Would signing Lacazette, Mahrez, and Xhaka be the best summer transfer season ever?

Last week Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis set off a firestorm among Arsenal supporters by suggesting that Arsenal already have the squad that could win the League and that further spending would be done “wisely”. This week Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker have both spoken out about the need for new signings, seeming to contradict the Chief Executive. And as corroboration, there are a number of reliable reports that Arsenal are actually bidding on Leicester City player of the year Riyad Mahrez and Lyon’s leading scorer Alex Lacazette. If you wait long enough, everything evens out.

Arsenal have almost certainly bid on Lacazette. Lyon claim to have rejected a £29m bid from Arsenal for AL and I don’t see a reason to doubt them. In that case, that means Arsenal have already been in contact with AL and probably agreed to a deal. So now all that’s left for Arsenal to do is meet Lyon’s asking price, which is £42m.

Before you get all “that’s too much”, just don’t. I agree with you if your message is that all of football spending has gotten to the point of absurdity. Paul Pogba, a highly talented center mid but certainly not the best player in the world, is about to be sold for a record £90m+. Gonzo Higuain, a talented striker who is not even universally seen as a top talent, is on the verge of moving to Juventus for £79m. So, Lyon want £42m for Lacazette, a striker who has scored 48 league goals in the last two seasons? That seems to me like a price.

Lacazette is an interesting forward. He was a counter-attacking machine with Lyon in his first two seasons, scoring 3 goals on the counter in his first season and 4 in his second. Those are “Vardy” numbers, by which I mean that those are the exact same stats that Vardy put up with Leicester over the last two seasons. Moreover, scoring 4 goals a season off the counter attack is a great number; last season the player with the most (Huntelaar) had 5 while all of the other top forwards, like Neymar, had 4.

This season Lacazette’s counter attacking goals dried up because his main linkup man, Fekir, was injured. But to his great credit, Lacazette scored 15 goals from open play and recrafted his game to shoot more inside the penalty box and in the 6 yard box. Lacazette upped his penalty box shooting from 59% to 70% and took 12 shots in the 6 as opposed to 4 the season before. This shows me a player who works on his game and is able to adapt to different styles.

What’s most encouraging is that Lacazette and Mahrez would fit together perfectly, like Mahrez and Vardy. Lacazette loves to feed off his speed and his team’s verticality. Arsene Wenger’s footballing philosophy, as we learned from the book Invincible, is all about verticality.

If we look at through ball key passes (a vertical key pass that bypasses defenders and creates a shot for his teammate, the most dangerous kind of pass in the game) the top 10 players in Europe’s top Leagues were Messi, di Maria, Fabregas, Özil, Nolito, Mahrez, Sanchez, Lamela, Pastore, and Drinkwater.

through ball

Last season I often said that Mahrez was the real star at Leicester. Vardy is quick and he was a predatory finisher, but his quickness is pointless unless he has someone giving him the ball. That someone was Mahrez.

Mahrez and Lacazette together would be very similar to Mahrez and Vardy, with the real key there being… Mahrez. And on an Arsenal team with Özil and Alexis, two more players who love to feed the ball to a speedy forward, Arsenal would have the makings of a very dangerous attack.

The only problems are that Leicester will demand, rightly, top coin for Mahrez. They would be mad to sell Mahrez at all but even madder to sell him to a title rival. But Mahrez seems to have had his head turned and there are reports that he is asking for a transfer. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Leicester drag this out as long as possible in order to generate more interest from other clubs and in order to try to persuade the player to either stay at Leicester.

If Arsenal can sign Lacazette it would be a good summer. If Arsenal can sign Mahrez it would be one of the signings of the season. If Arsenal can sign Lacazette and Mahrez, along with the fact that they have already signed Xhaka and a young center back who will eventually take over from Koscielny, it would be the best summer transfer season I have ever seen as an Arsenal supporter. Hands down.

