Fun fact: The Premier League kicks off in less than two weeks! Less fun fact: Arsenal are still mired in a tremendous heap of transfer madness, with no foreseeable resolution in sight. Despite assertions from Arteta and the club that the Gunners will be aggressive in the transfer market this summer, things have hit an impasse.
One of the most frustrating developments has been the lack of departures necessary to bring in new players. After weeks of Granit Xhaka being linked to a move to Roma, that transfer died an unceremonious death as the Serie A club was unable to meet Arsenal halfway with an adequate transfer fee. Players like Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah, Willian, and Reiss Nelson have all but seen the writing on the wall at the club, but with no movement on any of the fringe players, things are not looking great.
Of the players on the way out, it was fairly well known as early as February that Hector had let Arteta and co know that he wanted a move away from Arsenal in search of a new challenge and Champions League soccer. Arsenal were reportedly looking for an adequate replacement for the club’s longest tenured player at the beginning of the summer transfer window, but the search has produced very little outside of very faint rumors of an interest in Max Aarons from Norwich.
One of the major caveats about Bellerin’s reported request was that he specifically wanted to move to a club outside of England. Since then, two major names have been in play in Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan, with Inter the supposed front runner. But a transfer to either club is anything but a simple. Atletico currently have Kieran Trippier at right back and want to move on from him before pursuing Hector, but would prefer a loan. Inter currently need a right back after losing Achraf Hakimi to PSG, but would also prefer a loan to an outright transfer.
The past few days, though, have seen the rumors of a move to Inter Milan heat up, as Chris Wheatley reported that Hector’s agents were in London to meet with Arsenal about the fullback’s career and a potential move to the reigning Serie A champions.
But when it comes to Arsenal transfers, they are anything but simple. While a loan with an option to buy seems to be the preferred outcome, Arsenal have been reportedly negotiating with Inter about the possibility of a player plus cash deal to sign Argentine attacker Lautaro Martinez, potentially using Alexandre Lacazette as well as Bellerin to entice the Italian side to part with their striker. That Arsenal are pursuing another attacker instead of a midfielder might seem counterproductive, but Arsenal are not known for being savvy negotiators, so here we are.
At the end of the day, though, the best course of action for Arsenal might be the one that sees Hector stay at the Emirates. Hector is a talented right back regardless of his dip in form following his ACL surgery and has been a tremendous servant of the club. Despite his request for a transfer, there is a palpable gulf of talent between Hector and his backups in Calum Chambers (moderately talented but slower than molasses) and Cedric Soares (inconsistent and unreliable). Ainsley Maitland-Niles has shown an aptitude at the position in the past, but has made it clear for some time now that he wishes to play in the midfield.
Before his agent arrived, there was reason to believe that, like Granit Xhaka, Arsenal were considering extending Bellerin - both to ensure that they had a proper right back to start the season, but also to preserve his transfer value for the future. Arsenal are trying to move away from their awful reputation of letting players run down their contracts until their final years, which partially explains why they have been so proactive at contract extensions for players.
At the end of the day, however, Arsenal are in a tenuous position. Without player sales, they cannot afford to bring in new transfers. The most recent transfers of Tavares, Lokonga, and Ben White are all smart investments in the future, but a lack of further transfers will almost certainly doom Arsenal to another lackluster year of missing out on Champions League play and a shot at returning the club back to its former glory. A decision on Hector’s future could be the first domino to fall toward future outgoings, but time is running out for Arsenal to get things turned around.