Griezmann, Bale, Hazard, Salah, and the modern footballer

I read somewhere that Liverpool are offering £35m for Mohamed Salah. Salah was a teammate of Arsenal’s Elneny and went to Chelsea from Basel for £12m. He impressed me with his ball control in the few starts I saw but he also had a penchant for losing the ball and over elaborating. Salah also fell out with Mourinho over his defensive work so, it wasn’t a surprise when Chelsea sold him for a small loss to Roma a few years later.

But this season he’s been a special part of Roma’s title tilt. He’s scored 15 goals and laid on 11 assists and drove that team forward from midfield. £35m for a 24 year old who can and does run the midfield like that is a good deal and he will make Liverpool stronger.

Meanwhile, Chelsea must be kicking themselves.

Chelsea also have a small problem with Eden Hazard. Yes, I know that Kante won the player of the year award and deservedly so but Eden Hazard is Chelsea’s best player. He’s like Salah, only better, much much better. He dribbles in tight spaces without losing the ball and sets up his teammates, starts counters, and can score the dd goal himself. Losing him means rebuilding the team from scratch.

Chelsea have gotten themselves into a bind with Hazard. See he only has three years left on a £200k a week deal and is making noise about making a switch to Real Madrid. But three years, you say, surely he can’t want an extension. Surely he does and was quoted saying,

Of course I would consider it if Madrid made an offer. I am keen to win trophies. It would be great to win the Champions League. But Chelsea’s goal is to win the Champions League as well. Honestly I do not know what will happen. I only know that I still have a contract with Chelsea for three seasons and that we just had an amazing 2016-17 campaign. We want to continue on this path and want to build on this in the Champions League. I am feeling very well at Chelsea. But you never know what will happen. I have not met the board yet to discuss a new deal.

This is the classic, “come get me” quote from a player who wants to leave for a bigger club and despite their riches, Chelsea are not a big club. Not as big as Real Madrid. And especially not as big as Real Madrid who have won three Champions League trophies in the last four years. For a player like Hazard, a player who is at the pinnacle of his career, a chance to play for Real Madrid (and the lucrative endorsement deals that he would ink) is all powerful.

Zidane reportedly wants Hazard and Hazard would slot right in as a fellow Galactico with Ronaldo, Isco, and others.

I hope Real Madrid do come and get Hazard from Chelsea. Because I see that as potentially starting a sell off from them. Gareth Bale is generating the most speculation probably because, by my count, he has been a failure at Real Madrid this season. Last season he scored 19 goals and 10 assists but in just 300 fewer minutes this season his production fell off a cliff and he scored just 7 goals and provided 2 assists.

Bale has never fit in at Madrid, not really. He’s saying he wants to stay, specifically he has rejected Manchester United (which I believe is because of Jose Mourinho) but the hierarchy at Real Madrid are ruthless and will cut him loose if they think it could fund the purchase of someone better like Eden Hazard. I think he will move this summer.

And one last transfer story I’d like to share: Antoine Griezmann is staying at Atletico Madrid. Griezmann was courted by Manchester United this spring and by courted I mean they backed a dumptruck full of cash up to his house and poured money all over his lawn. But Griezmann has rejected all talk of a transfer this summer because the club he’s contracted to is currently under a transfer ban (plus so many other problems at that club, they don’t even have a stadium for next year) and he knows that if he makes a move, his club will be stuck and probably suffer greatly in la Liga next season.

Griezmann is a throwback to another era. We just don’t see players like this any more. And beyond his obvious footballing talent I appreciate his loyalty even more. He is truly one of the greats in the game and is choosing to stay at a club where he will certainly early a lot less money out of loyalty to that club and their fans.

What a guy.



    1. Henry was exaxtly the same. Gerard. Cant think of too many examples in the premier league era.

      1. Henry? I loved him as a player, but I didn’t get a sense that he wanted to stay to help us through a tough time (i.e., the ‘lean years’). Instead, he did what most footballers do: follow the ambition and/or money. Maybe you could clarify, or maybe I misunderstand Tim’s post.

  1. Two thoughts, one related to the article, the other related to something I read elsewhere:

    1. Given the players we’re reportedly looking at, I feel our business this summer will depend on what Madrid do, and we might end up with one of their players deemed dispensable after raids for Mbappe and/or Hazard. Today’s rumors suggest that they’re preparing an even bigger bid for Mbappe. I just don’t see us signing him. If Bale becomes available, which is sort of what you’re suggesting here, where does he go? United? Chelsea?

