ELITE SPORTING DIRECTOR LINKED

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A little less football news to chew through today, but look, I’ll put in a shift regardless because that’s the type of player I am.

Bukayo Saka scored an absolute screamer against Austria to take the game for the mighty England. The 90 was quite uninspired if I’m honest. Gareth Southgate giving minutes to everyone felt a bit weird, no one needed to see Pickford between the sticks. It was fun watching Grealish draw fouls, people just love to kick him, a bit reminiscent of our very own Jack back in the day. He’s an awesome player, it’ll be very sad when he moves to Manchester City this summer… and Arsenal fans, please stop pushing him as an option on the internet, it’s depressing. Not as depressing as reading fans thinking they are too good for Raheem Sterling. What the fuck is wrong with people?

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THE TWO WAYS ARSENAL WILL PLOT TRANSFERS THIS SUMMER

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There are a few ways Arsenal could take their transfer strategy this summer. They could go for a soft landing summer, where they pick-up players from the Premier League, or they could go for a harder landing, where they raid Europe for bargains.

Both of these offerings comes with pro and cons.

Soft Landing

The Premier League approach is basically a twist on what we’ve been doing for the last 5 years. The thinking would be centred on the exciting reality that we’re finally going to bin off some big senior names that don’t cut it over here. However you cut it, those players do an ok job and they’ll be difficult to replace for a number of reasons. The biggest thing they understand is how to operate in the league. They speak English, they have the stomach for the food, and they know how to manage their bodies.

Thomas Partey, one of the best in the business at his role, and one of the fittest came to the Premier League and spent more weeks out than at any time in his career. Why? Likely some bad luck, but also, we have the fastest and busiest elite league in the world. It took time for him to adapt. That cost Arsenal.

The thinking with a soft landing summer will be geared around having a fast start next season. This is a sort of short-termism that makes sense if you look at it from our football leadership’s perspective. Arteta gets pelters whatever he does, if he loses the opening three games because players haven’t adapted, he’s going to have Youtube channels calling for his head. Signing talent like Yves Bissouma or Reuben Neves reduces the chance of a hard landing. They know the league, they’re young, they’ll be additive from day one.

There are negatives with this approach. We’re not going to be picking off the best Premier League players. We’re not in the running for Jack Grealish. The players we’ll fancy will come with a fat price-tag and no guarantee of elite-level success. We’ll also not be top of the queue for talent outside the top 6 clubs.

It’s also clear we’ve been doing this sort of thing but in Europe for the last 4 years. Mustafi, Auba, Xhaka, Kola… it hasn’t worked. If you can’t take the cream from the Premier League, is it worth it?

Hard Landing

This approach is one that is dominating the links in the press at the moment. European football is in deep, deep shit at the minute. The pandemic wrecked the fragile finances of clubs that were badly run. These troubled clubs are successful on the pitch, look at Lille, they won the league and they’ve already lost their manager and they have clubs lining up to pick at the carcass.

This approach to transfers would be more focused on taking the very best young talents from around Europe at cut-prices while we can. If the transfer market was the housing market, this approach is going to distress buyer auctions with a bag of money and seeing if there’s a bargain to be had.

This is kind of what Arsene Wenger built his legacy on. Identifying value in markets that are weak, taking punts on low-risk, high-reward talent, whilst reducing the risk with elite coaching.

Onana, the 25-year-old keeper from Cameroon fits the bill here. He has 1 year left to go on his deal, he’s played in the Champions League, he’s an international, he’s cut-price because of the doping issue. There’s baggage there… a little bit like there was Nwankwo Kanu, but if it pays off, it’s a genius piece of business.

Same with the right-back situation. Do you spend £30m on Max Arons, who is a very good player, or do you take a chance on 24-year-old Zeki Çelik who just won Ligue 1 with Lille? One will likely be a lot cheaper. Both have about the same chance of succeeding.

We all know the objectives this summer.

  • Reduce errors in the system
  • Improve our work in the final third

There’s a financial issue at stake as well.

  • Create a functioning transfer ecosystem

Why are we failing financially when it feels like we don’t spend money? Because we are absolutely terrible at selling players.

If KSE are putting that Barclays loan towards players this summer, it cannot be used simply to ‘get us higher in the table’… that money has to come with strings. My strings I’d be asking Edu for?

GIVE ME PLAYERS I CAN SELL

If you sign Jack Grealish, you land yourself a player who really does move you up a level, but you don’t solve a business problem. That’s why he’ll end up at a club like City or United who don’t worry about business problems.

Arsenal needs to be sharper than that. If we’re signing creators, we really need to think about the potential value as well as what they can offer the team in the ‘now.’ It’s a fine balance to strike, but where are you getting more value from? Ruben Neves for £35m or Albert Sambi Lokonga for £12m? I can’t answer the scouting question, but the potential of Lokonga is that he could be a £40m player, and that for me is where the smart money is. Arsenal have not operated with much intelligence over the past 10 year, but maybe, just maybe, the clubs sees the way Liverpool operates and takes a touch of inspiration.

