The Dušan Vlahović transfer to Arsenal news cycle / rumor mill has started to shift. The outlets have started writing in earnest about other striker targets for Mikel Arteta should the Gunners not land the Fiorentina striker. So what changed?
Honestly, not much. Throughout the entire saga, there was at least an undercurrent (and sometimes a steady stream) of reporting that Vlahović wasn’t interested in a move to North London. Arsenal have wanted him the entire time, but he hasn’t ever seemed to want Arsenal. He supposedly wants Juventus or Inter Milan. And he wants to move in the summer when there would likely be a larger bidding war for his services that would see more money into his (and his agent’s) pockets.
Per some outlets, Arsenal have even agreed to a transfer fee and structure with Fiorentina. i Viola have refuted that claim but have acknowledged that they’ve had talks with at least one English club, which is almost certainly Arsenal. But according to Fiorentina, Vlahović and his agent are not communicating.
I find that a bit hard to believe because Vlahović is quite literally at the training ground everyday. You can’t really ghost your own club. But that’s neither here nor there.
What I don’t find hard to believe is that a player might not want to come to Arsenal. Players have personal preferences that can be rational or irrational, comprehensible or incomprehensible to outside observers.
It’s not some damning indictment of the club, either. And at the risk of being labeled a horrible Edu-defender or an #ArtetaIn crazy, I’ve already seen the “well if he’s not coming, why did they spend so much time chasing him” takes and they are bad. I’ll remind everyone that we have precious little knowledge of what is actually going on behind the scenes. Perhaps they had good reason to not believe the reports about him not being interested in a move to Arsenal. Maybe they thought they could convince him and his agent to change their minds.
I’d bet Arsenal have been working on some of the other options we’ve seen floated today — Alexander Isak, Jonathan David, Luka Jović — behind the scenes and concurrently with the pursuit of Vlahović. It’s possible, even probable, that the people running a billion dollar football club are capable of multitasking and actually do have contingency plans (and contingency plans for their contingency plans).
Of course, Arteta & Edu may have gotten it wrong. Maybe they misread the signs on Vlahović or had too much confidence in their own ability to talk him into joining. Those things happen even to the best managers and executives both in sport and in business. And sometimes (often?) things like that happen without them being your own or anyone’s “fault” per se. You don’t always get your way. Things don’t always work out.
Jumping straight from a first-choice plan not working out for Arsenal to it was fireable mismanagement and the sky is falling is not a leap I’m willing to make. Now if it turns out they had no backup plan (which we probably won’t ever know), that is a bit of an issue. That said, sometimes the best move is not making one. You can do more damage by buying the wrong player than buying nobody. Don’t just do something, stand there!
I think Arteta & Edu have at least some idea what they are doing given how the moves from last summer panned out. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on transfers and squad-building for now.
And because it’s how these things inevitably play out, especially after I’ve written that it’s probably not going to happen — I’m eagerly anticipating the shocking, 11th-hour, successful Arsenal purchase of Dušan Vlahović.