This is the transfer silly season. Fans demand action, players, agents and clubs are constantly on the phone, talking, discussing and deliberating, and as Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger showed this weekend, they even make trips abroad.
The French boss was snapped at Nice international airport on Sunday, sporting a large shopping bag. On one hand, he could have been there on a quick break, looking to take in some sun before the transfer madness kicks in. Yet, it would be strange if he was to take Ivan Gazidis on his mini-break.
Making things interesting is how transport works in the south of France. You can’t fly directly to Monte Carlo, you must arrive in Nice, then if you are Radamel Falcao, get a helicopter to Monaco. Wenger is never that lavish, but it does mean he could have been on the Cote d’Azur to speak to either of the two clubs in that area.
Linked with another move for French starlet, Kylian Mbappé, the view from the Monegasque side is that they won’t sell the 18-year-old this summer. The striker is happy to stay, he can remain in Leonardo Jardim’s team, play in the 4-4-2 formation he prefers and also pick up another six games of experience in the UEFA Champions League. He’s not going to be guaranteed that anywhere else.
Despite bids of upwards of €130million, unless the player drastically changes his mind and someone makes a ridiculous offer, the Champions will still have their crown jewel come the start of the new Ligue 1 campaign.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other talented players that Arsenal could both target, and have a chance of landing during the window.
Djibril Sidibé – Right-Back
Interest in Héctor Bellerín won’t go away, with Spanish newspaper Sport on Monday claiming that Manchester City can’t afford the €50million needed to land the right-back. It helps that they always favour Barcelona and it suggests that Ernesto Valverde would be able to land his defensive target.
Sidibé as a player is a lot like Marmite. You either like him or you hate him, and a lot of that is regarding how you use the France international.
In regular league play, the 24-year-old is a competent defender, but as with Monaco, when it came to the latter stages of the Champions League, he was found out. Amazingly gifted going forward, he can add to the attack and give you a valid option in the final third.
It’s just when he gets turned and play facing his own goal, the former Lille player can get quite sloppy.
According to L’Equipe, Arsenal, along with Manchester City and Spurs have registered interest in the defender. Sources close to the player suggested that possible departures from Monaco “worries him a bit,” according to the same source and “he continues to dream” about the Premier League.
Playing in a back four, Sidibé would become a weak-link, but in Wenger’s new 3-4-3, with protection behind him and space to attack, he could be the perfect fit.
Jean Michaël Seri – Central Midfield
Arsenal will also regret not picking up N’Golo Kanté from Caen or Leicester when they had the chance. However, in Jean Michaël Seri they have a chance to sign someone similar, but a midfielder with the skillset to make a huge difference at both ends of the pitch.
The Gunners have Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka, but separately, or together, they don’t have the all-round game to push the attack from the centre of the pitch as well as fight and battle with the opposition.
Ivorian midfielder Seri is a battler and a warrior, but he has excellent vision and the quality to pick out passes both over the top and out wide. Only Paris Saint-Germain duo Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta make more passes per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 than the Nice man, fitting in perfectly to Wenger’s possession based philosophy.
Seri’s excellent foot-work and control of the ball in tight areas helps him get out of trouble, and then he gets his head up and finds a team-mate.
In a four-man midfield, you need players in the middle who can cover ground quickly and can do multiple jobs but by making it look easy. Kante does it for Chelsea and Seri, for between €20-25million, could do it for Arsenal.
The only problem is that PSG and Barcelona are also interested and with Seri a fan of the Catalan side, it’s a hard sell, but if either fail to push a transfer, Arsenal need to be ready to pounce.
Thomas Lemar – Left Midfield
Also, linked with moves to Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur, Thomas Lemar is one of the unsung heroes in Monaco’s title campaign this season. L’Equipe suggested that he favours a move to the Emirates this week.
The lack of Champions League football doesn’t seem to be an issue for the former Caen man, knowing that he could develop under Wenger’s guidance.
However, after the Monegasque side rejected a €25million bid from Atletico Madrid last summer, it will take a lot more than that amount that was suggested by the English press
What is intriguing is where Lemar would play in the current Gunners’ side. He has played on the left of Monaco’s 4-4-2 midfield under Jardim, showing off his wonderful left-foot and intelligence.
Lemar’s crosses into the box, understanding with Benjamin Mendy and timing of his runs were key in his team’s success, but there is no obvious position in the Arsenal formation.
You wouldn’t want to play him as the left wing-back, as he would be wasted tracking back and he’s not going to play on the left of the attack in the same way that Alexis Sánchez finished the campaign.
The 21-year-old could play in a more natural three-man attack, provide balls from wide and look to get in at the back post. Sense would advise Lemar to stay at Monaco and develop as one of the experience title winning side, but if Wenger has a plan for the France international, he has the technical ability to improve the Arsenal attack.