Clubs like Arsenal move back to the big time by taking lots of low-risk / high-reward signings. The benefits are obvious. But when you sign sharply like this, at worse, you break even when you come to sell. At best, you create a star that funds the next batch of uncut gems.

So how will the summer shape up? I have no idea. I suspect there might be a blend of both approaches, but the good news is the players we’re being linked with so far seem very, very smart.

Let’s see if Arsenal can finally deliver. It’s about time.


TRANSFER ROUND-UP: KEEPERS ON THE AGENDA

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WELL GOOD MORNING! If a sign of growing old is damaging yourself doing stupid things, I fear that age is coming at me fast. I damaged my finger breaking off a piece of late night chocolate. The guilt of being a gluttonous pig was enough already, now every time I look at my thumb I’m reminded of my food crimes with a bloodied nail. Life is unfair.

ONTO FOOTBALL.

Arsenal are tracking the Ajax keeper. Inject that rumour right into my_____

What?

Oh, he’s on a doping charge that probably won’t get lifted? Ok. Cool. Well, uhhmmmm… maybe not that joke.

He’s a good keeper from what I’ve seen and I would be happy to have him as a back-up if he wasn’t banned for 3 years. The Cameroon international fits the profile, good with his feet, 25 years old, 6ft3, one year left on his deal.

Mark Irwin, who is pretty good on transfer talk reckons Mat Ryan will be signed on a perm deal this summer but is viewed only as a backup keeper. The young players seem to love him behind the scenes and he’s certainly more than capable of playing that role for us. Apparently, our interest in David Raya has cooled because Brentford has been promoted. For me, interest in him should have been cooled because the guy recommending him has a terrible rep and he also put Runarsson on our wage bill this summer.

AFCON players seem to be the hot ticket at the moment, I’m a bit worried if we do all our business with players that will exit the club for 5 weeks, we might have a problem… you would hope that is being considered.

CARLO ANCELOTTI is rumoured to be on his way back to Real Madrid. Honestly, the management nostalgia going on in Europe this year is just TOO much for me to handle. It’s a very weird decision, but it would seem the comfort of a nice guy in the dugout is tempting for an owner that is a little all over the place. Everton now the feeder club for El Classico managers? And you want to tell me they have a better league? Bitch please…

There were some leaked documents on Spanish FT over the weekend showing the signatures of major clubs in the super league. Tim Lewis signed our document and the law firm on all the docs? Clifford Chance. Just goes to show you, when it comes to business, it doesn’t matter how hard you support a team, it’s all about the pound notes. He’s spent 6 minutes with Edu and he’s already ‘contacts lawyering.’

Also, the signature. So small? IS THAT AN INDICATION THAT AT THE TIME OF SIGNING HE KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING WAS WRONG? I have no idea, but my cousin is actually a handwriting analyst in Australia at an elite level. Going tap her to waste some time on what we can learn here.

The England squad is getting released later on today. There are rumours that Bukayo Saka is going to be included. I mean, honestly, why wouldn’t you take a player who can drop at least 3 positions to a high standard? Part of me was hoping he’d be left out so he could rest this summer, part of me wants him to avenge the memory of Theo Walcott going to the World Cup. Good luck to him, he deserves it.

We’ll finish this post out with some Kieran Tierney propaganda.

“I listen to everything the manager tells me, word for word.

“I love working with him, he’s helped me massively.

“If you can see the differences in my game in the last 18 months or so it’s because of Mikel Arteta and what his coaching staff have been telling me to do.

“I’ve been working on their advice every day. I’m really grateful for what the gaffer’s done for me.”

“I had a meeting with the Arsenal manager and he just told me, ‘Go and express yourself with Scotland, enjoy yourself, bring energy to the team, bring energy to the camp’.

“He’s always so supportive of me, and tremendously positive. The manager always brings the best out of me.

“With regards Scotland for the Euros he also said, ‘Give everything you have, that’s how you get the best out of yourself, and it will help the team the most’.”

You can call Arteta many things, but a bad coach ain’t one of them.

A short post today, we’ll be back with MORE news tomorrow because that is what we do on the Le-Grove.co.uk.


TRANSFER ROUND-UP

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The newswire is alight, nonsense rumours, bundled with some threads that are of interest.

The biggest transfer I suspect we’ll try and do this summer is Martin Odegaard. Madrid pushed Zidane out and there are journos saying this means the Norwegian will be back in the plans. I’m not sure I believe it. A rebuild is coming to them this summer and they need cash because they are absolutely broke. Perez, the man on the sinking super league ship telling everyone there was no iceberg, is not turning down £35-40m for a 22-year-old that is still pretty raw by their standards.

That doesn’t mean we’ll get him, obviously, there are a million ways to fuck up a deal… but they love him at Arsenal and I think people have underestimated his talent. He’d be an immense signing and one for the future.

