While we’re still basking in the glow of a glorious, scintillating, season-defining Community Shield victory over Man City, we’re finally starting to unload some deadwood, with news that Ainsley Maitland-Niles has joined Olympique Lyonnais on a free transfer, so we haven’t exactly gotten better at selling players…yet. The Birdman rejoins Lacazette (who also left on a free transfer) and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde. Let’s hope this gives the lad a chance to spread his wings and teachers us to, you know, sell players instead of setting them free (I understand that I missed a chance at extending the bird/freedom metaphor, so don’t bother pointing it out).
Maitland-Niles’s career just never kicked on here beyond the “Birdman” memes and the languid, insouciant approach he took to playing. His desire to play in central midfield never quite meshed with Arteta’s preference to play as a winger or wingback. It had to ruffle his feathers (ha) to see other Hale End boys like Saka, Smith Rowe, Willock, Iwobi, Nelson and even Nketiah find their varying degrees of success while he struggled to take flight. A fresh start at a new club might reinvigorate his spirits and give him a chance to prove us wrong for doubting him.
His departure does whet the appetite for actual transfers out that involve us receiving actual money if not profits. The liveliest rumours swirl around Matt Turner, who looks like he’s moving closer and closer to joining Nottingham Forest. Maybe we should drag our heels a bit so that he’s not available to face us in that first match? None would appreciate the irony of his turning into a Leno-esque shot stopper or Martinezian (?) shit-houser against us. More seriously, the news seems largely positive because it looks like the reported fee is in the area of £10m plus add-ons (after spending just £5m to sign him). That’s hardly a rate of return on Anelka’s level, but it’s tidy business all the same. The move strongly suggests that we’ll complete the signing of David Raya, and it sounds like we’ll get him for quite a bit less than Brentford’s £40m valuation. We’ll have to keep an eye on those developments.
Last but certainly not least, we could very well part ways with one of the last true albatrosses of the pre-Arteta era: Nicolas Pépé. Foisted on the club and on Emery by Raul Sannlehi for that ungodly £72m fee and £140k weekly salary, he never fit in with either Emery (who wanted Zaha instead) or Arteta. He reminds me a bit of Walcott albeit a better dribbler—he could be lethal for a side that plays more counter-attacking football, one where he could either run into space behind a high line or be given space to beat his man off the dribble. Anyway, as the rumour-mill has it, Arsenal are set to cancel his contract to allow him to sign with Beşiktaş. If we’re seriously going to give him a year’s salary just to facilitate his departure, we either have more money than we know what to do with or not enough savvy to do well with that money.
Just here are the Saudis when we really need them, anyway? They’ve been hoovering up players like kind of large, faceless sucking machine that scares the housepets, but they can’t be bothered to buy Pépé?
However that one turns out, I do hope that each player finds happier hunting grounds at his respective new club. After all, they’ve had their moments and seemed like decent lads but just not good enough for our current ambitions. I just hope that this isn’t the end of our outgoing business…