21 July 2014

What am I bid for Carvalho? £24m? Mourinho, what say you?

As Arsenal's trip to New York City draws nearer, your correspondent has to suffer the indignity of seeing none other than Tottenham come to Chicago to play the Fire. I may have to show up just to tweak noses. We'll see. In the meantime, we at least have the return of Arsenal football to enjoy and to distract us from the silly season—which will persist for more than another month (closing 31 August). Having already done a nice bit of business with Debuchy and Alexis, we seem to have turned to the defensive midfield with interest in Khedira seeming to cool. In his place comes William Carvalho, he of Sporting Lisbon, for whom we've made a £24m bid, far short of his £35m release clause but perhaps enough to open negotiations.

There are suggestions that Sporting would accept a £24m bid—if it were offered in one payment. Apparently, we've made the bid but want to stretch it out into two payments, and Sporting balks at that. He's no doubt an exciting talent at just 22; whether he's worth the full £35m, however, is an open question. Having payed that amount for Alexis is one thing; to pony up the same fee a second time for a less-proven player is another. He was pegged to shine at the World Cup only to turn in two decent but not-compelling performances for Portugal, who failed to get out of the group stage. Who, then, are we looking at?

He's a towering presence, standing 1.87m (6'2") and projects a preternatural calm that belies his age. In other words, he looks mature and seasoned, rather than callow or brash, preferring to play the ball forward to teammates rather than bombing up the pitch with the ball at his feet. Indeed, his passing and his apparent preference for staying home cast him as a true holding midfielder, playing a role for club and country that is very similar to Arteta's role: shielding the back four, snuffing out attacks with tackles and interceptions and starting counters with quick passes or, when presented with the opportunity, an aggressive ball into space. This latter quality entices as we consider the likes of Alexis and Walcott on the wings; with Carvalho's willingness to spray long passes forward, those two might find acres of space behind the defense to run into, and their blistering pace would eviscerate and terrorize opposing defenses.

However, before succumbing to the glitzier elements, it's well-worth pointing out that we're discussing a player whose most-vital contributions might come through what he stops rather than what he starts. He's probably the closest we've come to a true defensive midfielder, one for whom "defending" is at the heart of how he plays. He has also spent time as a center-back, which implies that he could be deployed there if needed, but also that he has defensive instincts. Stats from the Portugeuse league are sadly hard to come by, so I hope you'll pardon me for not offering them. I hope it suffices to say that the lad has impressed to the point that signing him could prove to be a coup larger than signing Alexis.

However, before we get too worked up, it is perhaps worth mentioning that Carvalho, like so many Portguese footballing-types, is represented by the super-agent Jorge Mendes. If those "JM" initials don't make your skin crawl, keep in mind that they are shared by Jose Mourinho. Having already lavished close to £70m on Diego Costa (another Mendes client) and Cesc Fàbregas, could Jose still be on the prowl for another player? David Luiz left for a fee of some £44m, so there might be enough left to splurge, especially if it gives Jose a chance to tweak Arsène's nose (or ear, as is his wont). Even if the Specious One doesn't covet Carvalho, he could very easily suggest to Mendes not to let Carvalho join Arsenal for anything less than the £35m release-clause. Should that come to pass, we'd have to ask ourselves two questions: one, how much is Carvalho worth, objectively speaking? Two, how much is telling Mourinho he can arse off? £24m might be too low, in either case. Is £35m too high?