Some people think we are overflowing with midfielders. Others are desperate for us to buy more and shift some on. I have a foot in both camps. Here’s a round up of rumours that just won’t go away. Whatever happens, we look set for a summer shuffle as I call it.
*Please note all stats correct as of 15th April 2013*
Mario Goetze (BVB Dortmund)
“Arsenal are set to make a club record £30m bid for Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfielder Mario Gotze, 20, while also promoting a clutch of promising youngsters.” – Daily Mail.
2012/13: Games 49, Goals 20, Assists 13
2011/12: Games 28, Goals 8, Assists 8
Goetze (or Gotze with an umlaut) is one of the best young midfielders in world football at this moment in time. He has an eye for goal and is an exceptional playmaker. He is versatile, playing at central midfield, attacking midfield or right wing midfield. He has incredible vision, immense pace and strength and is already considered world class. Any investment in him could only see a return if he were to be sold on in a few seasons. Wenger has been interested in the player for a number of years and according to some sources tabled a bid for Super Mario in January last season. Many doubt the truth in this rumour. With an asking price of at least £30m and no reason to leave a team who are winning silverware and making huge strides in the Champions League, this deal has ‘unlikely’ written all over it. Still, many Arsenal fans, myself included, feel there is an outside chance something could happen. However, perhaps not with Manchester United registering an interest.
Sebastian Rode (Eintracht Frankfurt)
“The Gunners are chasing Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Sebastian Rode, 22, who will cost them £7.5m.” – The Sun
It’s no secret that instead of simply going after Europe’s best players or pillaging the best players from other EPL teams, Wenger does his shopping by region. These days his attention is well and truly on Germany. Rode has started nearly if not every game for Frankfurt this season. They sit a very respectable 6th in the Bundesliga and would probably be about 10th-8th in our league. He has no goals and no assists to his name and as I haven’t really watched Frankfurt’s games, it’s hard to discern what he actually offers. That said, he is a German U18, U19, U20 and U21 international so there’s no question he is a prospect for the future. He is unknown over here, and affordable. He may very well be brought in to replace the likes of Francis Coquelin who is likely to leave the Emirates this summer. This rumour has ‘squad player/one for the future’ stamped on it, and may very well happen.
Isco (or Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez) (Malaga)
“Arsenal’s top summer target is £30m Malaga midfielder Isco, 20.” – Daily Star
2012/13: Games 41, Goals 11, Assists 4
2011/12: Games 36, Goals 6, Assists 4
Interest in Isco has been somewhat conjured up rather than made official. I.e. there’s a chance we may have shown an interest but when he was affordable Arsenal bought Santi Cazorla instead. Since then, we’ve pillaged Malaga for Nacho Monreal and Malaga have also upped Isco’s buy-out clause to around £30m. Considering their progress in the Champions League this season, it remains to be seen whether they’ll need to sell players to pay off immediate debts, which is how we were able to sign Cazorla for cheap. They may not want to sell, and if Malaga earn a European place this season, Isco may not want to leave. Unless City come in with a ridiculous offer for him which is more than likely. That said, it is rumoured that Isco is not intending on renewing any contract with Malaga as ‘bigger teams’ become interested and as he is considered world class in the making, a summer move is likely regardless of where Malaga finish. It could well be a case of ‘we’ll get as much for you as possible and shake your hand on your way out.’ Still, Arsenal remain outsiders in this deal.
Jordie Clasie (Feyenoord)
“Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United will battle it out for Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie, already dubbed ‘the new Xavi” – The Express
Apparently Fiorentina actually look set to sign this player but this would be a typical Wenger singing. He’s undoubtedly a cheaper version of a defensive midfield player we need. I am not sure how a defensive midfielder can be dubbed the ‘new Xavi’, that is simple agent-speak, with emphasis on the simple. That said, he’s young, talented, affordable, and has recently stepped up to international status with the Netherlands.
Victor Wanyama (Celtic)
“Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is set to renew his efforts to sign 21-year-old Celtic defensive player Victor Wanyama.” – Daily Star
As always with Arsenal there is the question of truth regarding Wanyama interest. I am a firm believer that if Wenger really wants a player, he will sign him. My sources told me that the reason no defensive midfielder was signed last summer was because Wenger was reluctant to spend more than £7m. Celtic wanted closer to £10m for their midfield destroyer and in ample time to find a good enough replacement, a challenge for them to say the least. His stock has risen hugely thanks to his incredible league and Champions League performances and if Wenger wants to sign Wanyama in the summer he will have to pay closer to £20m, which is unlikely. Rumour has it that the reason we didn’t sign him last summer was cost, the reason we didn’t in January was because the cost had risen, and logic tells me we won’t sign him this summer. He can do a job as centre back and is, in my opinion, THE defensive midfielder Arsene Wenger has needed for so many years now. Sadly, all the best sides in the world are now chasing him.
Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford, on loan from Chelsea)
“The Gunners may attempt to sign England under-21 midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah, 18, from Chelsea in the summer after being impressed by his performances on loan at Watford.” – Daily Star, Daily Express
This, for me, is a pointless rumour designed to irate Arsenal fans, for the simple reason that we need a world class defensive midfielder and have done for years, and that man is not Chalobah. There’s no doubting his bright future however. Logic, though, says this deal is dead in the water. Firstly, he’s too young and inexperienced. Secondly, Watford are still contenders for Premier League promotion and will want to hang on to him if they are successful. He’s too young to be in with a chance at Chelsea just yet and won’t get any game time with Arsenal, even if Chelsea did decide to sell him for some reason. If he stays at Watford he’ll get games, which works for the player, Watford and Chelsea. If he moves to Arsenal then he won’t. Would Chelsea sell to us? This has ‘unlikely’ written all over it. As with many young players, a move to Arsenal would more likely stunt his career than progress it.
James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic)
“Wigan midfielder James McCarthy has refused to rule out leaving the DW Stadium in the summer. Republic of Ireland international McCarthy, 22, joined the Latics in 2009 and has been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool.” – Daily Mail
Back in the summer the rumour mill went into overdrive linking this player to Arsenal. It never happened and I am not sure he is of the calibre required for Arsenal to contend for top league places and cup/European finals. He’s a good player, with age on his side, and he plays in a team with our style, but other than that, well, perhaps price, it’s hard to understand any real interest. Discard.
Etienne Capoue (Toulouse)
“Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger could return for Toulouse midfielder Etienne Capoue after failing with a move for the France international, 25, in January.” – Daily Telegraph
Interest in Capoue began last season and he was looked at as a potential replacement for Alex Song, as were Victor Wanyama and Yann M’Vila. It is a mystery as to why none of the 3 was signed by Arsenal, especially considering they were approximately half the value we received when we sold Song. Rumours has it that our majority shareholder Stan Kroenke is the man to thank for selling our best players and not allowing Wenger to replace them. This is a debate for another time, however. The key factor is Wenger chose to rely on Abou Diaby who has never played 10 consecutive games for us in his career. For me that’s a sack-able offence from the manager. Either way, Capoue is sought after, is available, is affordable, is a very tough payer and has great passing skills. This would be a great coup for Arsenal and a perfectly likely deal for one of Europe’s most sought-after defensive midfielders.
Maxime Gonalons (Olympique Lyonnais)
“Arsenal have sent scouts to watch defenders Maxime Gonalons, 23, of Lyon and Torino’s Angelo Ogbonna.” – Daily Mail
Well, we all know Wenger loves to give Arsenal’s money to French clubs for players who usually don’t quite cut it. Whether Gonalons is this man remains to be seen. He has an amazing name though, Yaya Banana. Sign him Arsene! From what I’ve heard, he is a very good player, he’s big, robust, can pass nicely and Lyon currently sit 3rd in Ligue 1 so he must be doing his job nicely. Whether that translates as him being a new world class defensive midfielder to help Arsenal to silverware remains to be seen. It’s every bit as likely that this deal could happen as it won’t happen. I have no idea if that even makes sense grammatically but it’s staying. Verdict: approach with caution. Usually when we send scouts to watch players, we don’t register any official bids for at least 2 years after.
Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen)
“Arsenal are planning to spend £70m on Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski, 24, and playmaker Mario Goetze, 20, as well as Bayer Leverkusen defensive midfielder Lars Bender, 23.”
Lars Bender (pronounced ‘Benter’ by the way) is a TOP class player. He’s a German regular and has been outstanding for Leverkusen by all accounts. I know so many Arsenal fans who’d love him to sign for us, and interest has been there since last summer. Whilst the whole ‘Arsenal to spend £70m’ story is total fabrication designed to fool Gooners into buying season tickets, we could spend this money in total this summer after we sell some players. The list of potential Arsenal leavers is almost longer than the list of players who will stay, and Lars Bender is very much in line. I for one would love him to sign. He’s talented, experienced at the highest level, has a good injury record, is top quality and wouldn’t cost the earth. If Leverkusen fail to land a Champions League spot it could well be a question of him leaving so long as the offer is good enough. However, Leverkusen are on track for a Europa League place and he may decide there is no reason to leave.
There is no question that Arsenal will sell many players this summer in another rebuild. Thankfully, for the first time in what feels like a decade, it looks as though we are set to keep our entire first team. My fear is that Wenger will therefore only buy squad players for cheap as so many squad players will be leaving, and he’ll promote youth who won’t be ready yet. However, it is equally as likely that he will be looking to add as close to world class talent to the squad as he can for the money he has available. I expect a minimum of 4 possible first team starters to sign for Arsenal in the summer, including a goal keeper, a centre back, a defensive midfielder and a striker. He may also choose to sign a right back and an attacking midfielder would be a luxury, although it would seem Thomas Eisfeld will be pushed into the first team squad next season. This is all speculative though – it may not be Wenger at the helm next season.
Written By Rollo Allen