Arsene Wenger is thus far adhering to his prediction that signings would be unlikely before the culmination of this summer’s World Cup. The problem for Arsenal is that many of their rivals are failing to do likewise.
After a disappointing fall out of the Premier League title race, Arsenal ended the season on a high. Qualification for the Champions League and a first trophy in nine years via the FA Cup was followed by Wenger signing a new contract and a real sense of optimism about Arsenal prospects next season. But all positive thoughts were conditional on Arsenal reinforcing their squad this summer. With revenue streams having increased and the club having smashed their transfer record to sign Mesut Ozil a year ago, there has been reason to think that both the club and Wenger would be more willing to embrace a transfer strategy that includes signing established stars as well as those who have the potential to become ones.
But the failed move for Schalke’s Julian Draxler showed a hesitation to stump up the cash to make a deal happen there and then. And Arsenal have again showed signs of dallying thus far in this window. Making light of Wenger’s warning about transfer business being slow this summer, Chelsea are already on the verge of announcing a deal for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, a reported target of Arsenal, while Liverpool have secured deals for Rickie Lambert, Emre Can and Alberto Moreno.
It could well be another case of supporters’ hopes not being met this summer. Cutting through the wild rumors, here’s who could eventually wind up arriving in the three positions most in need of strengthening.
The priority for Wenger this summer must surely be signing a striker to, at the very least, ease some of the workload on Olivier Giroud. At the top end of the market, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic have been linked. However, not only would both require a sizable fee and command hefty wages, but they would also expect to be first choice. It is doubtful that Wenger would be willing to demote Giroud at this stage.
More likely is that he will target a less costly option, who would also be more willing to split time with Giroud. Young Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata could well fit that bill. Arsenal failed with a bid to lure the Spain Under-21 international in January, but Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has revealed that he will be allowed to leave this summer to get more regular first-team action. Madrid would like that to be only on a year-long loan deal and at most a permanent deal with a buy-back option. It remains to be seen whether such terms would be acceptable to Arsenal or Morata’s numerous other suitors.
Bacary Sagna has already confirmed he will be leaving Arsenal when his deal expires at the end of the month, with Manchester City thought to be his destination. Three names currently appear to be topping Wenger’s list of targets to compete with Carl Jenkinson for the right-back berth next season. Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran has revealed that he turned down an approach from the Emirates last summer, and there appears little prospect of him changing his mind this time around, despite reports of Arsenal reigniting their interest.
Southampton’s Callum Chambers is another who continues to be linked. The 19-year-old only made his Premier League debut last season, but did enough suggest that he could be the latest star from Southampton’s famed production line. While the South Coast club will be reluctant for the dismantling of their squad to continue, they do have another quality right-back in Nathaniel Clyne.
The strongest contender to join Arsenal, though, is Serge Aurier. Toulouse’s Ivory Coast international has made no secret of his desire to move to the Emirates Stadium and a deal for between £7 million and £8 million could be on the cards. Physically strong and good on the ball, combined with the ability to play at center-back, the 21-year-old could prove shrewd business.
Having made a failed bid for him a year ago, Arsenal will again have been disappointed by Germany international Lars Bender’s continued commitment to Bayer Leverkusen. Arsenal are also set to be disappointed if they pursue reported interest in another lucrative target, Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez. Even if the Spain international were to leave the German champions, it is difficult to imagine Arsenal both matching Bayern’s asking price and fighting off the undoubted competition that would exist for his signature.
A trio of reported targets in the Premier League are more probable arrivals. Morgan Schneiderlin’s impressive performances for Southampton have earned him a call-up to France’s World Cup squad and reportedly the interest of Wenger. Southampton’s asking price, however, could prove a deterrent. That would not be an issue with Gareth Barry, who is out of contract at Manchester City. While Barry performed excellently on loan for Everton last season, his signing would surely bring further scorn from many disgruntled Arsenal fans.
Perhaps similarly underwhelming to supporters would be the capture of fellow-rumored target James Milner. There have been strong reports that Wenger is a fan of the England international, although there is a conflicting message about whether the versatile Manchester City man is being sought as a central midfielder or as a right-back. Milner is a far better player than his reputation suggests and, especially with the restrictions on their Champions League squad, City will be reluctant sellers. If Arsenal can tempt the 28-year-old with the promise of regular first-team action and avoid the usual price hike for English players, Milner would be a solid if unglamorous capture.