    2. Sorry to get this off my chest here, but can you believe the way The Sun and the Daily Mail reported the attack in London? If you don’t know what I’m referring to, check out today’s Arseblog post. It reminds me of the way some people used to troll Arsenal fans by mentioning that Osama bin Laden was an Arsenal fan. It’s pure racism / xenophobia, and it speaks to the way so many in the British media have spoken about Arsenal since Wenger took over and filled the team with foreign players. If you were following the team in the 00’s you saw this everywhere, and not just in third-rate worthless rags like the Sun and Mail. Every couple of months or so, you’d read an article or hear a comment about how that Frenchman Wenger was ruining English football because of all the foreigners in the club, or you’d hear a match commentator note wryly that the starting eleven didn’t have a single Englishman in the squad.

    I’m not much into conspiracy theories, but because there is undeniable proof of media bias against Arsenal (particularly in publications that sell well in the north of England and in rural areas), I do wonder whether it affects the way our games are officiated. Refs are not immune to these narratives / headlines.

    Ok, maybe I’m taking it a bit far here. Mostly I just wanted to air my disgust at those two papers, and reflect a little on what it suggests about a segment of the English population.

      1. Morata would be amazing. In an early thread, claudeivan, shard, and I all agreed that Morata should be near the top of our realistic-but-brilliant strikers to try to sign. You read that right: we all AGREED. That fact alone suggests to me there’s something very right about the idea.

        But honestly, after years of Walcott and Giroud, I’d also be chuffed to pieces if we signed Mbappe or Aubamayang or Belotti or Lacazette or even Bale, who’s not a number 9, of course, though Wenger could probably turn him into one.

  2. I’ve been talking up the importance of a strong midfield all season, so this might sound strange, but permit me a quick hot take: Is N’golo Kante overrated? After back to back POTY honors despite playing on teams where he’s scored a total of one goal, I have to at least wonder.

    Obviously goals aren’t the end-all, be-all of a footballer’s value, but I can’t be the only one who finds it strange that Kante’s industry, ball winning on the floor and immaculately timed interceptions have been considered more important than the goals of Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku or the silky passes and goals of Mahrez or Hazard. Goals win games after all, or so I’ve been told ad nauseum as “pundits” belittled Arsenal’s “pretty passing.” And Kante, for all his talents, doesn’t score them. Is it that he is really that special that he was definitely a better player than those other names, or is it that he embodies a newfound fascination with tactical acumen and organization that is du rigueur to celebrate?

    And I’ll ask another question that will be hard to answer… how many points did N’golo Kante earn his team this year that they wouldn’t have had if a replacement level talent, say, Mark Noble, had been playing there instead? Don’t get me wrong, I think Kante is tremendous. But how tremendous? Back to back POTY tremendous? Based on what? We don’t know, but perhaps we think we do. So I guess my point is: Do we know what we don’t know about N’golo Kante?

    1. Something similar happened in basketball a couple of years ago. Fresh faced and full of talent, Stephen Curry was a relative unknown, but his singular talents of combining searing speed, sure handles and shooting the lights out from beyond the arc triggered the pace and space revolution in the NBA. He was the poster child for that revolution and was rewarded with back to back MVP honors. Now, everyone is trying to copy Curry’s team and Curry’s style, but there is nobody else quite like him. The analogy to Kante has many imperfections but the idea that a single player can embody a paradigm shift across the league is the central theme that interests me.

    2. Maybe not Mark Noble, but certainly Coquelin. As Tim has said for a while (and I’ve agreed), the biggest difference between le Coq and Kante is just that the latter is a bit more composed on the ball.

      I’ve thought forever that Kante is overrated, not because he’s not great, but because the praise for him this season has been nauseatingly over the top. And I don’t think it’s been about a “newfound fascination with tactical acumen” so much as a very old fashioned love the English (and others) have for hard working players who “do the dirty work” while “being the unsung hero”, though of course, by being this way, such players’ praises are constantly sung!

      1. I was wrong about him being back to back POTY. The association POTY last season was Vardy, the writers’ and player’s player was Mahrez. BUT Kante won in a clean sweep this year. That’s not odd in and of itself, but a clean sweep is usually reserved for dominant offensive players.

