Forget Mud Rick, there are plenty of fish in football

Ok, so for once, Arsenal were actually “gazumped”. Congratulations to Chelsea: they paid 100m plus 88m in salary and signed a guy to a 7.5-8.5 year contract in order to amortize the payments and thus avoid FFP scrutiny. That’s a lot of money for a player who has just 77 appearances and just 12 goals and 19 assists in his career.

I don’t blame the player for going to Chelsea over Arsenal. If I was 22 years old and someone came along and offered me 88m, I’d be dead within a year. Not sure what that has to do with anything but I thought I’d put it out there. Anyway, the point here is that I’m not mad at him or Waxtap. They did a great deal and soaked Chelsea for every single penny.

Looking around at the stories today I see that Arsenal are linked to another player, Moussa Diaby. Leverkuzen were approached in the summer and rebuffed everyone then. They really don’t want to sell now and are putting his price at 100m. Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku (another player who has signed for Chelsea, they paid OVER his release clause because they wanted to structure the payments in order to avoid FFP) are expected to lead the French line for the next decade. Moussa Diaby has 213 career appearances and 108 combined goals and assists. For my money, he’s less of a gamble than Mud Rick.

I follow the Guardian’s “Next Generation” column. I’m going to waste a few words here and say “this is an amazing column”. Every year since 2014 the Guardian’s reporters compile a list of the most notable footballers in the world and the Premier League. They then follow up on those players, year after year. This is the kind of actual reporting that no other paper does and it’s a big reason why I’m a paid subscriber at the Guardian. You can see every single article since 2014, and in 2018 they did a recap of their first three years, which is also delightful.

In 2015 they picked Ødegård but they also pick some real duds. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that players just don’t pan out. And they are pretty limited in terms of numbers of players they pick from each country so, for example, the season that Moussa Diaby would have made the cut they have a keeper and Malang Sarr. That is to say that a lot of players slip through. I don’t see Mudryk in any of the columns either (would have been in the 2018 group with Kvaradona who they did identify) and I suspect that’s because he didn’t really play much.

The point I’m making here is that there are a TON of talented players in the world right now and we don’t have to pay 100m to get one. I know we are looking for ready made solutions rather than bedpanning for gold but I think we should do a bit of both. Some prospecting and also a solid backup in the wide areas and in the midfield. And for 100m I would like to think that we can do all of that rather than just one player because we need three players if we want to win the League.

It was odd watching Arteta put Tierney on as a LW player on Sunday. It feels like he did that to send a message that we need a wide player. And I have to admit it worked with me! We also need a press-resistant DM and a backup CF (in case Eddie gets hurt).

Mikel Arteta was on the 2015/16 Arsenal team that should have won the League. He was there when Wenger bought only Cech in that summer and then didn’t buy a backup for Cazorla (who went down with one of the most gruesome injuries ever) and didn’t reinforce the front line. Personally, I think it was refusing to replace Cazorla that was the problem. I know that Giroud didn’t score in the League for a few months but Wenger dropped him and brought in Welbeck who did score and we won those matches that Giroud was dropped for. The bigger problem was that the midfield was weak. Ramsey and Ozil was a bad pairing and Coquelin only worked when he had the ultimate ball carrier in Cazorla next to him. I wonder how much Arteta thinks back on that season, sees the opportunity ahead of us now, and absolutely wants to go for it? I would. I’d be chomping* at the bit.

So, to recap: there’s talent, everyone knows that there’s talent, we need talent, we have money, we are in the title race, if we don’t reinforce this squad right now we risk losing this title race and I’ll be livid if Man U win the League this season, which they very well could do, so go out there and get that talent.


*HAHAHAHA, this is another phrase that Brits hate the American version. I know that they prefer champing at the bit.


  1. LB moonlighting as a LW? Darn, we have a LW who’d been moonlighting as a LB. His name is Nuno taveres, he’s out on loan, and he’s outrageously talented (except at defending). Dunno if he fits anymore, though.

    Interesting comments on Diaby and Nkunu. Dosnt that honour go to Kolo Muani and Thuram’s son?

      1. He would be perfect in Conte’s system! Not in ours though. Reminds me of Michael Antonio, a bulldozer of pace and power but lacking subtlety, Zinchenko’s polar opposite. Should be a nice saleable asset this summer.

