Today, June 10, marks the official opening of the summer transfer window. Arsenal fans eagerly await their club’s next move.
For now, Arsenal’s focus is on the targets at positions that are considered their priorities: a new centre-forward and central midfielder, namely Gabriel Jesus and Youri Tielemans respectively.
In both cases, the next few weeks are expected to be telling.
The end of the post-season international fixtures and the formal start of the window will see a natural acceleration in transfer activity.
Recent weeks have provided an opportunity for players and agents to assess their options. By the end of their club season, many footballers have an inkling about where their future may lie — frequently, though, this changes as new bidders emerge and older interest fades.
In the case of Tielemans, Arsenal still consider themselves to be in a strong position.
With just a year remaining on his Leicester City contract, the increasing expectation around his current club is that the 25-year-old Belgium international will leave in this window — and to date, Arsenal have presented the player with the most compelling proposition. Tielemans, like Arsenal, had hoped to play Champions League football next season, but no longer considers that a necessity.
On Wednesday, Tielemans started Belgium’s 6-1 demolition of Poland, playing as a left-sided central midfielder — one of the primary roles Arsenal envisage him operating in if he joins them.
As was the case in their pursuit of his countryman Albert Sambi Lokonga last summer, Arsenal have also used their close ties with the Belgium international set-up to carry out extensive background checks on the player.
The situation with Jesus appears a little more complex.
As with Tielemans, discussions between technical director Edu and the Manchester City forward’s camp have been ongoing for months.
Arsenal’s failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League, however, could have ramifications for this deal. There have since been expressions of interest in Jesus from elsewhere, including within the Premier Leaguewith Chelsea staying abreast of developments. If a serious competitor were to emerge within the next fortnight, Arsenal would have a fight on their hands.
Arsenal remain confident they can land their two top targets but, naturally, have to also consider alternatives.
The Athletic reported in May on the shortlist of strikers being looked at besides Jesus.
Several of these hypothetical transfers would be extremely difficult to pull off right now. Deals for Lautaro Martinez and Tammy Abraham look particularly challenging this summer. In some respects, a move for Sassuolo’s Gianluca Scamacca is one of the more feasible options.
The perception with many Italian players is that they are reluctant to move abroad. In the case of Scamacca, such fears are misplaced — at age 16, he left Roma’s academy to join PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
Scamacca has been followed closely by Inter Milan, but outside of that there are not many clubs in Italy with the financial clout to satisfy Sassuolo’s demands.
Ordinarily, an Italian player might be wary of leaving Series A in a World Cup year, but Italy’s failure to qualify for Qatar assuages any concerns there. Now 23, Scamacca is open to playing beyond his homeland’s borders again.
Scamacca would be attainable within Arsenal’s budget. The question is, how much do they want him? Arsenal’s coaching staff are understood to hold some reservations about a player who is stylistically very different from their primary target. With an announcement about a new contract for Eddie Nketiah now close, they are most likely only looking for one new centre-forward this summer. With Jesus their No 1 target, any move for Scamacca is effectively on the back-burner — and meanwhile, other clubs have made their interest in him known.
In England, both Newcastle and West Ham are monitoring the situation. The front-runners at this stage are arguably Paris Saint-Germain, who have already held exploratory talks with Sassuolo.
Timing could also be crucial — Sassuolo have several other saleable assets in their squad, such as winger Domenico Berardi, midfielder Hamed Traore and forward Giacomo Raspadori. If one or more of those were to move on, they could decide to keep Scamacca.
These uncertainties illustrate the vagaries of the transfer window. Interest in targets can wax or wane in a matter of weeks.
It is difficult to say definitively that any given deal will not happen during the course of a window: things can change and develop rapidly — the goalposts, to borrow some football terminology, can move.
As things stand, however, the chances of Serge Gnabry rejoining Arsenal this summer are remote.
The Germany international’s contractual situation at Bayern Munich has sparked discussion of whether he might be about to return to the Emirates Stadium. Gnabry’s existing deal expires at the end of next season, and talks over a new one have reached an impasse.
With the serial German champions seeking to revamp their front line, which includes pursuing Liverpool‘s Sadio Maneit has been suggested Arsenal could capitalize on the situation and reacquire a player they sold to Werder Bremen six years ago.
Such a transfer appears highly unlikely, though.
In the event of a departure from Bayern, the now 26-year-old Gnabry would have interest from a wide array of suitors — several of whom would offer the Champions League football Arsenal cannot next season and substantially greater earning potential.
For him to consider returning to his old stomping ground in north London, it would require a financial package that would stretch Arsenal’s remodeled wage structure.
For their part, Arsenal have not discussed Gnabry as an active target. The financial consideration here is significant: total expenditure in terms of transfer fee and salary to re-sign him would likely be well over £20 million per year.
It’s not just the resources, but the area in which the club would be allocating them.
Arsenal would be using a significant chunk of their annual budget on a player who could block the developments of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. Arsenal are significantly invested in their pair of young wingers and with new contracts on the agenda for one, if not both of them, that investment level is about to increase.
Gnabry is at a different stage in his career to those two. He turns 27 in just over a month, so his next contract would most take him beyond a winger’s prime years.
All that considered, it would be a huge surprise if Gnabry lined up for Arsenal next season.
Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko is another who has been publicly linked with the club.
It would not be the first time they have expressed an interest in the Ukraine international — as far back as 2014, then-manager Arsene Wenger showed interest in luring a 17-year-old Zinchenko away from Shakhtar Donetsk.
Arteta, who worked with the player when he was Pep Guardiola’s No 2 at City, is an admirer of the now 25-year-old’s technical ability and tactical intelligence.
However, Zinchenko is not a major priority for Arsenal as it stands. Given City’s financial position, it’s felt that acquiring him would necessitate the kind of fee and salary ordinarily associated with a regular starter. Unlike Jesus, it’s not certain Zinchenko would meet that criteria if he moved to the Emirates.
The situation would be different, of course, were Granit XhakaArsenal’s future in significant doubt. Zinchenko and Xhaka operate best in similar zones of the pitch, namely the left half-spaces.
The Switzerland international flirted with a move to Roma last summer, and there were suggestions the Serie A club’s interest might be revitalized this year. However, their impending signing of Nemanja Matica free agent after leaving Manchester United, would appear to close that door. As things stand, Xhaka would appear to be staying.
Arsenal’s first official signing of the window should still be Marquinhos, the 19-year-old Brazilian forward who has agreed to join from Sao Paulo.
Wolves believed the player had an agreement to move to Molineux on the expiration of his contract, but Arsenal appear to have jumped the queue by agreeing to pay Sao Paulo a fee in the region of £3 million.
While Wolves have been left deeply frustrated by this turn of events, there is an acceptance on all sides that in these situations, what the player wants invariably wins out. The degree to which this is contested will depend on the nature of Wolves’ agreement with Marquinhos — Arsenal will hope the matter does not become a costly legal one.
The signing of a promising young player is a welcome addition, but Arsenal’s focus remains on strengthening their first XI by landing their main targets.
With the window now open, those efforts should be about to intensify.
(Top photo: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)