If you’ve played Football Manager or FIFA 13, you might think you know how the transfer window works.
You’d be wrong.
The common perception is that it is an activity led by the clubs. They identify the players and then make an official approach to the appropriate chairmen.
In reality, it is rarely such a streamlined process. Transfers are conducted primarily through agents and middle-men. Take the case of Robin van Persie’s protracted move to Manchester United: the finer details of his contract would have been all but agreed before there was any official contact between United and Arsenal themselves.
Even the occasionally naive board at Arsenal are savvy enough to understand the way things work. That is why they, along with almost every other Premier League club, issue a ‘Player requirements’ list to Europe’s major football agents on the eve of every transfer window.
Each summer, the offices of agents are laden with spread-sheets and post-its detailing the individual needs of every Premier League club. They then play cupid, matching players with itchy feet to clubs with bulging budgets, and taking their 5% off the top as recompense.
Sometimes Arsenal are able to rely purely on the work of their extensive scouting team. Sometimes they are prepared to take a punt on a player proposed by an agent. It varies year on year, but the briefing they have put out ahead of this window gives us an insight as to what might happen this summer.
It’s another hugely important transfer window for the club. When United took Van Persie, the gap between them and us United widened agonizingly, like a freshly-cut Chelsea smile. Seeing them celebrate winning the Premier League last night, crowned with a Van Persie hat-trick, was agonizing. The Dutchman will face a cauldron of hate at the Emirates on Sunday, but will wear the armour of triumph and conviction. If we’re to stand any chance of reeling United in any time soon we need to improve the squad significantly.
My understanding is that Arsenal’s list reads very simply:
- CENTRAL MIDFIELDER
My immediate reaction is surprise that the list doesn’t include a goalkeeper and a right-back. Perhaps Arsene Wenger has more faith in Wojciech Szczesny than we think, and perhaps Bacary Sagna is closer to a signing a new contract than we previously imagined.
It’s equally possible that these positions haven’t been mentioned as Arsenal have already identified and approached the players they wish to bring in to fill those roles.
What we can gather is that Arsenal are looking for a new spine.
This one shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Arsene Wenger is fond of telling anyone who’ll listen that we have three top quality centre-backs. However, one of those (Thomas Vermaelen) has had such a poor season that he isn’t trusted to start despite the fact he is supposedly the team’s captain. Furthermore, beyond the trio of Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker, we are woefully short of depth.
Johan Djourou and Sebastien Squillaci are likely to depart the club in the summer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vermaelen join them. Typically, Arsenal lose at least one major player each summer, and this year could be Vermaelen’s turn. The Belgian’s stock is still high enough for him to earn a move to one of Europe’s glamour clubs, and Arsene might see this as an ideal time to cash in on a player who has under-performed for more than a year now.
I have no idea who Arsenal will look to bring in. Ashley Williams has been mentioned and would certainly make sense, although I suspect he’ll be reunited with his former boss Brendan Rogers at Liverpool. A player with that kind of Premier League experience would be useful though. Wenger must surely regret not going the extra mile to secure the signature of a young Gary Cahill from Bolton two years ago.
When Arsenal sold Alex Song to Barcelona, Arsene Wenger elected to replace him with a repositioned Mikel Arteta and a rehabilitated Abou Diaby.
While Arteta has generally been consistent in the ‘pivote’ role – only Santi Cazorla has started more games this season – Diaby has spent the majority of the season injured before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament at a crucial point in one of his many ‘come-backs’.
The good news is that Arsene Wenger has already identified his replacement. My understanding is that preliminary talks are taking place as early as this week between Arsenal and representatives for the Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons.
Gonalons is a 24-year old France international, who was made Lyon captain by former-Gunner Remi Garde this year. Garde and Wenger are still close, and it seems that the former may have a given Gonalons a glowing reference. He’s been linked several times in the press, but from what I’m told this has developed beyond the usual transfer tittle-tattle.
This is certainly one to watch as the summer approaches.
Our greatest need is for a new centre-forward.
Olivier Giroud has had a good first season in English football, but it’s clear we require an alternative to the powerful Frenchman. With Giroud hoping to kick on in his second campaign, it will be tempting for Arsene to bring in someone who can play second fiddle to the handsome target man.
However, as I said on last week’s arseblog arsecast, my ideal would be to bring in a marquee name. A big signing would help fill the aching void still left after Van Persie’s departure, and transform the atmosphere around the club. As for Giroud: if he is going to develop in to the player we need him to be, he will respond to the increased competition and fight for his spot.
Stefan Jovetic is the name being linked most frequently in the press, and you can understand why. He is a different type of forward to Giroud – mobile, inventive and technically-gifted. He offers a similarly diverse threat to that of Luis Suarez, only without the biting.
Manchester United have shown the value of adding a star striker to your ranks. Let’s hope Arsenal follow suit this summer.