          1. Got to give him a little credit more than that – revived 3-4-3 in the Premier League, with some pretty creative use of Azpi, Moses and (ugh) Marcos Alonso.

  2. for me, it’s not close. arsenal biggest NEED for this transfer window is another center forward. there’s a work around for the other positions you mentioned. whether eddie stays fit or not, he can’t play every game for the rest of the season. arsenal are in 3 competitions and have zero cover at center forward.

    i mentioned the other day how i was jealous of man united signing weghorst. this is exactly the kind of move arsenal need this january; to get a loanee as talented and inexpensive as weghorst. the sad thing is that arsenal haven’t even been linked with a center forward other than a bad rumor about memphis depay. i don’t know what arteta and edu are thinking. i guess we’ll find out soon enough.

    i’m not disappointed that arsenal haven’t signed mudryk. while i love the idea that arsenal seem to be “raising the floor” by buying players to compete with the starters as opposed to backups, that kid was awful expensive. you can buy a kid in brazil with mudryk’s talent for a tenth of the price. how much was martinelli?

  3. Brit here, I’ve never seen it written down, only heard it verbally – I always hear it phonetically as and assumed it was spelled as “chomping at the bit”. Maybe it’s just because I only hear it in American commentary – I don’t know, can’t say it comes up all that often in life.

    1. An update after speaking to my British linguistics friend, he also thought it was chomping. We are both northern if that makes any difference

  4. There is a ton of forward talent in that French team. If we could bring in Muani or Thuram would be happy with either, but I suspect the prices will be astronomical.

  5. Disagree (slightly). The market is stoopid right now, I’d be more tempted to re-call Pepe or Balogun than pay what other teams are demanding. If Mud-Rick warrants 100m Euros then what is Martinelli and Saka worth? Double. Edu and Arteta didn’t rebuild the team around mega-purchases, but reasonable mid-range transfers. The number of high cost transfers that have worked to expectations in the Premier League is vanishingly small – Pogba? Antony? Maguire? Wesley Fofana? Lukaku? Sancho? The list of disappointments is three times longer than the list of successes. Was Grealish worth 100m?

    The idea that Arsenal were going to wade back into these types of transfers again with Mud-Rick gave me indigestion.

    I’d prefer we stay the course, be sensible, make sure it’s the right player for the right price and not panic. If that means forfeiting the title run because Eddie gets hurt or Saka and Martinelli run out of gas, or Sambi can’t fully step into Partey’s shoes, that’s OK with me because, honestly, this team is built to last and compete for the next 3 or 4 years, this season is not a one-off, we are not Leicester. We are beyond where I’m sure Edu and Arteta had set the goal to be. Let’s not panic.

  6. I’m not that upset about Mudryk falling through but when we talk about players who can actually impact a game and give real rotation / competition options to our frontline, the reality is we’re talking about a lot of money (60 – 100M)

    We paid 34M GBP for Fabio Vieira, who looks good, but clearly is nowhere near the level of our frontline (otherwise Arteta would be trusting him and giving him actual minutes in the PL)

    We saw Spurs make Richarlison a late sub on Sunday, City have done it w Grealish and Mahrez, Chelsea… well… the less said the better but depth is not an issue there any more

    If one of our front line missed even a few games the drop off would be immense, and a player at the 30M price wouldn’t solve things. I’m all for discovering talent at that price in the summer, but right now we need a short term answer rather than another question mark.

    It’s why I think Arsenal should have ponied up the ridiculous loan fee for Joao Felix. Yes the price hurts, but it’s a win now move with the risk spread across a handful of months rather than 8 years. Amortize a $100M deal with a 5 year contract over half a season and its what we would have paid for Joao.

  7. If we could find a player that could play across the front line and cover for Saka, Eddie and Martinelli, that would be ideal. And someone who is willing to take the minutes where they can get them. Someone who is about Eddie level. It would be worth 50M to get that player, as it would go a long way towards guaranteeing us the CL next year. It’s not worth 80M for that person, and Mudryk wasn’t worth what was paid. Doubtful he was even worth Arsenal’s top offer.
    Someone that could backup both Xhaka and Partey would be great, but you wouldn’t want to overpay for that person now if we really are going after Declan Rice in the summer.

