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Transfer Rumor: Arsenal still in for Aaron Hickey

Reports out of Italy and Scotland say yes, David Ornstein says not so fast.

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AS Roma v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Arsenal have been consistently linked with a transfer move for Bologna fullback Aaron Hickey this summer. The rumor is showing no signs of slowing down, with the Serie A side “preparing for life after the fullback” and it being a question of “when, not if, he moves” according to reports. Hickey would cost somewhere in the £20M neighborhood, and the Gunners stiffest competition for his signature appears to be from Brentford.

The press in Scotland and Italy seem to think Arsenal are in the lead to land the 20-year old, but the usual Arsenal sources aren’t so sure. Most recently, David Ornstein wrote that Hickey is on the Gunners’ radar but his signing might be contingent on shifting out some of the out-of-favor players on the roster. Ornstein also rejected reports that Arsenal had made a formal bid and that a fee had been agreed, calling the stories, “well wide of the mark.”

It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it turns out Bologna / Hickey’s agent are using Arsenal’s genuine but contingent interest to drive up the price for other buyers. The comparative lack of reporting on Hickey-to-Arsenal from the go-to London journalists gives me pause. Hickey also “feels” like a Brentford move. I’m not really sure why because they’re very much an analytics-based club, and most of his numbers don’t jump off the page. But his age, room for improvement, and ability to get forward quickly seem like a fit for the Bees on the pitch and from a front office, develop-and-sell standpoint.

Arsenal need a solid, reliable backup for Kieran Tierney, more in the mold of a 1B option than a true reserve player. Tierney has struggled to stay healthy, and the Gunners have sorely missed his contributions at both ends of the pitch while he has been in the treatment room.

Is Aaron Hickey that guy? I’m not sure. His defensive numbers aren’t great, but his offensive contributions are strong. He scored five Serie A goals last season, which is impressive for a left back, but I’m not sure to what extent scoring is a repeatable skill from a left back.

Hickey is 20 years old. He has plenty of room for growth / additions to his game, but he seems much more a player for the future than a guy ready to fill the slot behind Kieran Tierney in the way that I think Arsenal need right now. I don’t think Hickey is any more polished than Nuno Tavares, so if you think the Gunners shouldn’t go into next season with Nuno as the 2nd left back, Hickey probably isn’t the answer you’re looking for, either.

Perhaps Arsenal are prepared to roll the dice on Tierney’s fitness again and make do with what they’ve got this season with an eye to developing Tavares and / or Hickey for the medium- to long-term. Since that possibility makes me nauseous, I’m going to offer an alternative to calm my nerves. Mind you, this is pure speculation — I’ve seen nothing to suggest this might happen.

Even though Arsenal are in the midst of a youth movement rebuild that is looking to remake the roster for years to come, maybe backup left back is a spot where they could opt for a shorter-term, veteran solution that would hopefully come on the cheap.

And now I’ve just suggested that Arsenal make another purchase this summer. Alternatively, the club could probably get by with a one-year deal on a bargain-bin or free transfer player. There doesn’t look to be all that much available on that front, however. Marcelo is available though. He’s won loads of trophies and has that Brazilian connection with Edu! Please take that last bit in the manner in which it was intended — as a joke.

Not that it’s a bold call to say “trust David Ornstein” but that’s what I’m going with here. Hickey seems an unlikely transfer unless Arsenal shift some players out and generate funds. If you assume the club manages to complete the expected deals for Gabriel Jesus and Youri Tielemans, plus the move for Fabio Vieira, the Gunners would be around a £100M spend this summer. That’s before you get to Eddie Nketiah’s improved wages. And more importantly, before the ***crosses fingers*** Bukayo Saka contract extension (and massive raise). That’s a lot of dough.

I have no idea where Arsenal are getting all the money they seem ready to spend this summer. Honestly, I don’t really care as long as the club don’t run afoul of the Premier League spending rules and Financial Fair Play. And let’s be real, those regulations hardly rise to the level of Pirates of the Caribbean “guidelines” (hang the code!), see e.g. Everton’s massive debts and Manchester City, generally.

Is it time to put in a call to a Short Fuse legend? Bah gawd, that’s Spendy McWarchester’s music! And in my mind, Spendy is walking out to John Cena’s entrance music. FORSOOTH! Maketh it rain! My head is a strange place.