The Gunners are finally back in semi-competitive action this week in the International Champions Cup, but that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from churning back home in England as the transfer window winds down into its final weeks. The Gunners have got off to a bit of an inauspicious start, drawing 1-1 after 90 minutes with Atletico Madrid before losing on penalties to Diego Simeone’s men.
Matteo Guendouzi and Emile Smith-Rowe have injected excitement into an already eager fan base with their youthful exuberance and flashes of skill that see their first team futures becoming more assured with each passing day. However, Gooners are keen for at least one more quality signing this summer, and head coach Unai Emery has hinted that he and the club would jump at the opportunity should the right player come available. However, Arsenal may soon have to deal with multiple departures in the near future, not just from an over-crowded first-team squad that needs to pare its numbers before the end of the transfer window but stretching into the highest echelons of the club hierarchy as well.
Gazidis Rumours Quashed by the Club… For Now
Depending on which source you ask, Ivan Gazidis is either totally satisfied with his role as CEO of Arsenal and focused on the new season, or he is due to be named to the same position at AC Milan by September 1. The club have come out recently with a brief statement, reaffirming Gazidis’ present commitment to Arsenal, but many outlets in the Italian press are convinced he is bound for Milan. In England, even those journalists that cover the team every day are in search of clarity on the topic from the club, something they aren’t entirely convinced is forthcoming.
On the surface, it makes very little sense why Gazidis would choose to make a lateral (at best) move at a time when he has never been more important to the day to day operations of the club. Long criticised for his apparent inaction in the face of overdue change in the club’s operating infrastructure, Gazidis has firmly installed himself at the head of a revolution in North London.
The South African born businessman has made multiple hires at all levels of the club’s backroom staff, touching on areas as diverse as contract negotiation and sports science. He has overseen a smooth transition from Arsene Wenger as manager to Unai Emery as Head Coach, supported by a team of highly regarded executives, including Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat.
Why then would Gazidis choose to leave now, just as his labours over the past year and a half are starting to bear fruit? Simply, he wouldn’t, or at least not without a significant rise in pay or power, and it is not certain that Milan can offer either of these to him. Some executives seek new challenges to keep themselves driven and focused, but the timing of these rumours makes little sense. As far as this Monger is concerned, Gazidis isn’t going anywhere.
Departure at the Highest Level?
Almost since the moment majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and minority shareholder Alisher Usmanov bought into Arsenal in 2007, there has been a constant struggle by both parties to gain total control of the club. Usmanov, who currently owns 30% of the club, has long been on a public relations campaign to curry support with supporters who are desperate to be rid of the American Kroenke, who many have labelled as unambitious and uninterested in on-pitch success. Leveraging these sour feelings toward Kroenke, Usmanov has maintained that if given a seat on the board and a chance to gain majority ownership, he would invest heavily in the team, something that his rival has not really done since taking control.
While The Uzbekistani has said all the right things that supporters want to hear, the fact remains that he has little effect on the operations of the club and the sale of his shares would make little difference to the team on the pitch. Usmanov has already claimed he will not sell his shares to Kroenke, which means whomever the buyer ends up being, they are not likely to gain any more favour (and therefore, a board seat) so long as Kroenke is involved.
The talk of Usmanov potentially leaving the club is sure to stir up debate among supporters, but ultimately the present standoff between the two biggest financial powers behind the club is of no benefit to anyone. A change at the top is unlikely to destabilise a club in excellent financial standing, and there is a possibility that the entity who buys Usmanov’s shares is able to contribute more to the club.
More Wonderkids on the Radar
Over the last month of the summer, the Gunners have found themselves linked with numerous teenage talents from across Europe. Having already signed Matteo Guendouzi, the club were also linked with PSG starlet Yacine Adli, as well as Barcelona left-back Joel Lopez. Now it seems as if Arsenal are in on another pair of young talents, with 19-year-old PSG defender Stanley N’Soski and Monaco striker Nabil Aliouli now being linked to North London.
However, the case does not seem to be particularly compelling for either player, as N’Soski is unhappy with his playing time at PSG, and is unlikely to find much more in a crowded Arsenal backline. This seems like a case of agent speak in which he is trying to drum up interest in his client to boost his price in a possible move away. Aliouli meanwhile is a talented prospect from a very deep talent pool on the French Riviera, but with 2 top line strikers, another veteran option and Chuba Akpom looking ever further from a first-team place with Eddie Neketiah generating rave reviews in his second season around the first team, the need just does not seem to be there for Aliouli.
