Isak, Calvert-Lewin, Neves, Luiz: Transfer Talk as window deadline looms
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Well, the inevitable outcry has happened on Arsenal Twitter. With just 5 days remaining in the transfer window, the fanbase has gone into disarray over the lack of incomings, a reaction accentuated by frustrating recent results.
I can understand it. We're an injury away from most likely having to deploy a 22-year-old striker who is desperate to depart the club, will do so in six months time and who is essentially useless unless it involves sticking away a scrappy goal from about 3 centimetres out. Even without that injury, we're currently relying on a 30-year-old who is only able to play 70 odd minutes at a sufficient intensity level before burning out and who hasn't been 20 metres from goal for about seven months. While there are a selection of makeshift options that are far from flawless, which involve reconciling with our ostracised captain or playing someone out of position and reconstructing the entire attack, it's clear that the best solution to this depletion issue is to address it in the transfer market. And as aforementioned, there are just 5 days remaining to do this, and there are very few concrete links to anyone.
On the flip side, I sympathise with the club. Edu and Mikel Arteta have supposedly spent all month chasing top target Dusan Vlahovic, all for the Serbian and his agent to represent the main stumbling block as they held out for a move to Juventus, which now appears to be coming to fruition. Some may criticise this patience in attempting to complete a complicated deal, lamenting the decision to not move on to other targets earlier, but personally I admire the ambition to pursue one of Europe's most sought after strikers, and the deal was clearly at some point deemed feasible.
And it's not as though they've just given up since it became clear no deal with Vlahovic was on the cards. As reported by the Athletic a few days ago, Arsenal are pushing to sign a number nine before Monday's deadline, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Alexander Isak the prominent candidates. If a deal for neither can be agreed, which feels increasingly likely, then the club may turn to a short-term option for someone like Luka Jovic of Real Madrid.
You can already sense the outrage when neither Calvert-Lewin or Isak is unveiled as an Arsenal player come 23:00 on Monday. "Edu is a fraud", "they've jeopardised our top four hopes", "we showed no ambition".
While I get that this window presents a golden opportunity to strengthen the squad in a key area before we had planned and thus significantly enhance our top four hopes, if we don't do it, it's probably because it wasn't possible, not for a lack of trying. It's been made abundantly clear that Edu is very keen to make this addition this month and that the money from the ownership to do so has been supplied. As much as it would be hugely disappointing if we do ultimately conduct no business in the striker department, it wouldn't feel fair to heap large amounts of criticism on those in charge of our recruitment. January is very tough- look at the lack of business elsewhere.
If we are to sign either of our apparent top targets, who should it be? Well, this sort of topic probably requires an in depth piece to itself, but here's my mini rundown:
Isak is an above average finisher, with great movement off the ball, superb pace, dribbling ability and ball carrying. Can run the channels and stretch teams out wide while also maintaining presence centrally, so would do a lot of what Arteta demands. Could work well in a press, has the physical profile to excel in the English game at 6'4, but there are some question marks around his contribution to the build up and overall technical security. At 22, there's so much room to develop. The ceiling is enormous.
Calvert-Lewin is of course Premier League proven and would settle in culturally very seamlessly and immediately. Superb in the air, great predatory instincts inside the box and decent finishing. Links play relatively well, but would have to improve in this aspect. Needs substantial work in the press. A few concerns over his recent injury problems, but there's nothing to suggest there are any lingering issues that could be problematic in the long-term (according to Dr. Rajpal Brar on Twitter).
Essentially, I'm sitting on the fence until I take a proper analytical dive into the pair. I think both would represent good signings at similar prices (somewhere between £60 and £70 million you'd imagine). Isak's ceiling might be higher, but Calvert-Lewin's floor feels higher. Basically, the Englishman represents less of a risk, but the reward for opting for the Swede could be greater in the long-term.
Another area of pressing concern for many Gooners is central midfield, although it now appears this may be something the club will address in the summer. The immediate short-term need for reinforcements has now passed- and we paid the price for not fulfilling this need- but the need for long-term additions is stark. David Ornstein has confirmed the chances of signing Arthur Melo on loan are diminishing, meanwhile long-term target Bruno Guimaraes is on the verge of joining Newcastle. The failure to sign the latter Brazilian is infuriating, given my lyrical waxing of him a couple of weeks ago, but I reserve judgement until we do make our midfield signing.
More targets have emerged in recent days in the form of Ruben Neves, Douglas Luiz and Your Tielemans. Neves was touted as a potential Granit Xhaka replacement in the summer, and it does appear there are concrete links to him. He'd effectively replace Xhaka's ball progression to an extent, while providing significantly more defensive output and shots. Tielemans would be a statement signing, but the chances of that deal materialising in the next 5 days feel very slim. As for Luiz, I don't really see why there's any hype over him. He does a bit defensively, but offers very little ball progression or shot creation for Aston Villa. Maybe it's a case of getting him in the right system and under the right coach, and with Arteta's track record I'd back it, but at the moment I can't understand those rumours.
That's it for this late window ramble, very much more in blog style. Let's hope we do something in the remaining days, otherwise I do very much think our top four attempts will be significantly hindered.