15 July 2014

Newcastle prepares to unload Debuchy; has Khedira kissed Arsenal adieu?

While I haven't examined Arsenal's pursuit of Mathieu Debuchy all that closely, focusing instead on Alexis Sánchez, so many pieces seem to be falling into place that it's getting harder to ignore: He's French. He plays right-back. He's available for less than £12m. We like signing French players. We need a right-back. Arsène loves a bargain. Debuchy's an experienced player, familiar with the Prem, but Newcastle are prepared to see him go if their signing of 24-year old Daryl Jaanmat from Feyenoord is any indication. The Debuchy transfer has gone to the back-burner a bit thanks to our signing of Sánchez, and the same may transpire again as our pursuit of Khedira drags on. However, whereas Debuchy to Arsenal looks more and more likely, Khedira looks less and less so. So far.

The news out of Newcastle has Jaanmat signing today, which looks to be Toon's way of saying that they can't hold on to Debuchy, who was arguably among their three best players this past season, good enough to earn the starting spot for France at the World Cup. Whether this makes him a match or an upgrade on Sagna is an interesting question, answered at one level by the fact that he started all but one of France's matches while Sagna played in the fairly meaningless last group stage match against Ecuador, by which point France had already advanced to the round of 16. The 28-year old Frenchman has been linked with us repeatedly and persistently from all corners, but there's been little apparent action, at least recently. Direct comparisons are difficult when Arsenal's possession (56.8%) was so much higher than Newcastle's (49.3%), giving Debuchy more chances to rack up stats. Keeping in that factor in mind, Debuchy did surpass Sagna in most statistics while earning one of whoscored.com's highest ratings for a defender (7.42). Sagna came in just a few ticks behind at 7.2.

A few of the particulars appear to the right. Debuchy claims the edge in most departments (with the asterisk mentioned above), but if we were to normalize their stats, we might see Sagna edge ahead. However, I'm less interested in numbers than in the larger picture. Would Debuchy be better at getting back than Sagna has been? All too often over the past season, Sagna has been caught either too far forward or too fatigued to get back, and it's cost us. If Debuchy, three years younger and without a twice-broken leg, can offer an upgrade in that area, so much the better. His background as a deep-lying playmaker suggests that he is eager and aggressive going forward, but we'd also need him to commit more thoroughly to defending.

Speaking of eagerness to get up the pitch while minding one's defensive responsibilities, the Khedira saga slogs on with either Khedira, his agent, or both asking for too much money, something to make him the highest earner in the squad. By my figurings, this would mean something in the £150k/week range. I don't think it's been put in those terms ("make me Arsenal's highest earner"), more that a target has been mentioned that would end up making Khedira our highest-paid player. This seems a lot for a man who tore his ACL. If this is a starting point for negotiations, then great. Khedira is arguably among the best at what he does and who is also available, and others like Schneiderlin or Bender can't match his experience, having played under Mourinho, Ancelotti, and Löw while playing with and against the world's best with Real Madrid and Germany. He may not fit the mold of a true defensive midfielder, but he would bring more physicality and size to a side that sorely lacks both (and might lose what little it does if Giroud plays less frequently). Like Debuchy, his desire and ability to get forward might undermine his defensive commitments, but not to such a degree that we'd find ourselves exposed. What's worse, a slow (and slowing) Arteta who struggles to get further up the pitch than midfield and can't recover, or an aggressive Khedira who can join the attack and also recover?

If his (or his agent's) wage-demands can be brought down a little, we could find ourselves with two world-class signings, plus Debuchy, and perhaps another £30m still to spend on transfer-fees. Not a bad summer, if it pans out. Now, about a back-up keeper...maybe another center-back...