OK, so the transfer kitty at Arsene’s disposal has been widely promulgated and the sports media have gone into overdrive linking us with everyone from Free agent Barry to £40m Karim Benzema. Of course the club will need to multi-task, and maintain several negotiations for each position that needs strengthening simultaneously, to ensure we do sign the players we need. But this isn’t fantasy football league.
We also need to consider the home grown player rule. After releases, we have only four home grown players who are not U-21’s (of whom we can have an unlimited number). To maximise our squad depth – i.e. 25 “senior” players – we need eight. So, who can we realistically expect to see in red and white next season?
For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve stuck to transfermarkt valuation unless otherwise stated.
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Back-up ‘keeper – Alex McCarthy, £2m
The Championship is a good place to source a back-up keeper. It’s a good career move for the player and a solid investment for the club. 24 year old McCarthy is one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship and qualifies as a “home-grown” player.
Right Back – Serge Aurier, £6m
Although the stand-out stats for Aurier are his 6 goals and 6 assists last season, he’s accomplished defensively too. Although he doesn’t have PL experience, he played 90 minutes in practically all of the 38 games he played for Toulouse, so he should be able to transition smoothly. This is a signing that should be targeted for completion before the World Cup, as his value may well increase thereafter. At 21 he represents an opportunity to stabilise the position for the long term.
Defensive Midfielder – Morgan Schneiderlin, £15m
24 year old Schneiderlin is the man to go for in this position because, apart from being a technically gifted player, he is totally acclimatised to our league and qualifies as “home-grown”. His stats are already similar to those of Arteta, and will be available for more games than the 31 year old. It will take a bid significantly above his current valuation to prise him from Southampton, but sometimes you just have to pay up.
Striker – Antoine Griezman, £18m
An opportunity to exploit Real Sociedad’s desperation to keep Carlos Vela. We trade our £4m buy-back option on Vela for a £12m “discount” on Griezman. 16 goals in 35 league starts, real pace and the flexibility to play wide or central. At 23 he looks made for Arsenal.
Striker – Mario Mandzukic, £26m
Widely reported to be imminently surplus to requirements at Bayern Munich, there are those who argue he isn’t what we need because he’s too similar to Giroud. Which is exactly why we should get him. We were lucky with Giroud staying fit last season, but was clearly knackered from the number of games he played. To fight effectively, with Wenger’s preferred plan A, on four fronts, we need two players like this. Mandzukic also brings vast experience to balance the youth touted in other targets.
And finally –
Attacking Midfielder – Cesc Fabregas, £35m
Whilst I agree with those who say re-signing Fabregas isn’t a priority, that really isn’t relevant. It’s not either / or. It has also been suggested that we “don’t need another creative/attacking midfielder. To which I remind you that there were similar comments when we signed Özil, and yet our title challenge was still derailed by “lack of depth” in this area. I use inverted commas because losing Ramsey, Oxlade Chamberlain, Walcott, Wilshere, Özil and Gnabry (amongst 11 in total) could be considered extraordinary. But we consistently top the injury league, so how many is enough? The amount we would have to pay to get Cesc back is unclear. Some reports say it’s fixed at £25m (in which case we should bite their hand off) and others suggest “first refusal on offers over £35m” at which price it’s still not a difficult decision. He’s a Gooner. He’ll qualify as “home grown” and he’s Cesc FFS!
So there you have it. My £100m shopping list. I doubt it’s what we’ll end up with, and I won’t complain if we see Remy, Bony or Vela up front. But I would prefer two strikers to splashing all the cash on e.g. Benzema or Di Maria.