        I thought about the British mentality as well but rejected it on the basis of precedent. The British do love a hardnose center back and have rewarded the likes of Vincent Kompany and Nemanja Vidic, but even they were partial to more than just the odd bullet header from corners and neither ever won all three major individual gongs. Kante is the first DEFENSIVE midfielder to have won the association or players’ player awards, and maybe the only player who wasn’t known for his goals as well as his defending. The only other player in a similar bracket to have won individual honors was Scotty Parker (remember him?) but even he was partial to the odd thunderbastard, and he only won the writers’ award, not the association or players’ gongs. Before him, you have to go back to Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane to find the next midfielders who weren’t primarily a goal threat and they were awardees around ’99-’01.

        N’golo Kante is a unicorn, at least according to the award givers.

        There is more that separates him from Coqeulin than control: vision. Kante’s value is not physical; Coquelin is a bigger, more powerful player and much better in the air. But he doesn’t see the pitch like Kante does. Kante diagnoses passes before they happen and has the foot speed to close down key passing angles even as they open. Coquelin is frustratingly poor in that regard, clattering late into tackles and getting booked because he has to compensate for his poor positioning, which stems from his very ordinary reading of play. Furthermore he’s a terrible offensive player not because he can’t pass, move and dribble but because he’s slow to see opportunity and slow to diagnose defenses. Kante is on the opposite end of that spectrum. It’s his mental game that’s off the charts.

        1. I don’t disagree that Kante’s better mentally, but I think it’s just plain false that Coquelin is “frustratingly poor” at “closing down passing angles even as they open”; on the contrary, I think that’s one of his greatest strengths, as he routinely steps in and wins the ball for us high up the pitch because he’s read the play and moved to cut off the pass or at least close down the opponent. He “clatters late into tackles” and gets booked more than Kante (but then the same could be said for virtually everyone else who plays at that position as well) but he also wins the ball successfully a heck of a lot of the time.

          I think Coquelin had a real dip in form in the middle of this season, where virtually nothing he did was coming off for him (especially against Bayern and Chelsea). But all players struggle for form and confidence at some stage in their careers. Other than that spell, I think he’s been consistently excellent for us at ball-winning since he broke into the team. Not as good as Kante, but not a million miles behind. It’s just his game with the ball is so poor/nonexistent, that the team as a collective struggle when he’s on the pitch, at least against half decent opposition who know how to press us.

          Obviously you can say what you see and I can say what I see, and to settle this we’d actually have to “go to the tape” (plus the stats, though those can be deceiving, obviously).

        2. Kante is miles ahead of Coquelin, IMO. He went from virtually nowhere straight into Deshamps’ First XI, and is now an undroppable. If Coq was at another team, would any gooner be advocating that Arsenal buy him? Exactly.

          That said, it doesn’t mean that Coq is a bad player. Far from it. Coquelin’s problem might be development, rather than raw ability. Jack Wilshere has said that as a youth player, the Frenchman was something special. He allied defensive tenacity with offensive ability, even scoring a few goals. Some players develop late, some find the gap between youth and senior player to be a gulf. I can think of many at Arsenal who fit that bill, but for some reason Lupoli is the first name that pops into my head.

          With Coq, there’s a chance, however small, that it suddenly clicks for him and that role-wise, he does a Ramsey. It’s significant that Wenger has been willing (albeit reluctantly) to let very good young players like Gnabry go, but he’s held onto his Coq (sorry). There’s also a chance that, as with Denilson, we admit defeat. Key season for him. Coq, right now, is a potentially a good acquisition from a cost/value standpoint. But he’s almost past the point of bing able to use the word “potential.”

          It’s why I’m not sold on Mahrez (and said last summer that Kante was the player we really needed. We’d at least be in the Top 4 if we’d bought him). Mahrez is a luxury to the squad. We need to sort out our glut of B-List strikers, move on two and get an A-list one. Plus we still need a destroyer who can use the ball — a younger Arturo Vidal or Javier Mascherano. Maybe Coq is that man. Maybe Jack was right. Who knows.

          1. Thanks for the replies, gents.

            PFO, I’ve yet to see Coquelin really shine next to anyone bar Cazorla. I think he’s a valuable squad player but not someone I regard as a starter going forward, certainly not in continental competitions. He brings a fire and an edge to his game that Arsenal sorely needs, but his mental lapses are too often and too costly. The red card tackle on Kane and allowing Robben to cut in on his left from the edge of the D are just two that jump to mind. I like him a lot the way Wenger used him in the FA cup final to neutralize Willian. That type of thing is right up his alley. Asking him to play up in the opposition’s face or to repel a barrage by sitting deep and protecting a small area: that’s his strength. Asking him to do what Kante does/did, which is to patrol a large swathe of midfield behind the attackers and squeeze counters off before they have a chance to start? No, I don’t think he’s capable of that. Arsenal don’t have anybody capable of that. Few teams do. That’s why Kante is special. But I still think giving him the POTY, compared to someone like Hazard, is overrating his impact.

