13 June 2015

Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Bony, and Arsène's sloppy seconds...

With only 78 days left before the transfer-window closes, one might be feeling a bit antsy about Arsenal's ambitions. At times like these it truly feels that Arsène is fiddling while the Emirates burns to the gronud. At other, more-sensible times, saner heads prevail and we realize that 78 days is quite a long time, time enough for a club like Arsenal to do a bit of shopping. I'm hardly suggesting that we dawdle and wait until deadline-day before making any inquiries, but there is a balance to be struck between appearing overly eager and twiddling one's thumbs. With an eye to recent windows, then, I wonder if we'll see Arsène pounce on a player after his club moves for someone else, much like he did when signing Mesut Özil as Real Madrid signed Bale and again when signing Alexis as Barça signed Suárez. With Raheem Sterling touted as the striker du jour, could we again see Arsène scoop up a player made available to finance Sterling's transfer?

I wanna hold your hand...
Sterling's most-ardent suitor, it seems, would be Manchester City, who might have already made an offer of some £25m rejected, with Liverpool valuing the slender 20-year old at closer to £50m. While I'm certainly no fan of Man City adding another attacking option, it does look they would have to sweeten their bid before Liverpool will pay them any mind. After losing Suárez and reinvesting the proceeds to little avail, they'll want to wring every last pound out of Sterling's departure that they can. This would put the screws to Man City (or any other club), who might then have to figure out whom to sell in order to balance the books (or at least appear to). Who'd be made available in the event that Sterling does move on?

Wilfried Bony comes to mind. He joined City in January and only made 10 appearances totalling 302 minutes, hardly a worthy return on the £25m fee City paid. With other attackers like Agüero, Jovetić, and Džeko, it seems hard for Bony to find any time on the pitch. The 26-year old Ivorian surely imagined having more of an impact than the two goals he scored. He's a big target-man who can offer strong hold-up play, delivering second balls and lay-offs to teammates running off his shoulders—but would he represent a significant upgrade on Giroud? At a probably transfer-fee of £30m or more (depending, in part, on Sterling's fee), we'd do well to kick the tires a bit. One minor concern would be his participation in the African Cup of Nations, in which Côte d'Ivoire frequently advances to the final rounds. The biennial tournament takes place in January and February, essentially eliminating Bony from Prem League action, as well as the FA Cup and Champions League. Still, he'd be an interesting pickup, even if not on the level of Özil or Alexis. Then again, Sterling is hardly on the level of Bale or Suárez.

Who else, though, might get involved? Speaking of Özil and Bale, it's possible that Real Madrid could be snooping around. Florentino Pérez is an insatiable devourer of galácticos, and with Bale having apparently failed to justify his exorbitant transfer-fee, can you imagine the delicous irony of Bale being sold to make way for Sterling? Not only would we gloat over our noisy neighbors after the arrival of Özil, we could give Bale #23 and bask in the schadenfreude. This one is a bit unlikely, given the gap in valuations between Bale and Sterling, but it's fun to consider. More likely would be the increased availability of a player like Benzema, with whom we've been heavily linked (and against whom I've occasionally argued). In short, he doesn't outclass Giroud for France. His stats at Real Madrid are inflated. He's a bit of a pill. Still, there's a shortage of world-class strikers who are available at any given time.

Looking beyond those becomes a fool's errand. What other clubs have been flirting with a bid for Sterling, and whom might they make available? Would Bayern part with Lewandowski or Müller? At this point in the transfer-window, it doesn't seem like there are many other suitors, but anything's possible. I don't focus on Sterling as the story of the summer, but he is one of the hottest targets. That he's unpopular among the Liverpool faithful (maybe he should bite, dive, and be racist more often?) only heightens the likelihood of his departure and the ensuing domino effect.

I only hope that Arsène is poised to pounce should Sterling be scooped up...