That said, I’m tempering my excitement. Signing either player is going to be difficult and Mahrez may well be impossible. Wenger’s going to need some of his famous luck to pull this off.

Luck and £90m.



  1. Let’s hope he’s willing and able so that we might eat the fruit of the buys!
    PS. Crude bible reference
    (1st comment after 3 years of faithful reading!)

  2. Higuain is now done which means the pogba deal is close, and once again penny pinching Arsene is making derisory offers. I pray for Mahrez but we all know Arsene is too tight. Per is also out injured, not looking anywhere like a great window yet but plenty of time. (Sigh’s loudly)

    1. How is 29 million pounds a derisory opening offer for a player who can’t get into the French international team?

      1. Had Lyon not already rejected a higher offer from the hammers for him? If so I think the offer can be considered derisory. Not getting into a very good French team is hardly a disgrace is it?

        1. I would like to point out that the figure comes from Lyon, and as such isn’t necessarily entirely accurate.

  3. I see Lacazette is in the good books now. I still don’t know why he wasn’t considered good enough before.
    I have always talked about Lacazette as a potential buy for us. But you know, a few days earlier, I realised that I really wanted us to buy Wissam Ben Yedder. He’s finally linked today. I don’t know. It’s only based on youtube, but I just get a real sense that he’ll fit in great at Arsenal. He’s cheaper though, so more likely to cause uproar among the fans. I’d be happy with either of them. But my gut says we should go for Ben Yedder.

    Now Mahrez. That would be a great signing. I’m hopeful it could happen, but I don’t think it’ll be quick and easy. Let’s see how it goes. If it doesn’t happen, is Draxler still an option?

    1. I was very careful about my language regarding Lacazette in this article. I’m hardly saying he’s a world beater but he does show some quality stats. He’s a good striker and I gave his good qualities. He’s not, however, an Henry or a Suarez.

      As I told you many moons ago my reservations about Lacazette were based solely on Philippe Auclaire saying that Lacazette isn’t that good. His stats are fine but I never see him play. Auclaire saw him play a lot and concluded that his stats flattered him a lot.

      Knowing what I know about stats I trust Auclaire.

      1. I did note that. It wasn’t a wholehearted endorsement. But you did take the time to point out his positives, which is new. I knew it was to do with Auclair, but I was interested to know if his explanation for it went any deeper. Thanks for your response Tim. I wasn’t being snarky, though I realise now it may have seemed like I was.

        Lacazette is definitely no Suarez or Henry. I think he’s what Walcott was supposed to be by now, and I think that’s ok.

        1. Arsenal just need options up front. He’s got a proven record and clearly isn’t a one-season wonder. And he’s going to be especially good with Mahrez/Ozil/Alexis.

          Imagine that front four.

        2. It seems like a lot of Arsenal fans’ opinions of Lacazette (at least the informed ones) come from Auclair not really rating him (e.g. this seems like Andrew Mangan’s opinion over at Arseblog, too). But this seems a bit premature, surely, since I don’t see why we have any reason to think Auclair’s opinion is faultless, even granted he’s a thoughtful and observant journalist who’s watched a lot more of French football than most/all of the rest of us. Football fans (including journalists, and, indeed, including managers) all have their idiosyncratic opinions and unique points-of-view, and occasionally even the best and smartest fans end up overvaluing or undervaluing a player (e.g. the whole world and his brother is overvaluing Pogba right now).
          Everything I’ve seen of Lacazette, along with his stats, suggests we could do a lot worse. Maybe we could do better, too, but probably not for under 50-60 million. And I agree with Tim that I’d prefer to see Mahrez and Lacazette for 80-90 mill over spending north of 60 mill for one player (unless that player’s name is Lewandowski).
          It would be nice if Auclair–or someone who’s heard him out in detail on this player–would go in depth about why Lacazette is not Arsenal calibre (note: whether he’s “world class” (whatever that even means) is a very different thing from whether he’s a significant upgrade on what we already have and could help us mount a serious title challenge).

