11 June 2014

Vela, or Griezmann? £3.5m or £25m?

It looks, one way or another, like Real Sociedad's wings will be clipped. The rumors circle like sharks around both Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann, and Arsenal is in the middle of the swarm. Assuming that we wouldn't plump for both but that we could get one, which should it be? On one hand, we have the former Gunner available for a pittance. On the other, we have the more-coveted Frenchman who might command a more-princely sum. What's a Wenger to do? The budget-buy or the baguette-biter? It's a tough call, presuming, of course, that our manager will make any moves at all...

Griezmann has attracted interest from us, Chelsea, Man U, and others, and is widely seen as the more-desirable player. He's on an upswing, perhaps enhanced by Ribéry getting knocked out of the World Cup and certainly enhanced by his performances for Real Sociedad. These and other factors are driving his price up into the £25m range already, and this is before Ribéry's injury offers him a chance to shine in Brazil. Long story short, the pump is primed for him to announce his arrival. The question that remains is whether he'll do so in London, Paris, or elsewhere.

Vela seems to have only attracted interest from us. There is, after all, a clause in his contract that would allow us to repurchase him for only £3.5m. When we consider the going rate for goal-scorers, a rate that usually starts at ten times that price, the first impulse is to ask, why not? Vela did, after all, outscore Griezmann (sort of), notching 21 goal in 52 appearances to Griezmann's 20 in 49. Then again, Vela failed to impress in his previous Prem stint, claiming only 13 goals in 70 appearances over three seasons with Arsenal and one more with West Brom. For as much as he may have matured since then (he was, after all, only 20 when he first arrived at the Emirates), it's hard to feel fully convinced that he's leapt from overwhelmed ingenue to accomplished attacker.

That said, who's to turn down a scorer who can play on the wing or at striker when his price is a mere £3.5m? That's chump-change, the kind of money managers, agents, and players probably earn in a matter of a month, if not weeks. The question then becomes, is this really the kind of player we're going to need? After all, the wings are all but spoken for, what with Cazorla and Podolski on the left and Walcott (fingers crossed) and Ox on the right, not to mention others like Gnabry, Wilshere, and Özil, who can slot in on the wing already. It's hard to see Vela as a significant upgrade, left or right, but again, at that price, what do we have to lose?

The answer comes back to Griezmann. If we do buy Vela back, Real Sociedad is likely to dig in their heels and refuse to sell Griezmann at any but the most inflated of prices. After all, Vela and Griezmann shared the team-lead for goals; to lose both in one summer would create a gaping hole in their offense. It's hard to see them losing both players. 

Huh.

As I sat down to write, I had prepared to say, "we really should go after Griezmann." He is, after all, the more-prized player. Then, I started thinking more shrewdly. What if we do bring Vela back? He won't cost much. He might even work out as an alternative to, upgrade on, or competitor with Giroud at striker. With him gone, Real Sociedad would have little choice but to hold on with all their might to Griezmann, or sell him at an inflated price—in either case, we'd be denting if not denying our rivals' aspirations. Anyone who spends, say, £35m for Griezmann has to be that much-more careful about how much they can spend elsewhere.  For £3.5m, barely a blip on our radar, we could add a decent player who knows Arsenal and the Prem and can play wide or central, all while forcing rivals like Chelsea or Man U to forsake the Frenchman or fork over a far-higher fee. In either case, it looks a bit like a cagey win-win. Whaddaya say, Carlos? Fancy a return to the Prem?