Tammy Abraham would not be the most exciting Arsenal signing, but he’s exactly where they’re at…
This was always going to be a summer of great change for Arsenal; it had to be. They have missed out on European football for the first time in 25 years, fans are vexed by the ownership and general disengagement is perhaps at an all-time high. Those fans need to cling to the hope that Mikel Arteta’s ‘project’ can come to fruition.
By all accounts, Arteta and technical director Edu are very busy. They’ve spread the transfer net far and wide with rumours ranging from the spurious to the mundane. But that’s always been the case and it’s never clear whether such rumours have been plucked from thin air or have some basis in reality. What is enlightening – and a symptom of how far they’ve fallen – is the level of gossip that now feels bogus. We’re not balking at Kylian Mbappe to Arsenal, but Manuel Locatelli.
The truth is that Arsenal must accept mundanity for the foreseeable.
And it’s quite possible they have. Players like Houssem Aouar and Renato Sanches are almost certainly out of Arsenal’s dwindled reach, but such rumours are often fabricated and maybe it’s the media that needs to alter their view of which band of players are being targeted, rather than the club. Even confirmation of a bid for Locatelli from the player’s agent must be taken with a sprinkle of salt – it’s in his best interest to propagate such tittle-tattle to wrangle improved contracts elsewhere. Whether it’s for clicks, bonuses or pure entertainment for those fans losing their minds on social media, the truth in such cases is hidden by layers of fiction to one end or another.
The rumours that feel real, to those without a warped view of Arsenal’s current standing, are potential moves for Ben White and Tammy Abraham.
White is perhaps at the top end of the group of players Arsenal can a) afford and b) attract to the club. Some have said the Brighton centre-back should be looking at bigger and better things, but they feel like a decent match. He would be assured of a starting spot and would be playing for a club fighting for European football.
Abraham is perhaps deemed a less attractive proposition, but really shouldn’t be. He’s currently not good enough for a team challenging for the title – as Chelsea will hope to be this season – but is absolutely capable of scoring 15-20 Premier League goals for a team in that next bracket.
Aston Villa and West Ham’s interest will be met with nods of approval, certainly by those without affiliation, but also by the majority of fans of those clubs; he’s a good striker. But Arsenal’s reported interest will foster eye-rolls from their fans, who will fear the jibes from other members of the now antiquated ‘Big Six’, who will use it as further evidence to refute the bigness of a former rival.
But they’ve just got to accept where they are. Arsenal don’t have the means or stature to attract the kind of players they did ten, five, or even one year ago – the Thomas Partey deal would not be happening this summer. They have to be smarter and they have to take chances, as they have done with Albert Sambi Lokonga – an exciting, unproven young talent. There will be lots of players leaving and therefore lots of players coming in; some will be hits, others won’t. If the prices are not extortionate, the club can afford the odd dud.
The Emirates turned stale last season with big-name players on big contracts underperforming. All of the vitality came from young players either brought in or brought up with something to prove. Abraham may not be a top-four striker, but Arsenal are not a top-four team. But he also could be a top-four striker and that’s where Arsenal are at right now – shopping in TK Maxx for knock-offs they cannot truly judge until they get them home.