          1. PS And I should add: I think Tim’s article does a great job of summarizing in detail why Lacazette (particularly with Mahrez too!) could be a great signing for us, if it were to happen.

  4. Market gone made – reports that Napoli have spent 35m on Milik. We need to move fast or get left behind.

    I know Tim hates him, but with Higuain going to Juve, opportunity to get Mandzukik?

    or go super big on Dybala!

    But would be happy with either (both) Lacazette / Mahrez.

    1. There’s no way Juve are letting go of Dybala, and Mandzukic is neither good enough for us nor different enough from Giroud to be worth it, even if we were to get him on the cheap.

  5. I have very little faith we’ll buy anyone else of real significance this summer, but hey, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    The offer to Lyon for Lacazette has Wenger’s touch all over it, for it reflects a personal rather than a market evaluation of the player. Sorry, Wenger, but that’s what even tier 1.5 / 2 strikers cost these days (£35-40m). This leads me to believe that we will miss out on the player, just as, I’m quite sure, Wenger will never meet the price reflective of Mahrez’s valuation in the current craziness.

    I can almost hear his speech this September about how they tried, but every transfer needs the agreement of three parties, we were only going to buy if it improved the team, etc. So tired of it all.

  6. The thought of Mahrez , Ozil and Sanchez in Arsenal starting line up would put a fear of God in any competition.
    Unless you believe Mahrez’s last season was a fluke and not a break out year, £42m is about what he’s worth. One on one, he’s unplayable.
    His dribbling is better than anyone else’s in the league, and his Cruyff turn is better than the original ever was.

    Unfortunately it will never happen.
    Arsenal are married to Walcott on the right by the virtue of his 140K per week contract and letting him go on the cheap while supplementing his salary because no other club would be crazy enough to match it, would be an admission of a huge mistake , and no one likes to admitting to those, especially a penny pinching organization like Arsenal.

    1. Well, that’s just it, isn’t it. I guarantee you that Wenger would cite Ox and Walcott as reasons not to go in for Mahrez. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so infuriating.

      1. “Chamberlain scored a very well taken goal in pre-season. I think he is going to be a fantastic player for Arsenal and maybe surprise some people. Buying Mahrez would a little bit kill Ox.”

        1. I agree Chambo is class, he just needs some time on the pitch. But I dont think bringing Mahrez or Draxler would be such a bad thing, competition is always good and we all know that we cant play whole season with only one player.

      2. Yes. Can we start a kickstarter campaign to pay the additional wages that no other team are going to be crazy enough to pay Theo for four years? Then maybe he’d actually agree to be sold (though doubtful; his own valuation of his ability far exceeds reality, so he’s probably choose to stay and “fight for his place”).

  7. Earlier in the summer there were rumours of a theo-mahrez swap ..wonder if that could happen..though not sure how exactly that would make sense for Leicester on the pitch..but then who cares..it makes sense for us..I would be happy..

    As far as AL is concerned, if we are shopping in the tier 2 why pay £42m..might as well buy someone cheaper but with potential like a Yedder and spend big on a mahrez and a centre back..

  8. I’m feeling more negative than usual today but I’ll just say it. Not gonna happen. We will miss out on both players. At best, we will sign a cheaper, uninspiring striker from somewhere else.

  9. In a crazy and overheated transfer market clearly Wenger has seemingly taken a big step back, swimming against the current. An iconoclast with no one to answer to but himself (as far as the summer business is concerned) he is taking full advantage of his freedom to be…Arsene Wenger.

    He has always had that freedom but this year with Mourinho back, Guardiola in the mix and Conte at Chelsea he has firmly opted to stay his parsimonious and conservative spending self.

    TV money? What TV money? The more things change the more they stay the same.

  10. Mahrez is a done deal
    the fact that no other club is involved means that every one knows he is going to Arsenal. Just like Lewandofsky and Bayern 3 years ago.

