As the silly season begins, we simply have to assess all of the various rumours that will swirl around the club. Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo, and İlkay Gündoğan have dominated the headlines, but we’ll have to wait until after Wednesday’s Europa Conference League final and Saturday’s Champions League final before we’ll see any real movement on any fronts. There are of course some lesser names, so let’s have a look-see, shall we?
#1: İlkay Gündoğan
He is simultaneously at the top of my desirability list and at the bottom of my probability list. He can seemingly play anywhere from second striker to defensive midfield, as a 6 or an 8, and could therefore offer us a great degree of versatility. Think of it: he could cover for Jesus, Ødegaard, Xhaka, or Partey. He’s battle-tested. He rises to the occasion. I gotta tell ya, if there was one player I’d want us to sign, it’d be him. Give him a two-year contract. He’ll be available on a free, so give him a pay rise. We could do with some veteran nous.
#2: Moisés Caicedo
Priority #2. If we could prise Gündoğan away on a free transfer, we could more easily negotiate a transfer for Caicedo. We’d show Brighton that we’re savvy dealers. More importantly, like Gündoğan, Caicedo offers a degree of positional and tactical flexibility—and he’s just 21 years old. Nominally, he’s a DM. Dispositionally, he could conceivably be a CAM, and he’s been an RB as well. He’s got tenacity and steel (as evinced by his vindictive foul on Martinelli). He may cost us a £80m transfer fee (or more), but that could prove to be a pittance when we consider his performance.
#3: Declan Rice
I know that he’s been grabbing most of the headlines, but, of the three, he’s the one I’m least excited about—and I swear that this has nothing to do with his forswearing his Irish heritage to play for England. Despite all of the plaudits, he may be the least-suited to our needs, especially given his likely transfer fee. He’s more of a six than an eight, and we have Partey holding down that role. What with Chelsea and Bayern sniffing around (and driving up his fee and weekly wages), I might be willing to let him see the chips fall where they may.
Now, we’re into the dregs. From here, we’re looking at castaways, want-aways, and cast-offs. While it’s true that Tielemans and Maddison might be looking to abandon a sinking ship, I doubt they offer enough quality to actually elevate us. As depth, sure, I’d be willing to take them on, but they’d each have to accept that they’d see dramatically reduced roles, playing mop-up minutes in various positions—attacking midfield here, winger there, etcetera. Are we still linked to Adrien Rabiot? He’s French, so he might as well be, even if the Franchophone stereotype of Arsenal should be about a decade (or more) dead. Let’s pass on this prima donna; dealing with Juventus is about as fruitful as dealing with a fruitmonger who’s sold all of his fruit (sorry for the feeble analogy. I’m sleepy). I’m sure that there others out there that dangle like so much low-hanging fruit, but that’s an analogy I’m not sure I’m comfortable exploring any further.
It’s going to be an interesting summer, for better or for worse. We know all too well how thoroughly our best-laid plans were laid to waste by a lack of depth. Let’s hope that Arteta and Edu can find the reinforcements we’ll need to make the upcoming campaign even better than the unexpectedly good one they just delivered.