    3. “Kante is miles ahead of Coquelin, IMO”
      Not just yours.
      His interceptions, tackles and passing percentages speak for themselves, but the one big difference no one is talking about, is that both players are 26 years old, both are French , both play or can play the same position, yet Coquelin has missed 38 games in his professional career due to injuries on some 200 days, while Kante has been virtually injury free and has only missed 6 DAYS .

      This trully is an unbelievable stat for a player as combative as Kante is, but it may have to do with the fact he does most of his intercepting and tackling while staying on his feet , while Coquelin loves going to the floor
      ( both his knee injuries happened that way).

      Also , while player valuation and market value can be argued with in some cases , the difference of €25m between Kante and Coquelin is pretty telling how both players are perceived by good people of “transfermarkt “

      1. Since he’s broken into the team (so roughly two and a half years), Coquelin’s tackling and, especially, interceptions have always been high. In these respects he’s not a million miles behind Kante and he compares favorably with pretty much anyone else in the league. Last time I checked, the numbers bear this out. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s otherwise a very limited footballer. But I never quite understand why people resist giving credit where credit is due: Coquelin is very good at winning the ball back (as I stated above, I think he had a downturn in overall form in the middle part of this season, but otherwise his form for us has been steady).
        Since this is also Kante’s primary (note: not only!) attribute, I think it makes sense to suggest Coquelin can do a similar job, or at least could if he were better in possession (obviously a big ‘if’).

  3. Don’t be so effusive in your praise of Griezmann; he and his agent have been making come hither comments in the press all year. True he’s happy to stay at Atletico but he’s all set to get a doubling in his wages as a result of his flirtation with moving in the press.

    And on a technical point – Atletico aren’t in a “transfer ban” they just can’t register players until January. They can still buy (and sell) players. They just bought some kid from a Brazilian team and are just going to leave him in Brazil until January.

    If Hazard goes to Real and Costa to China, I would suspect Chelsea would have the funds then to set a record bid for Mbappe and Dybala. Chelsea is, the owner’s idiosyncrasies aside, a smart club, I wouldn’t underestimate them.

    1. I think Griezmann’s overrated, that Tim’s mancrush on him is a bit over the top, and that his personality–to the degree that one can gauge such things from a player’s public persona–is more than a little bit obnoxious. However, I must admit that his choice (if he sticks with it) to stay at Athletico because of their transfer ban, after being on the verge of leaving, is genuinely impressive and he is to be applauded for the loyalty.

  4. Re:Griezmann
    After costing Atleti the Champs League with that pen miss, the least Griezmann could do is to stay during Atleti’s ban and stadium move. I think thats why he is staying or if he moves it will not be within La liga.

    Another thing that complicates transfers is world cup spots. I just dont see the established 1st teamers moving the summer before a World cup. If Mbappe were to move to Real and his minutes reduced, he runs the risk of being overlooked for the WC. Conversely, lack of minutes might see a player request a move. I wouldnt be surprised if Giroud handed in a transfer request tbh.

    If Wenger is clever he could target internationals looking for 1st team minutes or players looking to play themselves into form like James Rodriguez.

  5. You are right goals do win games but defence wins championships. Kante has been intergral to Conte’s 3 at the back switch. His job is to stop attacks so I dont see how not scoring goals should be used to downplay his importance.

    If I had a criticism against him, it would be his tackling technique. He has a terrible habit of throwing his leg out and getting between the ball and the attacker. Wanyama does this too.

    I just want to see if refs in europe will let this slide like in the EPL.

    1. Well spotted on the crude way of “tackling” that certain players regularly get away with in the premier league because the refs are incompetent and the football culture is from the stone age.

    2. On N’Golo. Worth noting that we made him look average in two out of the 3 games he played against us. Ramsey, Ozil and Xhaka at different points. He’s good, but not invincible.

      1. Chelsea ask him and Matic to basically perform the role of 3 men. They can do that against most midfields because few are technical enough to be able to play around them and Kante’s anticipation and foot speed on the floor is top class. But Arsenal’s midfield can make the ball stick and run even faster, turning the midfield battle into rondos, which plays to Arsenal’s strengths. It’s a good matchup for them compared to Chelsea’s approach under Mourinho which was basically to make Arsenal play in front of them and physically bully them off the ball if they got too close.

