Arsenal have to sell, and the market knows it

Things are starting to move a little bit in the transfer market for Arsenal. Gabriel Magalhaes was in London yesterday to complete his move to Arsenal. There was a medical, everything appears to be sorted, and it’s now just the matter of an announcement. Hopefully there are no last minute hitches with photos or something to delay things.

In seriousness though, his arrival boosts our central defensive options, you can see how he might be seen as one to play alongside William Saliba in the future, but it also means our collection of central defenders has grown. Something’s gotta give there. And here’s the thing, the fact we’re completely overloaded in this position means our leverage in the market is not great.

Everyone knows we’ve got to sell, so it’s not as if interested clubs have to prise us away from assets we don’t want to lose, they know that our need to trim the squad means we’ll have to consider offers that perhaps don’t quite match people’s valuation of certain players, or what we might be looking for ourselves. That’s not just true in defence either, by the way. We have certain players at the club right now who it’s clear are surplus to requirements, and everyone in football knows that.

Think of Matteo Guendouzi, for example. Arsenal want to sell him, we’ve made that clear with his absence from the team, and you can be sure that he’s been offered to other clubs as part of deals we might want to do for their players. So far, nothing. As the deadline draws closer, our need to get rid of him won’t do anything but drive his price downwards. It’s a balancing act for clubs who might actually be interested in him, as they have to deal with potential competitors, but the longer you can wait, the more Arsenal will need to sell, and the better deal you can get.

Clubs know that Arsenal need to move defenders on, and more than ever they will be out to get the best possible deals. The financial impact of Covid-19 makes this market a difficult one, and I don’t think we’ve even begun to the see the damage it has done to some clubs. Malaga, for example, have basically made a host of players redundant as they seek pay cuts from the rest. The need to spend every single penny wisely is going to be paramount for almost every club in Europe this summer, so it’s bound to have an impact on what a club can generate when it comes to selling. We’re not going to be immune from this at all.

I wrote about this the other day, but Arsenal currently have eight central defenders on their books, including Dinos Mavropanos who is spending the season on loan at Stuttgart. The arrival of Gabriel will take that to nine. It’s too many. At least three should go, take your pick from Sokratis, Chambers, Holding, and Mustafi as the most likely candidates. The fact Luiz and Pablo Mari have recently signed new deals makes them relatively safe, but I think our situation demands we consider any offers during this transfer period.

It’s why I think the £20m that Wolves are reportedly offering for Ainsley Maitland-Niles is not massively unreasonable in this current market. I don’t think we’re in a position to play hardball with them over this. Who knows what their opening gambit was, and how hard we might have had to negotiate to get them to that figure. A fee which, by the way, offsets a large part of the Gabriel fee.

I do like him and I think it’s a bit of a shame that he’s going. He grew up at Arsenal and it’s clear Mikel Arteta rates him – he wouldn’t have started him in the FA Cup final if he didn’t. However, as much as we might want to keep him, there’s the player’s side to consider. He changed his agent during the season, often a sign that something’s going to happen in the transfer market, and there have been consistent rumblings about him wanting to play in his favourite position.

Last January he spoke about that quite openly and how he viewed his future, saying:

I’d like to be a winger. I feel comfortable there and I’ve been playing there this season. I  like to think of myself as a winger at 25 years old, starting every week for Arsenal, scoring and assisting goals.

Is that what anyone else really sees for him? If that’s what he wants from his career, he’s unlikely to get it at Arsenal. There’s a £72m signing we have to make work ahead of him there, and the arrival of Willian means that he’d be even further down the pecking order for that position. I think he’s a very useful squad player, but it seems as if his personal ambitions are at odds with what the role the club might envisage for him. It feels a bit to me like it’s his desire to fulfill those, i.e trying to nail down a favourite position rather than being the utility man, that’s driving this departure. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. It’s a short career, hes perfectly entitled to make a move he feels will be best for his long-term prospects.

If Arsenal can’t offer him what he wants in football terms, and the offer is decent, what choice is there? I see comparisons with other deals that have happened, and maybe £20m could be seen as low, but it’s also pure profit as we move on a player who didn’t cost us a fee in the first place. Are we really in a position to risk scuppering the deal for the sake of couple of million more? That’s the balancing act here.

When you’re struggling to move on players you’d really like to get rid of, sometimes you have to make a kind of reluctant sale, and I think that’s the case with Maitland-Niles. What a nice way for him to bow out as an Arsenal player though, playing his part in that FA Cup win, and after exactly 100 first team appearances, it looks as if he’ll be on his way. It’s also an example of how the Academy can generate revenue for you when the players get sufficient playing time to build their reputations.

There might be more, with Hector Bellerin reportedly offered to PSG, but that’s the kind of departure that 100% demands a replacement because Arsenal need much more than Cedric Soares at right-back next season. There are also stories linking Sead Kolasinac with a move back to Schalke. So, plenty for those behind the scenes to get done before the window closes in October. It means there will likely be transfer ‘disruption’ throughout the early weeks of the new Premier League season, but that’s something all clubs are going to have to deal with. I suspect we’ll see a lot of our departures come a lot later than we might like.

The good news is that Gabriel is done, the future of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been sorted, and those are things we can build on – even if we have to dismantle some of the foundations along the way.

Till tomorrow, and I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast Extra. Listen/subscribe below.

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