Arsenal have reportedly reached an agreement with Fiorentina for a shock January transfer move for 21-year old striker Dusan Vlahovic. According to Gianluca DiMarzio, the Gunners have not agreed to personal terms with the Serbian striker, a critical piece of completing a transfer. The move would supposedly cost €80M. For what it’s worth, Fiorentina’s coach, Vincenzo Italiano, rubbished the rumor saying, “they are just rumors and not too credible for me.”
Are we really doing this already? It’s November. The January window doesn’t open for nearly two months.
DiMarzio is a usually-reliable source on Italian football news and rumors who, according to our SB Nation friends who cover Serie A teams, may have declined a bit in quality but also “doesn’t make stuff up.” They think that Arsenal’s interest is probably legitimate but also that Vlahovic and his camp probably aren’t super-interested in a move to North London and would prefer to stay in Italy.
From Arsenal’s side of things, I’m a bit more skeptical. I’m not sure it passes the smell test. Arsenal do need a young striker and Vlahovic’s age (21) aligns with the summer transfer strategy. But Arsenal have not been active in the January window of late and €80M is a lot of money for a club that spent the most of any team in the Premier League in the summer. And I definitely don’t think the clubs have already agreed to a deal and a fee. That feels like several bridges too far.
Vlahovic will be one of the hot transfer rumor names this summer if he doesn’t move in January. His contract expires in 2023, the end of next season, and he is scoring bags of goals in Serie A. He tallied 21 goals in 37 league matches last season and has 8 in 11 to open this campaign. Of slight concern is that 6 of those goals last season and 4 of them this year were on penalties, which is not necessarily a repeatable skill (and it’s not like Arsenal are awarded a bunch of penalties). The last time Arsenal went in for eye-popping goal numbers propped up by penalties, the club wound up with Nicolas Pépé.
Arsenal need their striker of the future. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is 32 and will be 34 when his current contract expires. Last season was a down year, and before his recent run of fantastic form, it looked like that was a continuing trend. His production is slowing down. Alexandre Lacazette’s contract expires after this season, and it doesn’t look like an extension is in the cards. If the club does extend Lacazette, it’ll be a Granit Xhaka-esque “protect his transfer value” deal with an eye to selling him. Neither Aubameyang nor Lacazette are long (or even medium) term solutions.
Arsenal do have Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun as options up top for the future, but both come with significant question marks. Nketiah has not shown enough to convince me that he has the chops to be the primary striker for a club with Champions League aspirations. And Balogun, as promising and hyped of a prospect as he may be, has not had much opportunity at all to show off his skills at the senior level.
The reaction to the Vlahovic links has been mixed. Some are convinced he’s the real deal. Some are not sold on his talent. For an €80M price tag, Arsenal had better be convinced that he is a star, ready to contribute at the Premier League level immediately.
But Mikel Arteta and Edu have earned the benefit of the doubt in the transfer market, at least for now. The summer moves, which many questioned, look better every day. If they think Vlahovic is the right guy, I’m inclined to believe them.