03 July 2013

Plumpin' for Rooney, Cavani, Ronaldo, Bale: a quick check on our rivals' moves

As important as our movement in the summer transfer-window is, we'd do well to keep an eye on the goings-on among the other clubs we're competing with, both in the transfer market as well as in the Prem. As we seek to bolster our squad, we'd do well to make sure that we're keeping up with the proverbial Joneses, not to mention the Moyeses, Mourinhos, and Pellegrinis.

By outward appearances, each club seems to have been laying low, sending out feelers and being linked to this or that player, but there has been little apparent movement so far. Part of that may be due to the fact that the transfer-window is just three days old; part of that may be due to our own perceptions as Arsenal fans, more attuned to any and every murmur, whisper, or hint of a player linked to us. However, it can't hurt to eavesdrop on the other clubs.

We'll offer a quick run-down of our closest competitors in no particular order. We all know how the silly season is, so keep in mind that any player may have signed for any club by the time you finish reading this.

Click here to cast your ballot--
I hope Woolwich 1886 earns your vote!
CHELSEA
There has been tall talk of the war-chest Mourinho would have available, something on the order of £100m. They've been linked with Edinson Cavani, and this could cost upwards of £50m. Should he sign, this could mark the end of Fernando Torres's time at the club. Mourinho said that Torres has only been "so-so". Their addition of Demba Ba in January hardly sparked the offense but may have helped enough to keep the club in third even in the face of our strong finish. With Romelu Lukaku returning from a triumphant loan to West Brom (17 goals, 4 assists), Chelsea looks stronger with or without Cavani. Not to be overlooked is Mourinho's relationship with other players such as Wesley Sneijder or Julio Cesar, who might rate their chances at glory a bit higher than at their current clubs.

As to departures, we could very well see the departures of John Terry or David Luiz with replacements to be named later. Much as I detest Terry, I'd rather he stay, the better to see him get beaten by our fleet-of-feet attackers.

Threat Level: Latent but high. With or without signings, Mourinho has proven that he can deliver. Frankly, I worry more about his impact on the club than I do about the impact of any new signings. Having said that, bringing in Cavani could surely vault the club from third-place to contenders to win the Prem.

SPURS
All of the talk is of Gareth Bale's potential move to Real Madrid, something I've actually lamented in a previous post. He had a brilliant season by almost any standard, and he's good for the Prem and good for us. Keeps us sharp and on our toes and all of that. I don't see him surpassing his 2012-13 stats (if anything, I suspect a regression of sorts), so I'm wary of us getting what so many of us are asking for. Should he leave, Spurs may have upwards of £75m to throw around, such is his value. With that kitty, they could replace one player with three or four who, even if they're lesser individuals, could strengthen the team quite well. They've brought in Paulinho already, and they have been linked with Christian Benteke and David Villa. None of these names strike fear into my heart, but Spurs could sign these players and still have £40m or more to spend. Selling players on the idea of playing in the Europa League might be tricky, but money does talk.

Should Bale end up staying, I'd submit that he'll struggle to replicate his eye-popping performance of the previous season, laboring under the increased scrutiny and pressure it has generated for him. Should he go, Spurs could make a number of signings.

Threat level: Moderate. I don't see many signs of ambition from the club. There is active talk of Bale leaving with little in the way of rebuttal from the club, and the rumors link the club to players who seem unlikely to convince Bale to stay or spark the club to a higher finish.

MAN CITY
Most of the news out of the Etihad has been about departures rather than additions. Kolo Touré, as previously mentioned has left for Anfield, and Carlos Tévez has shipped out to Juventus. Of course, Mancini is long gone, so we'll have to see how well Pellegrini manages. Between now and August, I'm sure there will be more activity as the club seeks to overcome its apparent championship hangover from 2011-12. At this point, they have shown only moderate interest in the likes of Pepe Reina, Robert Lewandowski, and Mario Gomez. Of these, only Lewandowski strikes me as the kind of player who could redefine a club's ambitions. With Dortmund refusing to let him join Bayern, Man City might be the next-most likely landing for him. Chelsea's drooling for Cavani, Man U's eyeing Ronaldo, Real Madrid is focusing on Bale, and Barcelona has added Neymar. There are few other clubs with the resources or allure to land him.

Never underestimate a club that throws its money around like City. They might be most vulnerable to impending FFP regulations, but I wouldn't put it past them to engage in an orgy of spending before then.

Threat level: Moderate/high. They'll certainly look to replace Touré and Tévez, and that's just for starters. They may look to add some firepower to the midfield. With Gareth Barry at 32 and in the last year of his contract, for example, and with Samir Nasri's personality overwhelming his performance,  I wouldn't be surprised to see the club move for another midfielder.

MAN U
This may sound preposterous, but hear me out: Ronaldo moving to Old Trafford could work out quite well for us. There's only one ball to be played, and I just don't see Ronaldo and van Persie sharing very well. Ronaldo could to to van Persie what van Persie did to Rooneyor van Persie could to Ronaldo what he did to Rooney: make him superfluous (let the him serve as a flexible reference to van Persie and Ronaldo). Even the venerated Alex Ferguson couldn't keep the two content, and Rooney looks set to leave as a result. How will David Moyes, potentially out of his depth already, massage those two egos? Can he convince van Persie that an £80m signing of Ronaldo means that the two men are to be equal partners? Who will take PKs? I'm not sure who would be more petulant in the face of a potentially tense relationship. On one hand, they might both go on to score 25 goals. On the other, the whole situation could implode. I'll cheer for the latter.

They do look set to bring in Thiago from Barcelona, which might be more important to us because it would all but confirm that Fabregas is staying put. He's a nice player and all, but he doesn't fill a glaring need (not that Man U has many). He'd join a midfield already stocked with young players (and Giggs).

I'd worry more about Moyes bringing in Baines or Fellaini more than I worry about the other names linked to Man U, as these players could do more to strengthen an already-strong Man U.

Threat level: Moderate. As alluded to before, I wonder about Moyes's ability to manage the pressure, with or without Ronaldo. Man U finished leagues ahead of any other team in the Prem, so it's not like they need to sign anyone. Still, they're unlikely to rest on their laurels.

SUMMATION
A lot can happen between now and 31 August, but if we sign the players we've been linked to most oftenHiguain, Cesar, perhaps Wanyama or Fellainiand if our current players build on their own growth from the last months of the 2012-13 campaign, I like our chances against anyone in the Prem.