With manager Arsene Wenger adamant that those players who enjoyed lengthy runs at Euro 2016 will get a lengthy rest and Alexis Sanchez carrying an injury, Arsenal face going into the start of the Premier League season worryingly short-handed. The far from ideal scenario only increases the pressure on Wenger to do further transfer business before the season kicks off in four weeks’ time, particularity given testing fixtures against Liverpool and champions Leicester City.
As well as Sanchez, who helped Chile to the Copa America Centenario title and Euro 2016 semifinalists Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, it is only a week since Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny played in the Euro 2016 final for host France. And Wenger will resist temptation to rush them back.
“You consider the rest time because France had a long, long go and I believe that they need four weeks’ holiday because they need to recover from that,” he told Arsenal’s official website.
The situation surrounding Giroud and Sanchez means an already thin selection of striker options will be even more bare when the season gets underway. It adds further intrigue into Arsenal’s long rumored pursuit of Napoli front man Gonzalo Higuain.
After failing to wrap up his signature when he left Real Madrid three years ago, Wenger is believed to have reignited his interest in a transfer this summer. However, two major barriers remain to a deal for the 28-year-old being completed.
First is Napoli’s demand that any interested party pay up his massive release clause, which stands at 80 million pounds ($106 million). The second is that Italian champion Juventus has now entered the race and, according to reports in Italy, already agreed personal terms with the player.
Yet Napoli is understood to be hugely reluctant to let Higuain go to a big domestic rival, and president Aurelio de Laurentiis has called the rumors “nonsense.”
Indeed, it has also been reported by Sky Italy that Napoli’s official radio station has claimed that it is almost certain that Higuain will go to Napoli for 42 million pounds ($55 million) plus Giroud moving in the other direction.
Transfer involving player swaps are incredibly rare, given all the details involved, yet it could make sense in this case. It would allow Arsenal to lower the price to a reasonable amount and Napoli could get a replacement it will need in the event of Higuain’s exit.
Higuain is not the only player linked with a transfer to Arsenal in recent days. Last season’s PFA Player of the Year and widely believed Arsenal target Riyad Mahrez has come to the decision that he wants to leave Leicester this summer, according to The Guardian.
There is likely to be a long list of top clubs competing for the Algerian winger’s signature, with Barcelona thought to hold an interest. But it would be a surprise were Arsenal not to at least make an inquiry. Last season Wenger had difficulty filling Mahrez’s favored position on the right flank, with both Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain disappointing.
Perhaps the most surprising transfer rumor involving the Gunners this summer, though, concerns a possible return to the Emirates Stadium for defender Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgium international was sold to Barcelona two years ago, but has endured a torrid time at the Camp Nou. After missing almost the whole of his first season through injury, he then started only 10 La Liga games last term as he failed to dislodge the regular pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano.
Barcelona-based daily Sport reports that the 30-year-old is now eager to make a move and get regular first-team action. And, while West Ham has been strong linked, Arsenal is said to be Vermaelen’s preferred destination, with the club also keen on making a return happen. That story appears doubtful, however, given that Vermaelen had slipped behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the pecking order before his departure.