28 June 2014

Transfer round-up: Cavani fizzles, Sanchez sizzles, Schneiderlin suggests...

The World Cup's round of 16 has already offered a bit of drama, what with host-country Brazil defeating Chile thanks to the woodwork and the heroics of Julio Cesar, and with Uruguay failing to make up for the lost of Luis Suarez. Still, eight of the final 16 hail from the Western Hemisphere: Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, and your correspondent's home-country, the U.S. For as proud as I may be for my half of the world's showing thus far, I'm still drawn back to what all of the action means for Arsenal. To wit, I'm thrilled that Suarez is out of action for four months (and may be out of the Prem). I found myself doing double-takes as I at first cheered on the efforts of Mertesacker and Özil before realizing I was cheering against the U.S. Looking beyond that, though, the World Cup does offer Arsène a chance to vet a few players before tendering offers. With that in mind, who's seizing the opportunity?

"My 'come hither' look. Hm? Hmm?"
At some level, we have to admit that it's a bit silly to look at one World Cup match and judge a player on his performance. If nothing else, he's probably playing a role very different from the one he plays for his current club or might play for Arsenal. At another level, many of these players are completely worn down, especially those whose clubs were involved in grueling league campaigns, Champions League campaigns, or travel related to their country's preparation for and competition in this World Cup. That said, Arsène has found time to play some footy on the beach, so surely he's sizing up the talent as well?

I gotta say, Edinson Cavani, for one, has not impressed. Whether it's been in support of Luis Suarez or in replacing him, Cavani just hasn't delivered. Yes, he did score against Costa Rica when Suarez was out, and he also delivered an assist in the defeat over England, but I feel like I haven't seen enough from him, either in this World Cup or in his time with PSG, to justify the £70m or so we might have to pay to get him. Yes, he scored 16 goals in 25 starts and 5 sub-ins for PSG, but how well would that translate to the Prem? On one hand, he did have to defer to Zlatan, so that might suppress his tally. On the other, PSG obliterated Ligue 1 with a +61 goal-differential, so it's hard to make much sense of his stats. He might be an upgrade on Giroud, but might that money be better spent elsewhere, especially when we have a fair number of other positions to address?

A better value for our money might be Alexis Sánchez, who has turned in a number of stellar performances for Chile, displaying tenacity and creativity enough to help Chile come within inches of defeating Brazil on Saturday. His play for Barcelona has been drool-inducing, with 19 goals and 10 assists from 27 starts and 7 sub-ins. Like Cavani, his stats might be inflated by Barcelona's bullying of various La Liga sides, and they might again be suppressed by having to defer to Messi, but he could be had for half of Cavani's asking-price. A rumored £32m is making the rounds, not bad for a 25-year old who might be poised for a dramatic leap forward after platooning at Barcelona.

Perhaps less salivating but more practical would be Morgan Schneiderlin, who hasn't dazzled at the World Cup but who has enticed at various levels. Unlike Cavani or Sánchez, we can make a more-confident prediction about his future-performance. Not only has he played in the Prem for the last six years, he's done so for Southampton who in many ways emulate some of the elements of Arsenal's style. He's savvy, a good distributor of the ball, and technically astute. These traits may not seem as sexy as the goals on offer from the likes of Cavani, Sánchez, or other strikers, but it's possible that he could be had for a bargain-bin price close to £15m. What with the apparent exodus from St. Mary's, this one might be far, far likelier than other rumors we've been hearing.

For those who worry about our scoring needs, consider that we were the fourth-highest scoring side in the Prem. Where might we have been, though, with the likes of Schneiderlin instead of, say, Arteta or Flamini, shielding the back four? There's more than one way to skin a cat, and considering our multiple needs (keeper, right-back, defensive midfield, striker...), it might make more sense to build from the back than the other way 'round. We could probably address the first three for less than we'd spend for the fourth. While such an approach might feel anticlimactic, it might solidify the squad in more fundamental, substantial ways. The key, of course, lies with Arsène. Whether we're talking about signing one player or four, regardless of the fees and wages involved, ultimatelly, it seems to come down to the whims of Wenger (I know it's more like "Venga" but grant me the poetic license).

Let's face it. He's far more likely to sign three or four players, each in the £15-20m range, than he is to sign one in the £60-70m range. While practical and prudent, would that prove purposeful enough to see Arsenal climb from fourth (and relieved to be there) to something a bit more?

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