Yesterday, we explored the possibility of Arteta and Edu making a bold move for Napoli’s VIctor Osimhen. It’s the international break, after all, so there’s little to do but to engage in idle gossip. That said, a move for Brentford’s Ivan Toney might amount to something more than idle gossip. He’s Prem-proven, and our dealings with Brentford over David Raya have been amicable enough to suggest that they might be open to selling Toney…at the right price.
Unlike Osimhen, who might be more of a Haaland-esque type forward (albeit without the goal-scoring…), Toney embodies a more-modern forward’s role: he presses, he drops deep, he distributes. In many ways, he’s closer to Jesus’s style of play than Osimhen due to his versatliity and willingness to make himself available. The key questions around him focus on his gambling, his fitness, and his fee.
By most reports, Toney earns a relative pittance at Brentford, something on the order of £20k/wk. Still, one would think that this should be suffiicient that the lad wouldn’t feel the need to gamble to make ends meet, and Toney’s eight-month ban points strongly to a gambling addiction. It’s not as if he needs to win big in order to pay bills or put food on the table. If we were to make a move for the man, some kind of counseling would surely be necessary.
While we’re talking money, let’s talk fees. While we dealt amicable with Brentford to get Raya, we played a bit of three-card monte by agreeing a loan-deal with an option to buy that we’ll almost certainly exercise. What does that mean for a move for Toney? Could we prise him away on a £50m fee, or would we have to again get creative? If Napoli might be open to a deal that involved Gabriel Jesus, perhaps Brentford would be open to a deal that involved, say Nketiah, Nelson, or Smith Rowe? Even if it feels like apostasy to even suggest such a move for one (or more) of our academy players, none of them has caught Arteta’s eye, despite injuries forcing him to get creative with lineups and substitutions.
Back to the man at hand. Toney is a considerable aerial threat despite standing just 1.85m (6′ 1″). It’s one area where he’s clearly superior to Jesus. This makes him a serious threat in the build-up as he can win duels and knock down long balls (from his old mate Raya, no less) as players like Martinelli, Saka, or Havertz run past. He’d also be a novel threat to our set-pieces. He could reprise a role similar to the one he’s played for Brentford before his ban.
He’s an aggressive presser when his side are out of possession. While he may not be as effective or as aggressive as Jesus (who might just be one of the best pressers in the Prem from his position), he’s adept at winning the ball in the final third and at pressuring keepers and defenders into poor decisions, leading to turnovers or at least throw-ins.
Despite all of these advantages, the questions loom: has Toney learned his lesson when it comes to gambling? What kind of shape will he be in by January, having not played a competitive minute since May 2023? It’s hard to feel like he’d hit the ground running even if a transfer deal could be agreed on the first day of the transfer window. Who knows where his mind is at, much less his body?
Then again, these doubts could reduce his fee and wage demands. It’s always hard to find quality talent in the January window. Toney, a Prem-proven known quantity (at least on the pitch), could be a priceless pickup. Unlike Osimhen, he doesn’t carry a reputation for being a narcissist, and he’s not cup-tied in the Champions League. If Arteta can help Toney manage his gambling predilections (or addiction), we could secure the services of a fairly prolific forward…