Arsene Wenger’s first rule of transfers is that we don’t talk about transfers. So, if starts talking about transfers and he tells you “we will be signing a defender before the start of the season”* then we will be signing a defender. It is such a definitive statement that Arsenal must have someone lined up and ready to sign. Wenger must be confident that Chelsea won’t “swoop” and that the player is fully committed to signing for Arsenal. It’s such a bold thing for Wenger to say that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arsenal announce the deal today or tomorrow.
So, welcome to the Arsenal, Jonny Evans.
Now, before you throw your computer out the window while screaming “SYLVESTRE TWO!!!” the only newspapers linking Arsenal to Evans are the Mail and the Metro. So, there is no chance that Arsenal are signing Evans. Right? I mean, links to Evans came out of nowhere and he’s not that good.
Shkodran Mustafi is the more likely target. Sky Germany reported that Arsenal started negotiations a few days ago and that puts Mustafi squarely in the wheelhouse. Besides which, Mustafi is a German international, all of his defensive stats are vastly superior to Evans, including aerial duels, he’s young (24), he’s EPL trained having come up through the Everton academy, he’s a hugely experienced CB for a 24 year old, and most crucially Valencia are absolutely gagging for money so we can get him on the cheap.
So, welcome to the Arsenal, Shkodran Mustafi.
In all seriousness, if Arsenal sign Jonny Evans I think there would be a chernobyl-like meltdown from Gooners the world over. And rightly so. The man is reportedly being pimped for £16m. That’s an absurd price for a player who is about as tasty as a piece of chewed gum.
As for the other, less definitively signing, position that Wenger is looking for (forward) Arsenal are still being strongly linked with Lacazette. There is no doubt that Arsenal bid on Lacazette but the Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas seemed absolutely certain that Arsenal would not come back in for him. The Telegraph** is saying that Lacazette is dying to join Arsenal and that he is going to reject a new contract from Lyon. Along with other papers*** there are now suggestions that Arsenal are going to make an improved bid.
All of this looks like a player who had his head turned by Arsenal but his club is testing his resolve by rejecting the first bid. The player has responded by rejecting an improved contract offer. No one place is reporting all of this information. That makes me think that reports are true and Arsenal are after him and he wants Arsenal. Whether we can get the deal done or not is the last hurdle.
Since I know some people revel in pointing out any time anyone else is wrong, probably because their only joy in life is “scoring points” on people online, I would like to say that it looks like I was wrong and Arsenal are going to sign another player. Specifically, a defender. Not only that but that Arsenal are going to sign a player before the season starts.
It’s truly a remarkable turn of events for Arsenal and I don’t feel any regret in my earlier statements. While many chose to read Wenger’s statements as definitive, they weren’t. They were the same kind of statements he has made every year for the last 12 years. He is nearly always guarded with his proclamations, even on the verge of signing Özil he said “I might have a surprise for you.” This year was no different: “we are working hard, we are interested in one or two additions, etc”.
So, when he changes his tune, which is exactly what he has done today by stating that we are signing a defender, then I change my tune. I would be truly crazy if I didn’t. I would sound like that guy Baghdad Bob; “There are no defenders dropping on Arsenal.”
This is what I do here: I give my reasons for my opinion. If the information underpinning my opinion is wrong, I change my opinion. And for the record, I’m not saying this to gather praise. I don’t think of myself as special for being a rational thinking human.
What’s funny is that all sports writers are wrong. We are wrong a lot. I mean, we are wrong a staggering amount. Look at any paper that deals in transfer rumors, they are probably wrong 90% of the time. And if they are not wrong, then they aren’t really saying anything. Managers are wrong a lot. Fans are wrong an absurd amount. Players are wrong a lot — the fact that a player makes a mistake is how fans decide whether the player “sucks” and when a player scores a goal that player no longer sucks. You’re wrong, I’m wrong, we are all wrong. Just get over it.
Perhaps I’m jaded after following Wenger for so long. I know that last year’s transfer activity made me super cynical about this club. So, I still don’t trust that a deal will be done for a forward. But rather than just saying “I don’t think this will happen” let me show you my thinking.
If I were to give you a percentage chance that Arsenal would sign a forward player after Xhaka, it started at about 70% back when Arsenal bid on Vardy. When Vardy didn’t show up for the physical, it dropped to 30%. When Vardy rejected Arsenal, I put it at about 10%. That was a real low point. It moved up to 60% when I read that we bid on Lacazette. Then back down to 15% when Aulas said that Arsenal were not coming back and I looked around to see that there were almost no top forwards left. Right now, after all of the information I’ve looked at, admittedly most of which is tenuous, I think we are about 40% chance of signing a forward. Will it be Icardi or Lacazette? I don’t know. My guess would be neither, which is based on my 60% thinking that we aren’t signing a forward.
As for a defender, I have it at 95% chance of happening. 80% of that is for Mustafi.
Anyway, Arsenal have a game today against CD Guadalajara. They are colloquially known as “Chivas” which means “goats”. They are also known as a club which only hires Mexican born players. They are 11th in the LIGA MX and haven’t won the league since 2006.
Funny thing about their last league win, it was the Apertura. A lot of Latin American countries have two seasons: one which kicks off in the Summer (the Apertura) and one which kicks off in Winter (the Clausura). They also have weird relegation rules which I’m not going to explain.
From what I can tell, Chivas have been struggling these last few years and they are currently 11th on the Liga MX table. They also lost their last match 4-0. However, Chivas are a team (unlike the MLS All Stars) and their players are probably not going to leave before half-time so that they can get back to their real clubs (unlike MLS All Stars) and Chivas will have a huge fan following in the stadium, so I expect this to be a stern test for Arsenal.
*the actual quote is “Yes I do (expect to sign a defender before the season starts)”
**See the self-harm I commit in the name of getting you stories? Reading the Telegraph is like reading used toilet paper
***Now I’m sitting in the pit of a porta-potty, my hands turned blue, sifting through “the papers” for you