    1. As insane as that Mudryk valuation was, we could justify paying 100 for the right player. Beyond being in a title fight, we know we’re in the CL next year, which requires quality rotations. We haven’t spent much – relatively speaking – on our front line compared to our defense and midfield. And in the not-impossible event that we’re still negotiating a new contract with Saka in the summer, some options would be nice.

      Agree with Tim that there’s a lot of talent out there, but there’s a common thread across all negotiations – a PL club has ridiculous resources compared to a non-PL one, and the non-PL one is going to try to make hay while they can. If PL clubs could all agree to chill out a bit based on, I don’t know, a fair scale of financial expenditure on the playing of football, it would be nice. But Todd Boehly is a moron.

      1. I’m not sure who we’d pay 100M for in attack. Any player with that kind of price tag is going to expect to start the important matches. That means they displace one of Martinelli, Jesus or Saka. Martinelli and Saka are pretty much undroppable given their talent and ages. There’s a couple of players that are better than them, but other than Mbappe, none of them are enough better to justify the spend.
        Jesus isn’t quite at that level, as he’s not quite as young and doesn’t seem to have quite the same potential. But even so, you’d have to find someone that scores more and fits into the pressing/passing game we’re playing right now. Not too many of those, and would any of them be enough of an upgrade to justify another 100M? Even Haaland…he would score for sure, but I’m not sure he’d be the right fit unless he was able to adjust.

        1. 100 million isn’t what it used to be. Haaland was a snippet at that price. Now clubs who are our direct competitors are dropping 100 regularly, not getting value and pretty much being ok with that. These days to be worth 100 milllion you just need enough promise (Mudryk) or to be wanted badly enough by a new coach (Antony), or just to be a rotational piece in a juggernaut (Grealish). The market is nuts and it’s going to get nuttier when Newcastle start throwing their financial weight around.

          Arsenal are in a tough position because you want to do things sustainably but your competitors are not. That skews the market. To make matters worse, they are specifically vulturing your transfer targets. If you accept that then most of your targets end up on your competitors’ squads and you can’t build the way you want to. This is what is happening. If you don’t accept it then you are forced to play their game, over extend yourself financially, and be unable to compete long term. It’s very worrying.

          We’ve done really well pivoting thus far. We got beat to Lisandro, so we got Zinchenko. We got beat to Vlahovic so we got Jesus. Arguably better off in both cases. But we got beat to Raphinha and now Mudryk and there is no pivot, just a hole in the squad.

        2. You’re right – it’s an insane number period, and especially for a non-starter. I think seeing us offer it for a virtual unknown quantity from the Ukrainian league has scrambled my sense of proportion.

          I will say though that we’re just not likely to get Declan Rice. That deal is a minefield. If we’re keeping our powder dry, I hope it’s for something more realistic.

          1. Rice would be an insane get. Imagine that beast instead of Xhaka, or just casually filling in for Partey at the pivot. He can do everything. The only reason people aren’t higher on him is because he’s reduced to menial labor at West ham.

  8. What about a pragmatic Tielemans for midfield and Trossard (or Pepe recalled) for wing? Doable, change from £50m, proper Premiership-ready back up. And then back for Vlahovic in the summer!

    1. Yes there are plenty of fish in the sea. But when you as a club spend years following a certain fish, laying the groundwork for catching him, and then months trying to reel him in… and then right as we are about to land the long elusive, perfect for Arsenal fish, a sea monster jumps out of nowhere and gobbles him up. Sure, there are other fish swimming around but you don’t know them that well or how to catch them and so you’re not sure if they’re even the right fish for you, even if you could nab them.

      The level of talent Arsenal are after now leaves nowhere to hide. We are no longer just a project. We are leading the world’s most moneyed and arguably most difficult league. This team needs the finished article now, especially in January. Players who can make an impact at this level are all know quantities with dozens of clubs following them. Arsenal were in the lead on Mudryk because we did the groundwork on him from every angle. It seems we just don’t have that with another player at or near that level in that position in this window.