    3. Ummm… that’s not illegal or “crude”. That’s proper technique for bodying an attacker off the ball.

      1. What is? What are you referring to? How can you tell us something is proper technique unless we’ve fixed on a particular example, or unless you’re convinced that these players never or almost never commit fouls this way, which is frankly a crazy thing to think.
        Sticking a leg out between the ball and a running attacker who’s dribbling the ball, thus ensuring he makes contact with your leg, but without you touching the ball yourself, is not “shielding” and by definition it’s not “bodying” (a ridiculous non-word).

        1. If we hold you to the same standard how can you call it a “crude” challenge unless you’re fixed on a particular example?

          Bodying – to insert one’s body between the player and the ball in the act of winning the ball. My definition, based on my many coaches who instructed me to “use my body” when taking over the ball from an attacker.

          If, like Kante, able to match pace with the dribbler, get side to side with him and have the timing to more or less take over his dribble, that’s excellent technique, not a foul. Kante and Wanyama are great defensive midfielders, perhaps it’s not understood what they do.

          1. There’s a difference between one’s limbs and one’s body (and yes, I know that limbs are part of the body, but generally when we talk about, e.g., “getting one’s body between”, we mean one’s torso/trunk, i.e. the body minus the limbs). The initial description that I called “crude” was talking about inserting legs, not bodies.

            “Perhaps it’s not understood what they do.” Yes, that’s it, I must lack understanding. (I never denied they’re both good players.)

          2. Obviously not every instance of “inserting one’s body between the player and the ball” is a foul, but likewise, not every instance is “proper technique”. I made a general statement, without appeal to a particular example, that sticking one’s leg between player and ball is crude and (usually) a foul, not proper technique. I don’t need an example because it’s intended as a quite general claim to cover the great majority of cases of the action I described.

            You informed us that my claim was incorrect, because “that’s proper technique”. In criticizing you for not giving us a more specific example, I assumed (wrongly, perhaps) that you couldn’t possibly intend to make the general claim that ALL (or almost all) instances of what I was describing are proper technique. That seems crazy. So presumably some significant subset (perhaps the way that Kante and Wanyama do it?) is kosher. That’s where calling for an example seemed relevant: when is it ok, when is it not? I take it your last post gives an answer: it’s ok when it’s the whole body stepping in, from the side, and “taking over the dribble” (more or less) of the other player. I would agree.

            But that’s not the kind of action that I was describing or that I understood Ghost Gooner to be describing. And I think both Kante and Wanyama get away with the thing I was describing an awful lot in the PL. Wanyama, in particular, commits so many unpunished fouls like this, it’s untrue.

          3. both of you are kinda right. it is considered good technique if you’re able to put yourself into a “position to play the ball”. there are a few caveats that i can come up with off the top of my head. first, the referee tends to allow attacking players a bit more latitude as far as going to get the ball, i.e. i’ve seen attacking players throw defensive players to the ground as they’re attempting to “play the ball” and the referees don’t call a foul. second, not everyone that uses this approach applies good technique. its not so much the technique that’s bad but proper application of the technique.

  6. The romantic in me wants us to get Mbappe and have him turn into the Return of the King. His grace and speed, especially that little stutter where he threatens to turn inside but instead accelerates past his marker is hypnotic. But you watch him and his decision making he is not quite ‘the finished article’. I can’t imagine paying 100MM for something so uncertain. Also, he hasn’t quite proven he can do it under duress. He might not glow so brightly when he’s being kicked up and down the pitch on a cold night at Stoke.

    On the other hand, Bale would get the job done. He would literally terrorize opposing defenses, he has the body for the PL and as an established star, he would get the calls. If we got him I think we’d be legitimate title contenders.

    If neither is available then I would look at Belloti. Also fantastically expensive. Not as elegant as Mbappe, not as dominating as Bale, but he shakes off tight physical marking to score goals. He’s two footed and scores with his head too. I think he has the graft, the toughness and the technical chops to succeed in the Prem. Also, I think he’d see Arsenal as an appealing step forward. Where Bale would see it (correctly) as a step down and Mbappe might think (correctly) that if he dominates another season then Madrid will come get him.

  7. I was joking yesterday with another Gooner about the imminent “huge”, “statement” signing of Sead Kolasinac on a free but then I thought about Rob Holding.

    May defensive lightning strike twice!

    1. I love this signing. I would do it 10/10 times as the GM of any club which has a need at left back. How often do clubs get a quality contributor on a free transfer? Juventus did it with Khedira and Dani Alves. I’m sure there are countless other examples but they are not celebrated as great signings because of the fixation on transfer fees.

