16 July 2015

Arsenal make £15m bid for Juventus defender...

According to Forza, we've made an aggressive bid for Juventus centre-back Daniele Rugani only to have it rejected. The 20-year old spent the season on-loan to Empoli, playing all 3,420 minutes of the season without getting booked once. Rumours that Rugani might be brought in to mentor Flamini have been scuppered...for now. At first blush, it might seem odd that we'd pursue yet another centre-back when we have Koscielny, Mertesacker, and Gabriel, plus Debuchy and Chambers as makeshifts. Then again, Kos, Per, and Debuchy are getting long in the tooth, and at least a few of our signings have to be made with an eye to the longer term—that is, beyond the upcoming season.

For all of our beaming over Mertesacker, we've long known that he's slower than a pregnant turtle. Unlike a pregnant turtle, there is no point in the foreseeable future when Mertesacker will possibly accelerate. We'll have to start phasing him out sooner rather than later. Perhaps more tragically, we do have to keep at least one eye on the end of Koscielny's time. While younger and sprier than his partner, Kos might decline more rapidly (proving once again that there's nothing Mertesacker can do faster than someone else does) because of how much he depends on anticipation, pace, and mobility to get the job done.

It took Koscielny a good three to four years to become the centre-back we revere him to be. When he signed, he was just shy of his 25th birthday. He's now among the best centre-backs in the Prem, and he still probably has three or four years left in him. However, we can hardly wait for Kos to enter his decline before securing reinforcements. If Rugani is as good as advertised, we'd be wise to swoop for him now rather than wait a few years when his fee and wages spike. If Rugani were to join Arsenal, he might spend the upcoming season training with the squad, then goes out on loan for part of the next, and becomes a backup or starter three years from now.

Picture it: Mertesacker is gradually phased out while Gabriel works his way in. Chambers is groomed as the "holding" centre-back alongside the more-forward playing Koscielny or Gabriel. A player like Rugani, who brings intelligent positioning and imposing physique, could offer our other defenders a bit more freedom to roam. Should we secure his services, we could see a smoother transition in defense over the next three to four years.

For those with a nostalgic bent, the pursuit of Rugani hearkens back to the earlier days of Arsène's approach to transfers, signing young, unproven players and nurturing them towards stardom. Even as so many of us are craving another galáctico-level signing for the upcoming season, it's well-worth remembering that Arsène is still looking out for the club's future, even beyond—gasp—his own reign.