Arsenal supporters received a direct message from the club yesterday. The message read: we are ready to sign Mustafi but… we also want to sign a striker… and we are trying to keep the cost of the Mustafi deal down in order to sign a striker. The direct part of that message? Arsenal are once again dallying in the transfer market.
David Ornstein is the BBC Reporter who covers Arsenal. When he tweets or writes about Arsenal the source is most likely Arsenal. It’s safe to say that the tweets he sent out were meant to communicate on behalf of the club.
The first read:
Arsenal yet to agree fee for Mustafi. #AFC considering Omer Toprak & Simon Kjaer as alternatives but Mustafi remains priority & keen to join
— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) August 15, 2016
Arsenal is saying that they don’t like the price Valencia is asking for Mustafi. However, Valencia should see right through the idea that Toprak and Kjaer are real alternatives. Because if Arsenal were serious about either player they would have walked away from Valencia and gone out and signed one or both of those players.
Arsenal, I mean Ornstein, goes on to clarify why Arsenal don’t like the price for Mustafi:
Price the issue. Arsenal want to hold back funds for possible striker signing. #AFC transfer budget factors in fee, salary, agent commission
— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) August 15, 2016
There’s the big tease: Arsenal don’t want to spend too much on Mustafi because they are trying to save money to sign a striker. It’s a strange attempt to appease and excite the Arsenal fanbase.
On the one hand they are saying that they could have a deal done but they want to make sure they have enough money leftover to buy a striker. That is exciting. It means that Arsenal have a plan and that this striker is a big enough name that he’s going to cost a lot of money.
On the other hand it’s an admission that Arsenal are still penny-pinching and an admission that they aren’t being decisive in the market. Both of those facts are what got us into this problem in the first place.
The second tweet needs a little more dissection. First, the speculation is that the striker in question is Griezmann. He’s a known Arsenal fan and even plays with Arsenal on his Play Station. This is the modern equivalent of having Arsenal bed sheets. He also has a release clause for £85.5m. All Arsenal would need to do is convince Griezmann that he should leave Diego Simeone and come to London. Therein lies the problem.
Getting Griezmann at Arsenal would mean rebuilding the club around him as our star. The problem from Griezmann’s perspective is that Arsenal have a track record of taking big stars like Griezmann and not building around them completely. Specifically, Arsenal have a record of dallying in the market then making due with the players we have and not quite getting over the line. We did it with Cesc and now we’ve done it with Özil and Alexis.
So, in a weird way, not buying Mustafi in order to have enough money to buy “a striker” sends “a striker” the message that Arsenal are going to keep doing the same things that they have been doing for the last 10 years. Why would he trust that Arsenal are going to do what’s necessary to build around him when they won’t even buy the center back they so clearly need — a player who wants to join Arsenal!
The other speculation is that this striker is Lewandowski, Lukaku or even Mahrez. Griezmann is just the example, no matter who the player is, if it’s Griezmann, Lukaku or Mahrez (Lewandowski is too old), the club should be targeting building a team full of winners who want to get Arsenal to the next level. The next level being “winning the League” and “winning the Champions League”. But I don’t think we are talking about Griezmann here. I think we are targeting someone a few notches below him.
Arsenal have beaten the fans down now for 15 years saying that we are a poor club. Arsenal is not a poor club. This is the 7th richest club in world football in terms of revenue. This club will be top five richest club in terms of revenue next year. Arsenal also have £250m cash on hand with well over £100m of that available for buying players.
Not only that but Arsenal have saleable assets. Theo Walcott would be a quick sale — you won’t get top dollar for him but teams would love to have him. His salary could be combined with the salary of someone else like Joel Campbell or Ox, who would also be easy to move to pay a mega salary for a player like Griezmann. As well, some of our younger players like Rene-Adelaide, Gnabry, and Akpom could all be used to generate cash to cover costs. Obviously, you don’t have to sell all of them but a few of them would be enough. Gnabry would fetch £10m at least and the chance that he’s getting into this first team this season is very slim.
The books are all available online. We all know how much cash they reported to have on hand and we all know that the Swiss Ramble estimated the available transfer cash at £100m. With the way that Arsenal pay for players in installments and with the incoming television money increasing Arsenal’s spending power I would suggest that Arsenal’s transfer budget should be somewhere around £120m.
But here is where Arsenal put their thumb on the scale and Ornstein says that Arsenal have to factor in salary, agent fees, and transfers into their transfer budget. If that is truly how they are doing this then Griezmann is off the table. Arsenal have already spent £45m in transfers, with salary and agent’s fees that’s probably £60m. Arsenal next want to sign Mustafi and let’s say they get him for £15m, that’s another £20m off the transfer budget. That leaves just £40m left to spend. That’s not Griezmann, that’s Lacazette. And that makes this story so much more underwhelming.
Getting Griezmann in at Arsenal was always fanciful at best. Wenger and Arsenal are, instead, just doing what they have done for the last 10 years: wasting time in the transfer market, being cheap, and showing a willingness to put important deals at risk (Mustafi) in order to try to get the very last dollar out of every transfer. It’s infuriating but at least they are finally honest about it.
Meanwhile, Arsenal play Leicester this weekend with a makeshift back line and most of our star players lacking 100% fitness. Arsenal have already dropped three points and a further three could be on the line. If points were as important as money, I guarantee Arsenal wouldn’t drop them.