyone who doesn’t start this afternoon surely features from kick-off in France. Unai must, however, look at fielding what he considers his strongest line-up so that we don’t have a bunch of strangers on the pitch at St James’ Park in a fortnight.
Who forms his strongest XI is anyone’s guess. In attack and midfield, we have an embarrassment of riches. Which is just as well because most of our defence is embarrassing. Less than a fortnight to go, Raul; tick-tock.
I Pity The Fool
There is an element of fantasy football across the XI with options to suit all occasions. Auba and Pepe with Laca in the centre with a midfield combo of Torreira, Ceballos and Ozil. Or Guendouzi. Or Willock. Granit’s place in the starting line-up is anything but rock solid.
Everyone is rightly excited by the potential signing of Nicholas Pepe. Two former Lille wingers graced the Premier League previously with Arsenal’s buy proving to be a dud. Gervinho enjoyed the most productive seasons of his career with the French club; hopefully, Pepe’s are just a stepping stone to better things if he signs for us. If he doesn’t, I don’t give a rat’s arse how it turns out…
This is shaping to be a particularly busy fortnight for the club. Back in May, Vinai and Raul promised to be brave – later morphing into “outsmarting the market” – and take unpalatable decisions in the club’s favour. One of those was over contracts. Vinai said:
We need to make sure we are really disciplined.
A good example of that is senior players that aren’t towards the end of their careers, we need to make sure that those players, when they’ve got two years left on their contract, we’re making the difficult decisions.
We’re either renewing those players’ contracts, or we’re selling those players. So we’re going to have to be brave with those decisions along the way, because we can’t be in a situation where we are allowing players to walk out the door for free unless they are coming towards the end of their career.Vinai Venkatesham on transfers
The Terrible Trio
Brave words or foolhardy? A quick glance at Transfermarkt shows the words definitely fall into the latter category. Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Carl Jenkinson, and, Takuma Asano all see their contracts expire next summer. We’re surely actively looking to move three of the four on but Nacho may yet serve a purpose.
More disconcertingly is the group whose contract expire in two years. Sokratis and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang surely get new contracts by Vinai’s rules. We’ve got problems aplenty already in defence without the Greece international, who while not being perfect, is head and shoulders above the rest of the back four.
However, if either is sold, a transfer window which currently sits at a solid 7 out of 10, plummets in those circumstances. Aubameyang’s sale would explain the current splurge in the market and fits the M.O. being pushed; older players replaced with youngsters whose value increases. Pepe, at €80m, must go some to make that happen; Saliba too, whilst we are at it.
The other three whose deals expire in 2021 find themselves topping the list of players we should sell. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shkodran Mustafi, and Mesut Özil are consistently inconsistent. Quite a few tears would be shed by some over the latter’s departure but the former two? Nobody, surely, will be surprised if they go. Most of us will be surprised if they do go.
Vinai’s bold claim sprang from a desire to prove he isn’t Ivan Mk II, but it is one which is going to haunt him. Reports this morning claim Real Madrid face losing Gareth Bale for no fee with the Chinese Super League transfer window closing in a few days. We may face a similar situation with Özil and Mkhitaryan as clubs struggle to fund their wages and a fee as well.
Is that brave – forgoing a fee to cut costs – or folly? This is Arsenal, we expect the latter. And if we were going to forgo fees, Laurent Koscielny would already be gone.
As ever with football executives, words flow too freely to appear different. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. If we do shift these players and finish in the top four, I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution…