This morning, Mikel Arteta gave his first pregame press conference of the season, but the majority of the questions were about the roster and transfer rumors / business. As he usually is, Arteta was coy with his answers, refused to discuss anybody who isn’t an Arsenal player, and gave canned answers that betray little if anything about what the club might be up to.
The most interesting thing he said was that the club expected the summer to play out in two phases: one phase with deals they thought they could get done early (presumably Tavares, Lokonga, White) and a second, later phase with deals that would be more difficult, need time, and / or the pressure of the window closing to complete. I’m vaguely reassured by that because it’s a tacit acknowledgement that the transfer business isn’t done and that they know they’ve got more needs to fill.
Fortunately, we’ve got The Athletic, football.london, Twitter generally, and so on to augment Mikel’s non-answers and work behind-the-scenes to get us snippets of information so that we can wildly overreact online.
- With the apparent collapse of the Aaron Ramsdale pursuit yesterday, Arsenal are looking elsewhere for goalkeeper reinforcements and may pursue a loan to fill the spot behind Bernd Leno this season. Even before today’s Athletic article, I’d seen some connecting the dots to link Arsenal to Barcelona’s Neto. The Catalan side are still looking to shed salary to register outfield players, and the Brazilian is represented by Kia Joorabchian, who, as we all know, has close ties to Edu. James McNicholas was quick to point out that a loan move wouldn’t be based solely on that relationship, that Arsenal’s scouting and analytics people think he fits the profile.
- The Gunners have also inquired about West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone, but there isn’t much doing there. The Baggies want upwards of £10M for the 28-year old England international, and he doesn’t fit the profile for Arsenal. He’s a solid keeper, but his ball playing is poor, which is a problem for a club that wants to work the ball out of the back.
- A note on Ramsdale: Arsenal and Sheffield United representatives met yesterday to try to work out a deal. The Blades reportedly stuck to their £35M valuation (apparently it’s gone up or was always higher than the £30M we’d seen) and the Gunners offered £20M with “significant” add-ons. That large gap in valuation is what scuppered things. I guess the Gunners were hopeful that Sheffield United would come off their price, but it seems odd to me that we’ve gotten this far along with that much of a difference without much leaking out about other options or Arsenal not being confident of securing the move.
- Arsenal are not close to a move for James Maddison. Apparently the £60-70M price tag is a bit too rich for the Gunners’ blood, even with this summer’s additional investment. The reporting now is that Arsenal weren’t ever seriously in on Maddison, that the connection was being played up by third parties who wanted to “match-make” between the Foxes and the Gunners given the need for attacking creativity at the Emirates.
- The Gunners do, apparently, have money for a move for Houssem Aouar. Aouar has long been linked with a move to North London and would reportedly cost around £22M. That’s a significant price drop from last summer / January when Lyon wanted more than double that. Interest in Aouar had subsided over the summer but has been revived behind closed doors at Arsenal, and it’s possible the Gunners could look to loan-in the French playmaker if they can’t swing a sale. Rumors of agents fees and third-party payments might be a stumbling block, however.
- The club would also be able to afford Martin Ødegaard, who has supposedly been the #1 target all along. It looked as if the Norwegian would stay at Real Madrid this season, but recently, the door to an Arsenal transfer has inched open. My gut feeling is that this one happens, but probably closer to the close of the window. But that’s just my gut.
- Arsenal are trying to put off / beat out Roma for a Tammy Abraham loan or purchase. Behind Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner in the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, it’s clear the 23-year old attacker is surplus to requirements. Earlier this summer, Abraham was reportedly available on a loan with an obligation to buy for £40M next summer. Arsenal would need to shift Alexandre Lacazette out to make space for Abraham, and the Gunners are trying to revive Roma’s interest in the French striker from last summer.
- Lautaro Martinez looks more likely to remain at Inter Milan with Lukaku’s near £100M move back to Stamford Bridge, which helped alleviate some of the Italian club’s financial woes. But I wouldn’t totally rule out a move away from the San Siro for the Argentine striker this summer. Inter may still need to save money / generate funds, and I don’t think the players are particularly happy the club has sold two of their best players in Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi this summer. I can see players pushing for moves, looking to abandon a sinking ship. I think he’s more likely (unfortunately) to move to Tottenham, but only if they sell Harry Kane to Manchester City.
- Bernardo Silva has rejected a potential move to Arsenal. The Portuguese midfielder wants “something new” aka “I don’t want to sit behind Jack Grealish,” and Manchester City are open to selling him. Apparently North London is not on his list of preferred landing spots, however. I’m not sure where he expects to go because it’s not like clubs are flush with excess cash to spend at the moment. But that’s fine, we didn’t want him anyway. (Actually I think he’d have been a great fit for the squad’s current needs, but oh well).
- Somewhat worryingly, Arsenal have not been linked to any right backs this summer. On one level, that’s understandable because the club currently have four guys who could fill the role — Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Cedric Soares, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. They’d have to move one or more of them to bring someone in because not even the worst-run club in the world would carry five right backs, right? And while none of them are particularly exciting, I remain a Bellerin believer. The problem is Bellerin has only two years remaining on his contract and reportedly wants a “new challenge” when it expires. Maybe he changes his tune if he reclaims his starting role at the Emirates. I think he’ll get a chance to do that, too — I expect him to open the season as the first-choice RB.
- Joe Willock has agreed to personal terms with Newcastle and his move should go through. The clubs may not make the move official in time for him to be eligible to play this weekend, but given the word last night was the two sides were far apart on a new contract, it’s good news that the transfer isn’t going to fall apart at the 11th hour.
Whew. That was a lot.
tl;dr: Arsenal are looking at keeper options not named Aaron Ramsdale and could loan-in Neto from Barcelona. A creative midfielder is still on the cards, probably not James Maddison, most likely Martin Ødegaard. Any move for a striker would have to be preceded by moving Alexandre Lacazette out. Same goes for a right back, but with shifting any one of the four options currently at the club, and no specific links.