    1. Ooh. I like the way you think. It may be fantasy, but I like it. Enough to build on it. Leicester are apparently in LA too. Maybe we announce the Mahrez signing by having him come on in an Arsenal shirt during the MLS All Star game. How’s THAT for a statement 🙂

  11. Have you noticed that the non-English media use Euro pricing while the English media are sticking to pounds. Whatever.
    Looks like Juventus got a €4 mil ‘discount’ for Higuain at €90 mil.
    Milik from Ajax went for €32 mil to Napoli as a replacement for Higuain.
    WHU bid €37 mil for Lacazette and we came in at €34 mil and didn’t even get a ‘no’ answer. Clearly we will have to up our bid if we are serious about this player to somewhere around €50 mil (£42 mil) to at least get the courtesy of a reply.

    Wenger in his MLS All-star press conference said that Mertesacker had knee surgery in Germany and he has no time table for his return.

    Not so amazing that Vietto turn down Barcelona to go to Sevilla on loan. Nice to see players thinking for a change rather than going Pavlovian when Real Madrid or Barcelona call./ How about that Adebayor?

    1. Sevilla were supposed to be the other team looking at Ben Yedder. Does this mean we’re the only ones left in the frame? I hope so. I’d like us to sign him. Though apparently Lyon are in for him too. Lacazette replacement?

      1. Apparently Ben Yedder has been dropped for today’s exhibition match. What this means is anybodies guess. I saw one opinion that a Vietto move to Sevilla would start the dominoes falling. Immobile then left Sevilla to go to Lazio.

  12. There’s a two part interview with Ivan Gazidis on the MLS site which is worth a read. For some reason his statement of our intentions and ‘values’ really pisses people off, but I think he’s also not wrong when he says it is part of what makes Arsenal loved and followed across the world. I guess we all just wish for a little less rigidity in that vision. I don’t believe that is lacking, but I also don’t believe that everything stems from Wenger. If Wenger were to leave, perhaps a new manager would get a ‘warchest’, but I think we’d operate just as we do now.

    The discrepancy in the Lyon figure and the newspaper figure could be simply down to add ons, like with the Martial deal where Monaco said they got nearly 70m pounds for him, while the ManU media said it was 36 or something. Besides, Lyon are generally tough to do business with, and Aulas is a bit weird. (which is probably just his business strategy)

    We will probably need to sign a more experienced CB now with Per’s injury. We actually could sign two forwards and a defender and still keep Walcott. We’ve got the squad space (for this season) because Chambers, Holding, Bellerin, Iwobi, Gnabry and Akpom still count as U21s. As long as we sell Debuchy or Jenkinson.

  13. Gazidis stated a fact, yet got pilloried for it. Of course we can’t run with the big boys. We can however be smarter and more decisive with our transfers, and there’s been a sense of drift in that area for a long time now.

    It’s early, though. Let’s give Arsene some room. Having said that, he’s got to go established, not take a punt. If we get an Icardi for example (or God forbid, someone in Auba’s class), we can afford to keep a striker of potential like Akpom (or Sanogo, who I may be alone in thinking will be a beast of striker one day, developing from unsteady newborn calf to very good like Adebayor). We’ve just got to do what it takes.

    Strikers come at a premium. We paid 30m GBP for a holding midfielder, and we’re going to have to be realistic in our bids for attackers, whatever the professor may think of his valuation skills.

  14. My sense is that we need Mahrez now more than ever. If we get him, one or two of Walcott, Ox and Campbell would have to go.

    Mahrez brings assist and goalscoring productivity from wide, and even if we sign no other forwards, the surplus would enable us to play Alexis centrally.

    One concern I have about Mahrez is that he is very left-footed. No defender this season will show him the inside when playing right wing, and I predict that his numbers will drop sharply, no matter who he is playing for next season.

    But yes, overall a big positive for us if he joins.

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