      I like that he brings big size and that he talks up his “mentality” above all. I mentioned before that a slipper clad octagenarian was arguably more of a threat to goal than Kieran Gibbs. Kolasinic contributed 3 goals and 5 assists from left back last season. Gibbs has six goals for Arsenal, EVER, across all competitions. I like Gibbs as a nice chap and on his day an all right footballer but this is an area we can and should do better and now, after spending nothing in transfer fees, we have. It doesn’t hurt that Kolasinac already has experience playing in a back 3 or a flat back 4. A player who is known as the Bosnian Tank because of his size, is known for his tackling but also gives you offense? And he’s free? Thats Seo. Yes please!

      1. Spent a bit properly researching this guy, doc and you are right.

        This guy could be a beast for us if he finds a pocket within our highly technical play building from the back. I’m kind of excited…

  8. Very unlikely that Real Madrid would sell Bale. If Ronaldo gets injured, the only matchwinner left in the Madrid squad is Bale. Ronaldo and Bale are their only 2 players who can create goals out of nothing. Bale has had a disappointing season by his own standards, but don’t forget his season has been marred by injuries (3). Benzema depends on good service (he was nearly invisible during the UCL final). Morata too.

  9. I agree, selling Bale would be a mistake. But Madrid has a very short attention span and is very much under the thumb of Ronaldo. They also have finite resources. They sold Ozil to buy the newest shiniest thing, Bale. But that was four years and two managers ago. There’s a new shiny thing, Mbappe. They are winning in a formation that makes Bale the world’s most expensive substitute. I laughed during Bale’s highlight reel because Ronaldo often looks annoyed if Bale scores when he could have passed it to him. Bale is going to be their Giroud for the next year or two or, who knows Ronaldo is quite the specimen, maybe three years.

    I’m not saying it’s likely, but it’s possible.

  10. I am all for Mbappe but need an experienced goal scorer with him. Mbappe is only 18, has not suffered a dip in form. Wonder what happens when he has that. Will he be able to cope? Does Mbappe work as hard as a Welbeck and is he as strong with his back to goal? The romantic in me says wow, but the skeptic in me not so much. Get Aubmayang, Lemar & a CM with the 120mn that is being spent on 1 player.
    On an unrelated topic, do you think that Wenger will follow the 3-4-3 again or revert back to 4-2-3-1? what combinations of 3-4-3 do we follow next year? To be clearer, who replaces for Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez & Welbeck when they need a rest?

    1. I don’t think Mbappe would play CF for Arsenal. Instead he would align wide in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. There is no obvious fit for him in Arsenal’s 3-4-2-1 unless Alexis makes the move back up top, which, like Tim, I doubt he would want.

      I do think the 3-4-2-1 will be the formation to begin next season but it will could also depend on departures. There is no replacing Ozil or Sanchez, but the next most creative players who could play in that type of role would be Ramsey and Iwobi. It’s obviously a big step down. As for Ramsey’s box to box role, Oxlade Chamberlain would be a candidate there, as would the returning Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. Xhaka has no like for like replacement at all but Cazorla probably comes closest. As you allude to, there are big question marks in midfield and for me that has to be the key area for bolstering in the summer.

      1. All the news/gossip is that Mbappe is going to play CF. It doesnt matter that much since its all gossip anyway.

        I think its really important (and is obvious) we need Alexis and Ozil to sign new contracts & stay. Otherwise the continuity is gone. We do require quality back ups in those roles for at least 1 of them. Lemar or even Mahrez might be that player.

        Ox is the closest to Ramsey in that position, but is not intelligent positionally but i guess that will come with time. Xhaka is a problem to replace and may be Cazorla is ok here but is too injury prone these days. I do think that Jack will be sold this year. Always thought that Chambers might be good in this position, but dont think that he has the range of passing but will be solid defensively. May be El Neny but his range of passing is also limited meaning Ozil and Ramsey needs to be more disciplined.
        At CF, we need Aubmeyang or even go for a Morata who is quick enough and intelligent enough to do a job for us. sorry i am playing football manager suddenly. The curse of the transfer window just hit me!

      2. With the type of players that is on the roster. Arsenal can simply switch formations. So, if Xhaka needs a rest or injured, and since there is no like-for-like replacement, the formation would change to a 4231 with different personnel.

        I wonder anyone here has any thoughts on changes to coaching staff that Wenger should consider. Getting good players is not good enough if we are not sending them out with proper tactics and strategy to approach the game.

