01 April 2014

Cavani. Draxler. Drmić. A £100m transfer kitty...

First, no April Fool's nonsense. This is as sober and as serious a site as you will ever see. We tolerate no tomfoolery 'round these parts. Understood? Good. Moving on. With six matches left to play, not to mention the FA Cup semifinal, it seems a bit early to entertain thoughts of who'll be joining the club over the summer. However, the stories have already begun to proliferate. In the past, I've refused to put much stock in the actual names bandied about, preferring instead to treat them as barometers of the club's direction. As an example, we spent much of the summer chasing Higuain and Suarez but ended up with Özil, arguably a higher-profile signing than Higuain and on a par with Suarez. As such, I'm not here to convince you that we're on the verge of signing Cavani, Draxler, or any of the other players to whom we're linked but to assess what it means to be linked with players of this caliber.

First, the good news. We're no longer so worried about losing key players. There have been rumblings about Podolski and Vermaelen leaving for some time now. It's difficult to see just where Podolski fits in (he's beginning to remind me of Arshavin; a mercurial player who just doesn't meld with our system), and Vermaelan has been sidelined for so long it's a wonder that he hasn't made more noise about wanting to leave. Credit him for that, especially when he's been linked to moves to Barcelona and Bayern, among others, which would all but guarantee silverware. Of course, there's the Sagna saga, but that's turning into more of a sentimental debate than a strategic one. I've loved Sagna for a long time, but I worry that he no longer has the pace to press forward and track back to the extent that we need from a right-back. Long story short, we're no longer wringing our hands over losing a van Persie or a Fàbregas-level player. Instead, we're starting to be linked with other teams' high-profile players. This change of direction, from seeing players leave to imagining players arrive, might be a take-away far more significant than any of the actual names we're imagining at this early stage.

With our new sponsorship deals adding up around £40m to the coffers this year, and reports that Arsène will have as much as £100m available to spruce up the squad, names are gonna get floated. Chief among them so far have been Draxler, to whom we were heavily linked in the January window, and more recently Edinson Cavani, apparently dissatisfied with his wide role at PSG, and Nuremberg's Josip Drmić, who apparently was a release-clause if Nuremberg get relegated (they're currently just a point above). There are asterisks, of course. Talk of Draxler getting converted to a striker have been mooted recently, and we'd probably have to fork over £40m or more to get him. Talented though he may be, would we really want to pay Özil-like money for a 20-year old who would be switching leagues and positions? Cavani, of course, would likely command a fee of upwards of £60m, if his £53m transfer to PSG is any indication. Of the names mentioned, Drmić is the budget-option, with a value of somewhere more in the £10-12m range. Whether he'd be the kind of signing to mollify fretful Gooners is another question.

With our long-standing desire-slash-need for a striker and a more-physical holding midfielder, not to mention cover at center-back and right-back, it seems highly unlikely to me that we'd splash up to, if not more, of our cash on just one player. Then again, a scoring-machine up top might more than paper over other deficiencies so well that we wouldn't even notice who our right-back is anymore. It's 1 April, though, and the names we're hearing are, in my opinion at least, not necessarily our targest but indicators of our aspirations. At the moment, we have a strong hold on fourth with a slim chance of climbing to third, and we're fighting for the FA Cup. How we fare there will have a significant impact on who we sign—and who's making the signings. Should we slump to 5th or fail to win the FA Cup, Arsène might just walk (or be ridden out on a rail). It's hard to see how this would help Arsenal in the short-term, as the Cavanis and Draxlers of the world would then see a club in potential turmoil. I don't quite buy Man U as proof  of what will happen to a club when a legendary manager departs, but it does offer a cautionary tale to keep in mind.

Far better, in my opinion, to finish the season on a high (of sorts)  so that we can continue to pursue and even sign the calibre of players we'll need to take the next steps back to the top of the Prem. The barometer indicates that we'll see some high-quality players joining the club, a tidy improvement on seeing them leave as well as on seeing obscure or discounted players arrive. Whether these high-quality players turn out to be Cavani or Draxler or someone from the next levels down is up to the silly season to decide.