Amid ongoing concerns around Gabriel Jesus’s fitness and Eddie Nketiah’s levels, enquiring minds tend to stray. One of the targets to which they’re drawn, like moths to a flame, is Brentford’s Ivan Toney, scorer of 35 league goals in the last two seasons. That tally might have risen even further but for his 18-month ban for gambling, set to expire in mid-January, and I promise that you that I won’t be making any clever puns on that situation. Suffice it to say that we’ve registered interest and that Brenford must surely be sizing up options.
First, the good news. The recent form of Cole Palmer and Nico Jackson for Chelsea might suggest that even Todd Boehly could be dissuaded from bidding on Toney. Like any infant, one could waggle a set of housekeys in front of the American to distract him. “Look, Toddy! Look at the shiny Palmer! He scored! [imagine the sound of keys clinking…].” If we can keep him distracted long enough, we can at least consider prising Toney away for something less than £100m.
Now, the bad news. Toney, of course, hasn’t played a minute of competitive football since 6 May 2023, meaning that he’s missed 15 matches. What kind of shape would he be in when his ban ends on or around 17 January 2024? Then again, is that bad news? We could very easily make the claim to Brentford that a player so far from match fitness isn’t worth nearly what they value him at.
Thomas Frank suggested that £100m would be a fair fee, given what’s been spent by various clubs on players who play further from goal than Toney [cough]. He has a point; Prem-worthy goal-scorers usually command a pretty penny. The question then comes down to Toney’s value. Yes, he’s shown that he can find the back of the net consistently, but can he do so when it really matters? Short answer: yes. Longer ansers: he’s no flat-track bully. During the 2022-23 season, before his ban, he came up with two assists in a 4-0 drubbing of Man U, a goal away to Newcastle (back when that meant something…), a brace at home against Brighton, another brace at the Etihad (!), a point-earning goal away against the Arsenal, and another goal at home against Newcastle. That’s a decent record for a smaller side againt the bigger ones.
Having said all that, we keep coming back to the particulars. Toney hasn’t played a competitive minute since 6 May 2003. He won’t playe a competitive minute until late January 2024. That’s eight months, give or take. On one hand, that undercuts Frank’s £100m valuation. On the other, that undercuts our ambition. How long would it take for Toney to approach or at least approximate the levels he’d reached before his ban?
‘Twixt the two, the two clubs could find some kind of accommodation. Would £60m and Nketiah—to name just one makeweight—turn Brentford’s head? Nketiah’s no slouch, but he’s clearly not up to the fogging standards. Brentford are scoring around 1.58 goals per game this season, roughly the same as last, suggesting that they’ve transitioned away from Toney’s tally. Such a swap could be a match made in heaven—we get a Prem-proven scorer who needs time to re-acclimate; Brentford get a striker determined to prove that he’s Prem-proven…
As long as we can keep Chelsea out of the equation, this is one rumour that has some legs. A lot can happen between now and the closing of the January window.
What say you? How much should Arsenal pony up to sign Toney? Share your two cents in the comments-section below…