        1. Don’t see how switching formations makes up for Xhaka’s loss, in particular. The only way to make up for it with our current personnel, as far as I can see (I don’t mean for the odd game, but for a run of games) is to bring both Santi and Coquelin back in. That partnership has shown it works. But Santi’s going to be out for months still. Bringing Coquelin in covers for Xhaka’s defensive contributions, but then we need a much more assured/creative/composed player in possession beside him than Ramsey. Ramsey-Coquelin has proven on numerous occasions that it doesn’t work. Coquelin-Wilshere could work (they partnered each other at youth level, if memory serves), but like everyone else, I think Wilshere’s days in our squad are numbered. I like him, part of me still wants him to stay, but I don’t think he’s the ideal longterm partner for Xhaka, which means he’d have to be a role-player, and I don’t think he wants that. I also don’t think he’s going to get anywhere near his best riding the bench as a role player/impact sub. So I think he’s going to push for a move, and I think we should let him, but we should be smart and see it as a chance to raise some much needed funds, say look to get 20m. (I’d sell Theo for 15-25 as well. Those two sales would be seriously good business.)
          El Neny could maybe cover for Xhaka, but the problems are a) Wenger clearly doesn’t rate him enough to start him in front of any of our other midfielders, and b) he’s so weak defensively, that if he steps in for Xhaka you pretty much have to pair him with Coquelin, which is a very conservative pairing.
          All of this points to the need for another central midfielder, either a) to partner Xhaka in our first choice pairing, or b) even if we think Ramsey is going to be first choice, we need someone who can legitimately cover for Xhaka (and, ideally, Ramsey as well) if injury strikes.

          For what it’s worth, I like the look of Schalke’s Goretzka.

    2. Wenger’s already said we’re sticking with the formation. I also believe he intends to keep Alexis and Ozil even if they don’t sign. I know the same was said of Cesc and Nasri but I believe he meant it then too, and I think RVP came out with a statement because we intended to keep him for the last year of his contract. Hopefully they’ll sign though, and maybe if we do manage to sign Mbappe, it’ll convince them we mean business.

      And that’s the thing. Wenger’s said in the past he would sign the one player he believes would make a difference for a 100m rather than spread it all around. But Arsenal might be, maybe for the first time, looking at a signing as a statement as well as a football decision.

      As for CMs. Apparently we’re looking at Seri, who I like. The thing is, he’s said he will only move where he gets to play. He’s not displacing Xhaka and I don’t believe Ramsey will be pushed down either. I think someone like Fornals from Malaga makes sense. He’s still young so would be willing to bide his time. He would get to learn from Cazorla. He’s bigger than him but seems to have a similar sense of space, close control and knowing when to tackle. We should also consider that Toral might have a role. He’s not set the world alight on loan, but we got him from the Barca academy and I think as a role player with this squad, he could do a job. I don’t think Wilshere stays with us for a bit part role and with his injuries, we should look to sell anyway.

      For backup to Alexis and Ozil, we have Iwobi, and Ox and Ramsey can play there too. But it would be great if we can swing someone like Mahrez to come in as backup (will we have the funds if we buy Mbappe?)Alternatively someone like Onyekuru or someone from our youths could also get the gig.

      1. If we do get Mbappe, then it would be a mega statement by the club. The team will get a huge lift and it would give a lot of impetus to Ozil and Sanchez to sign on. But, let’s face it, it’s a big big “if”.

        The thing is, I really don’t want Arsenal to keep waiting for Mbappe to make a decision. Like the Suarez saga which saw us missing out on Higuain for 35 odd million and eventually Suarez as well.

        If Mbappe doesn’t make it, then we should look at alternatives. More than Lacazette, it would make more sense to go for Aubameyang. Difficult to attract that kind of talent without CL.

        As for back up positions, it should go to academy players and upcoming players like Toral, Jeff and Bielik. If they buy the back ups as well, it will be difficult for these guys to get a chance. Looking at the likes of Gnabry who seems to be doing well as well as Bellerin and Iwobi, that theory has substance.

        If Madrid do get Mbappe and others in this transfer window, at least two players will leave from their current squad. By the looks of it, it might be Rodriguez and Morata. If however, Benzema or, Isco leave, then Arsenal should definitely put in a bid.

        1. I don’t think Aubamayang has any chance of happening, as he doesn’t fancy us. With Lacazette, there’s a chance. Completely agree that while my first choice is Mbappe, I really don’t want us to spend all summer chasing him only to lose out. Hopefully it will be settled, one way or the other, soon (I expect him to stay, then second most likely is Madrid, then (maybe?) we’re third most likely).

