Arsenal transfer roundup as crucial summer window moves forward
By Mac Johnson (Senior Writer)
Reported by a number of sources including the club itself, Hector Bellerin has lodged an official transfer request, asking to be sold this summer. Given that his Arsenal career has gone a bit stale of late, it's a move that makes sense, for both club and player. And with Achraf Hakimi the latest in a long string of right-back acquisitions by Paris Saint-Germain, the club originally touted to sign Bellerin, it appears Inter Milan are first in line for the Spaniard's services.
Much like the Roma-bound Granit Xhaka, Bellerin will do very well in Italy. The league is slower, less physical, and less defensively taxing. Given new manager Simone Inzaghi's preference for a 4-3-3 formation, the Spaniard will be right in his comfort zone. It appears to be a match made in heaven, especially if Inter meet Arsenal's £20m transfer valuation, or sign Bellerin on a loan with an obligation to buy.
But what other transfers are in the spotlight for Arsenal at the moment? We've already signed a backup left-back in Nuno Tavares who, frankly, I hope never sees the field in a league game, as that would guarantee Tierney's presence throughout the campaign, unless Arteta were to revert to a back three. Albert Sambi Lokonga will undergo an Arsenal medical this week, assuming he has not already done so, with rumours placing him at the Arsenal camp in Scotland, preceding the friendly against Hibernian later today.
Furthermore, we've confirmed Matteo Guendouzi's loan move to Marseille, with William Saliba not far behind, the player having agreed terms, and the deal completed, per decider-of-truth Fabrizio Romano. That Saliba deal will not not contain a buy-on clause; Arsenal want the Frenchman back.
Those of you who listen to our wonderful Extra Cannon Podcast, co-hosted by yours truly, you'll know we end each episode with a spotlight. I'll be shining my spotlight today on the best transfer rumours still to come for Arsenal, some of which might be stronger than others, but all of which have the potential to change this team.
Ben White to Arsenal
We've known for quite a while that Arsenal are prioritizing a transfer for Ben White, with a fee of around £50m agreed. It's a hefty fee, and while White is a fantastic player, it's an investment that must pay dividends over the long term, especially when William Saliba returns to the club. But the deal does have a few short-term measures of importance as well.
Rob Holding may no longer be a lock-on for a starting berth. He will be our second-best right-footed defender to White, and despite showing sterling consistency last year, it's pretty clear that he's being upgraded. Fortunately, he partners well with Pablo Marí, and White will have time to develop a connection with Gabriel Magalhaes, who is Arsenal's left-sided lock for the future.
With White touted as a long-term replacement for David Luiz, who was a favorite of Arteta, it's no surprise that Holding might drop down the order. Despite my love of Holding, it's an understandable move, and one I can respect.
A right-back replacement
Holding's BFF Calum Chambers premiered at right back this past season, earning some pretty funky comparisons to Cafu, but he acquitted himself nicely, and earned the starting spot. However, per Romano again (via Twitch this time), Arsenal are pursuing a top-tier right-back for next season, with a series of top prospects listed. Max Aarons is topping the list, with Tariq Lamptey backing him up slightly.
Two interesting links that also abound are the Eredivisie pairing of Noussair Mazraoui, of Ajax, and Denzel Dumfries of PSV Eindhoven. The latter had a very promising Euro 2020 campaign, and the former's FBREF stats are a sight to behold. And while I'm a proponent of RB Leipzig's Nordi Mukiele, the links to him have gone dead in recent months.
If I’m honest, I would be comfortable with a pairing of Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares for this upcoming season, especially if we can reinvest the money we would have spent into a key high-profile target, like some of the player's I'll name in the next section. But a high-profile right back could also be the key to cementing the future of this defense, and creating an entire backline that could sustain this team for the near future, but also one with sustainable and top-tier depth, something this Arsenal squad has lacked across all categories for a long time.
And that's this week's transfer roundup. Let's hope Arteta and Edu can get a few deals across the table in the coming weeks, or else the opening tie against Brentford could prove a bleak match indeed, come August.
It's a classic s**tty essay prompt, and one you never really want. There's always one question you know the answer to, and two you apparently have to decide between, that you're not quite sure which you'll do better with. Arsenal's transfer situation in the midfield appears to be rather similar.
We've been heavily linked with three players, all of whom could change the fortunes of the midfield for the better. Much, much better. Houssem Aouar's has taken a resurgence, with a cut-price deal of around £20m sweetening the deal even further. That seems like it should be a lock-on; the one question you know the answer to.
However, it gets much more difficult to decide between the other two. James Maddison of Leicester City and Yves Bissouma of Brighton. Both players with consummate Premier League experience. Both players who we desperately need. But unfortunately, it's appearing we can only sign one of them. With the £50m we're shelling out for Ben White, our war chest is likely looking to be pretty empty. What's more, with player sales looking even more unlikely, free transfers and loan moves aside, it's going to be a very difficult coffer to refill.
I won't go into the Manuel Locatelli rumours, as they're entirely unlikely to pan out.
Do Arsenal shell out a smaller fee to cover for a permanent Partey partner, or bolster an attack that struggled mightily last year? We need to do both, but it's looking increasingly likely that only one will be an option. The signing of Aouar supports the former, but the latter is assisted by the inclusion of Lokonga in the 2021/22 squad.
Overpriced goalkeepers galore
In this final section, I'll address three players, who I'll call the good, bad, and ugly. Let's start with ugly.
He's actually a rather handsome fellow, and a talented player, but Andre Onana has dropped completely off of Arsenal's transfer map. Despite being available for between £7m and £10m, his midseason ban appears to be too much of an obstacle for the Gunners to overcome. He's been linked to Lyon of late as well, with the French side looking for a new netminder to replace the aging Antony Lopes.
Onana is a fantastic keeper, but Arsenal's transfer policy is the ugly bit about his deal. The Cameroon international had Arsenal fans excited, and was reportedly keen on a move, but negotiations and interest both fell through. Not the way to start a transfer window.
Then for the bad. Aaron Ramsdale isn't a bad keeper, but for £30-35m? Absolutely, unequivocally, categorically no thank you. He's been a decent shot-stopper behind the two leakiest defenses of the last two seasons, and despite his big profile and aggressive play-style, he's far too error-prone for my liking.
His distribution is very suspect—he's in the 99th percentile of goal-kick length, and his best distribution stat is his launch percentage—he launches over 70% of his passes, despite having one of the worst completion percentages among goalkeepers for launched passes. He also launches 92% of his goal kicks.
He's decent at claiming crosses, but defending crosses wasn't among Arsenal's weak points this past season. Worst of all, his Post-Shot xG, the defining statistic for shot-stopping ability, is in the 11th percentile. No thank you.
The good option linked to Arsenal at the moment is Sam Johnstone, who had an excellent season between the sticks for now-relegated West Brom. He's a reported £15m cheaper than Ramsdale, and is of much higher quality than Ramsdale, at least to the naked eye.
Frankly, the players are of almost identical stature and statistical profiles, but when it comes to the intangibles, Johnstone is a cooler head and a more mature keeper. He's also older, and more likely to be comfortable growing into a No. 1 role, or remaining as a high-class No. 2 than is Ramsdale. The fact he was selected above Ramsdale for the Euros doesn't hurt his cause either.
And that's this week's transfer roundup. Let's hope Arteta and Edu can get a few deals across the table in the coming weeks, or else the opening tie against Brentford could prove a bleak match indeed come August.