Stuart Webber, the Norwich Sporting Director, has put out noise that they are open to selling their stars this summer if clubs come armed with a big number that starts with a ‘3’. Emi Buendia, another player that could blow up in our team, would be a very sexy consolation prize. I like his game because it has the bang-bang of Alexis Sanchez, something our team has sorely lacked over the past year. He’s not a true #10 though, so would be a bit worried about him eating into some development time we have with the younger Hale-Enders.

Matteo G, fresh from burying his nose deep into the backside of Unai Emery this week, looks set to complete a move tooooooo… Marseille. It’s hard to work out what the deal looks like, because no doubt it’s dripping in sell-on clauses, but it’s certainly not a mega deal.

Why?

Well, firstly, sirens generally flash when young kids have blowout arguments with their coaches. If there’s a history that follows your entire career, it’s more than a siren, it’s a pattern. Matteo is 22 years old, he’s always been a problem, then he went to Hertha, dropped a very average season that was capped by an unflattering interview from their coach where he was called an ‘animal.’

There can be a narrative that we handled him badly, but that dies a death when the player fucks the redemption tour. There could also be a view that we tanked his value with coaching. Outside that being a total nonsense, do the people of the internet truly believe the sharpest mines in world football would ignore a top-level 22 year old for a very low fee brutalised by ‘coaching’? Don’t be silly. Matteo G costs what he does because world football knows the deal. When you are a father of 1 and 22 years old your shitty behaviour doesn’t get a pass.

… and I’ll say it one more time for those at the back of the room: Being a dickhead in 2021 is not an admirable trait. It does not mean you care more. It does not add to a high-performance culture.

Dick heads clog up the system. Their bad behaviour creates a gossip vortex. It unsettles. It wastes time that could be spent coaching. It toxifies the air. You cannot afford to carry dickheads, even if they are good, and the jury is still well and truly out on whether Guendo can hit the heights.

There’s some Sheffield news that Sander Berge is interested in Arsenal but they want to recoup his full fee. Not sure they’ve seen the news, but there’s no chance anyone is dropping full fees on relegated players this summer. There’s also a low chance anyone is going to take the valuations of Sheff U seriously after they dropped £18m on Rhian Brewster.

Eddie Nkeitiah is attracting the interest of Watford, who are next door to us in a training ground sense, and back in the Premier League. His price tag is £15m, which is a snip, and mostly because he’s down to the last year of his deal and I don’t think there’s an option for us to extend. I think the better move for him is Brighton. They have a clearer need, a better coach, and the shops are really nice in Brighton… AND BISSOUMA.

Daniel Ballard took Blackpool up a division in a hard-fought battle against Lincoln in the play-offs. I don’t know if he’ll make it with Arsenal, but doing 32 appearances at 21 years old in a tough league and going to Wembley is very impressive. The Blackpool fans love him, hopefully, he goes back there next season for another rough and ready season.

William Saliba has been shortlisted for centre-back of the season after only 6 months in Nice. The painful back and forth of ‘will he stay or won’t he’ is very boring. Pretty sure he’s going to get a chance this summer to impress and if he’s good enough and strong enough, I think he’ll stay next season.

Right, that’s it, enjoy your Bank Holiday/Memorial Day weekend!


NARROW PATH TO THE TOP

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We’ll start with the positives. English teams are without doubt the most exciting to watch in the world at the moment. That was a final brimming with beautiful technical football, put on by two managers that believe in football artistry. Chelsea were exceptional, they showed how to control a game against a better team. They were the more dangerous side over the 90 minutes and deserved to take home the trophy.

Some of the football though… just exceptional at times. Olivier Giroud, what a career…

There was a lot of handwringing after the game from Arsenal fans that think there are lessons to be learned from two clubs dripping in oil money. I’m not sure I can have that.

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MONEY WILL BE THERE

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I’m really struggling to keep my emotions in check with regards to this summer because all the noises are positive. In fact, even the noises that aren’t positive are positive.

There’s a story doing the rounds that Ryan Bertrand is going to take the Leicester offer over Arsenal. I find it odd that a guy who grew up in Gillingham would head to Leicester (I’ve lived there, it’s nice, but it’s no London), but hey, who knows if our offer was real in the first place. He’d have been a very solid back-up left-back, but I don’t think there will be many tears shed on that one.

Granit Xhaka is top of the list for Jose Mourinho’s rebuild. Shows how rated he is. A managers player, one that baffles the fans, but over and over he gets the nod. I’m a bit surprised about this move, I’m not sure he’d have been an expected exit this summer, but fuck it… good for him. He’s 28 years old,  the Italian league will suit him down to the ground, and we have to be honest… Arsenal has to be doing better if we want to go back to the top.

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ARE ALL OUR DREAMS COMING TRUE?

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I heard a great bit of advice once.

‘Treat each transfer window like it was your last’

Ok, I never heard that, but it feels that’s the mindset Mikel and Edu are taking to this window.

Arsenal coaching staff LOVED David Luiz, so to see him go was shocking to me.

Today, we’re hearing rumours on three players.

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