Barcelona Could Affect Arsenal’s Midfield Plans
One of the most persistent rumours linking a player to North London since Unai Emery’s arrival has been that of Sevilla midfielder Steven N’Zonzi, a former favourite of the current Arsenal boss at the Spanish club during his tenure there. N’Zonzi is a rock solid defensive midfielder who brings aerial prowess and tactical intelligence into the base of the midfield, qualities Arsenal has been lacking for many years, but late interest from Barcelona could make a move for the midfielder more difficult this summer.
The Gunners have been reportedly trying to negotiate Sevilla down from their £40 million asking price, but there remains little evidence that talks have advanced to any degree. Meanwhile, reports in Spain have claimed Barcelona are looking to sign N’Zonzi as part of their midfield makeover this summer. However, this might not be all bad news for Arsenal, as it would almost guarantee the departure of Andre Gomes from the Camp Nou. The Gunners have been linked with the talented but underachieving Portuguese midfielder this summer, and could potentially strike a deal if they decide to add another body to the centre of the park.
So far, there has been mostly smoke surrounding the possible signing of both players, and it is unclear how much Arsenal truly value bringing in another centre midfielder with more pressing needs on the flanks and potentially in the defence. Still, with Aaron Ramsey’s future very much a question mark, how Arsenal treat the position during the rest of the transfer window could give clues to what the future holds for the Welshman and the future of Unai Emery’s midfield.
Wishing For A Wideman
Supporters are desperate for one more signing this summer and a pacey wide attacker sits atop the wishlists of most. The name fans just can’t seem to stop dreaming about is Barcelona attacker Ousmane Dembele, whose Instagram activity and strong relationships with both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat have fans believing he could end up at Arsenal. Logistically, it seems almost impossible the club could land a player who cost north of £100m only last year, even if the player would jump at the chance. However, with Barcelona also said to be interested in signing Willian from Chelsea, Dembele could potentially find himself out of Ernesto Valverde’s plans and in search of a new landing spot. Should this happen, there are few destinations more perfectly suited to the immensely talented Frenchman.
Elsewhere, there are numerous reports linking the Gunners to other wide players from across the continent. One source has Arsenal seriously considering French international and former Newcastle midfielder Florian Thauvin, who spent the last season with Marseille in Ligue 1. Thauvin had an excellent season on the Mediterranean coast, scoring 25 goals and assisting another 13 in his 54 appearances. Where the likelihood of this deal seems to fall apart is in his price, as Marseille are said to want €50 million just 1 season after acquiring him for €10million from Newcastle. He is a very good player, but it is hard to imagine Arsenal paying that much with so many other options on the market.
One such option is Bayer Leverkusen star Leon Bailey, who is reportedly looking to move to the Premier League after a successful season in Germany. Bailey became the subject of conversation for several of Europe’s top clubs in January when it looked as though he might move on to a bigger club. Now it seems that Arsenal and Chelsea are both interested in signing the Jamaican star, and Leverkusen would reportedly accept bids in the region of €40 million, an excellent value for a player still blossoming into a dynamic creative presence in the wing. Roma could also factor into the mix for Bailey after they ultimately lost out on their pursuit of Malcolm, who has elected to join Barcelona, infuriating the Italian club in the process.
Finally, there have been reports over the last 2 weeks suggesting that the Gunners are eagerly chasing after Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman. However, the Frenchman, who only just signed a new five-year deal with the Bavarian giants this past season, has spoken out against the move. Coman has maintained that he is not in discussions with Arsenal, and his future lies at the Allianz Arena. Fans are convinced however that he would be a great addition to the club, combining the pace and wide play of a natural winger with the dribbling ability expected of most top players in his position.
Still on the Docket…
What is clear, in light of the persistent rumours surrounding a possible final signing for the Gunners, is that the club have been sounding out options for pace on the flanks. While there have yet to be any significant strides toward concrete negotiations, Arsenal must still make subtractions to the crowded squad before the window closes. Jeff Reine-Adelaide’s permanent move to Angers could be the first in a run of departures that could see such players as Chuba Akpom, Carl Jenkinson, David Ospina and others, while loans are a possibility for many of the younger players who may not feature much in Europe and cup competitions this season. Joe Willock is but one such candidate.