      So that leaves us asking around and seeing who is even available. Every time one of those phone calls is made, the agent leaks the story. The player who would make the most sense as a short term solution is Leandro Trossard. Brighton are selling and he can contribute right away. He will score goals for Arsenal, no question, but can he be trusted defensively? I hate the deal in the big picture sense too. He’s 28 with a limited skill set and attitude problems. Certainly not the type we have been targeting with great success.

      So we are left with an unsavory quandary. If the right deal for a wing forward isn’t there, do we just ride with what we have and hope for the best, or do we buy a player we didn’t really want just to fill the gap for a few months? To me the correct answer is the former, but I despise Chelsea for putting us in this position.

  9. Without a doubt it is critical to get cover in this window. It will be too risky to gamble the Title that we have waited soo long not to do so.

    However, prices (and salary’s for those players) are almost certainly going to get crazier. Right now Chelsea is splashing silly money, but Man U and Liverpool are about to be taken over, Spurs are likely to get serious investment or be taken over. Man City are looking like they will need some refreshment too! Its going to be wild.

    And even if we can style it out without replacements by dropping out of the FA Cup and the Europa, this squad can not sustain Champs League next year and maintain a title charge without a deeper mid-field and attack.

    Remember the days when Wenger had to wait until all the big spenders had secured their choices before he dipped into the market with his pennies :(.

    It looks to me like we are back to the future. But have the lessons been learned by the right people?

  10. Tim, I want to put a bow on the discussion with Kulusevski. First, I rate the player and I actually would want him at Arsenal. He’s the perfect profile for a time share on our right wing with Saka.

    But, he was not some force of nature in this game who somehow subtly dominated our right side, not even for those 15 minutes that he had that flurry of shots and crosses. Those opportunities came his way from transitions that Spurs created in midfield by adjusting their spacing closer together and getting tighter to our midfielders in the beginning of the second half. Once Arsenal adjusted to Spurs’ new approach, they went back to being toothless.

  11. First of all, I’m still impressed by our victory against the spurs. Arsenal was dominant, superior in all aspects. No fear, even when defending hard. We are definitely getting used to be a top team. And as a spectator, even if I still can’t believe my eyes, I’m slowly getting used to the idea that we can beat everyone!
    What I don’t like so much is the way we behave when we lead. There is always a point where we defend very low and abandon possession. Typical, I know, we have something to lose while the adversary has everything to win. But with Arsenal, it’s a bit too radical. We start jumping at their throat and we finish with two very low lines and few attacking outlets. Arteta still needs to figure that out. Although, in reality, we do not concede much, even in those periods.
    Another thing that bothers me is the lack of depth of the team. Arteta is limited in his choices. I would argue that his usual two changes, Tierney and Tomiyasu, are the only ones that can be made without losing too much quality. There is Smith Rowe but he is a very special player (he does everything very vertically: dribbles, passes and runs) but is hard to integrate in any position. Beyond him, no-one… (Except Jesus, our saviour). So, I agree, we need to buy. Trossard is a good alternative.He is less good than Saka overall. Less talented than Martinelli but maybe more productive. He seems hard to manage (they all are when they won’t sign a new deal) but his work ethics on the pitch are impeccable: he fights and creates danger. And is can be used on either side or in the center. I’d love another Belgian to join, besides the gifted but lymphatic Lokonga.)

    1. Yes, we are very passive with a lead. I saw some numbers on this. We are the best team in the league with a 0-0 gamestate on both sides of the ball: shots, shots conceded, territory, possession, whatever you want. When we are up by a goal though, we become quite mediocre in both departments.

      I think this is deliberate because we have such a thin squad. So much of what the team does depends on the active engagement of the opposition by our forwards when out of possession. But without a reasonable alternative to Saka or Martinelli, it would be asking too much of them to maintain that for 90 minutes game after game. I really liked the Tierney sub for Martinelli in the Spurs game and that could be one in-house solution to this problem (as long as we are leading).

      You are absolutely correct to point out that the next level will be to control these games for the full 90 minutes like City do. For that, we need like for like alternatives in key positions.

    2. The guys on the national pods have noticed Arsenal’s lack of depth, saying that we are “doing what Leicester did when they won the League” by playing a small squad.

      That said, at least one applauded Arsenal’s depth as well, saying that they thought the Jesus injury would derail our season but Eddie’s slotted in perfectly.

      So… I don’t know.

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