  11. Fabian Delph gave an official statement as captain of Aston Villa that he would not move and in the same window, moved over to Man City. I’d suggest let’s wait and see how Greizmann’s situation develops.

    For all you know, Atletico still might sell him for a huge amount.

  12. My thinking on Griezmann was he knows Atletico are not going to sell him now, rather than him being loyal or anything. He was talking up (60%) his move to ManU not so long ago. But I’ve not been keeping tabs on him and maybe he is the sort of guy you say. If so, good on him.

    1. hopefully as of tomorrow, that will change. but yes, he does sound like a grounded kid. he even looks like henry and his first touch and his game reminds me a lot of henry.

      1. he runs like henry. he very much reminds me of henry at that age, except for the fact that henry was 6’2″.

        1. I’m probably wrong about this since many people draw this parallel, but I don’t think he runs like Henry. His cut inside the defender and far post finish is reminiscent and maybe that’s what people mean, but I remember Henry running much more smoothly and effortlessly than Mbappe seems to.

  13. i’m not kissing griezmann’s butt, either. he’s playing the game to make himself look honorable but everyone knows atletico won’t let him go anywhere this summer, whether he wants it or not. since that’s clear to, essentially, everyone, he’s trying to make it appear that it’s all his decision. whatever, kid.

    bale is a fine player but if he were to come back to north london, it would be to tottenham; no way he goes to arsenal, especially with no champions league.

    mbappe is also a fine player but the idea of asking an 18 year old to lead the line at center forward is absurd. there’s far more to being a center forward than just talent. it takes guile and experience developed over hours of game time against a variety of top class defenders, something mbappe doesn’t have. the smart money would be on him to play the position sanchez plays, if arsenal were to acquire him. only an idiot would play him at center forward at 18.

    just like last summer, morata is the one block-buster candidate to improve arsenal’s title chances. i like welbeck’s build up play but he’s an awful finisher. giroud is a very good player but lacks the mobility to worry defenders. morata is at the right age and is a complete center forward with good size, speed, and a fantastic finish. he’s just on the cusp of being world class. i think he’s a much better option than lacazette. at £50 million, arsenal would be foolish not to enquire about his availability.

    1. another thing about bringing in morata is arsenal may not have to worry about trying to convince ozil and sanchez to stay. he’s likely to make arsenal’s attack far more potent, thereby increasing arsenal’s chances of winning silverware. sanchez will likely have someone other than ozil he can play good football with and ozil will like having someone on the end of his pinpoint service other than alexis. if it were me, i’d still go all in for morata.

    2. I think Lacazette would fit in perfectly at Arsenal. He also seems to me to be the better finisher as compared to Morata. I like Morata though. He’s got the size to match up with defenders in England, and somehow I get the sense that he’s got another level and just needs to play consistently for a good team. If it came down to just the two of them, I think I would have to pick Lacazette though. He’s the more sure thing in terms of finishing.

      The advantage of Mbappe would be the statement over and above the immediate value. Of course also as a long term option he should be a great capture. I agree he would likely switch with Alexis who would go to Cf if they both are at Arsenal.

      Another advantage of buying Mbappe, or Onyekuru, or even Celtic’s Dembele is that they will allow us to have a deeper squad since they will count as U21s in the league. With Europa fixtures, that might be significant.

  14. no way lacazette gets the nod for me ahead of morata. there’s more to playing center forward than just goals. besides, you have to respect that scoring goals in france is not the same as scoring goals in italy, spain, or england.

    morata is clearly the more complete center forward. he’s bigger, can finish with either foot, good in the air, can dribble a defender, and creates chances for his team mates. not sure lacazette can do any of that. it just seems to me that were he to come to england playing for a big team, he’d be another loic remy.

    does morata have to sit behind benzema? yes, but benzema is world class. ironically, when benzema went out of the french squad, who got the nod? it was giroud, not lacazette. in fact, giroud, gignac, griezmann, gameiro, dembele, martial, and even dmitri payet have gotten the nod at striker ahead of lacazette. in fact, i don’t remember the last time i saw lacazette play for france.

    like you said, it seems that morata has another level. i believe if he played regularly, he’d be at that level. in fact, i believe he’d be world class. it’s just that he’s always been the youngster. well, he’s not that young anymore. and despite how many goals lacazette scores in ligue 1, no one is dubbing him as having world class potential.

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