Arsenal: Manchester United ahead in Morata race; Englishman considering exit, Mkhitaryan waits
As the European Championships enter sharp focus, the transfer window has taken a back seat in the world of football. However, don’t think scouts aren’t tracking talents, clubs won’t be plotting moves and players haven’t taken their eyes off potential changes in their careers. Arsenal certainly won’t as their striker hunt rolls on.
The Jamie Vardy saga will continue until a concrete decision is made by the Leicester striker and his manager at the Foxes says it is, “his call”. A £20 million move is still a possibility and with Leicester making bids for Sporting Lisbon’s Islam Slimani and Watford’s Troy Deeney, are they planning ahead for Vardy’s departure? It may not be that logical as to why they’re on the look for a forward without selling any of theirs yet, but the situation of their top scorer and spearhead is so far; at least, still undecided.
Whilst Arsenal may hope they can still land the fantastic fox, they seem to be arranging alternatives in preparation for his announced stay in Leicester. Leicester themselves have recently made an approach for Algerian international Islam Slimani, but now his name is linked to the Gunners.
It is rumoured the Sporting front-man has a £23.5 million buy-out clause and Arsene Wenger is an admirer of his after his impressive end to the season, seeing Lisbon miss out on the league title on the last day to Benfica. 31 goals in 44 games is a terrific return in any league, but particularly in a country where Porto and Benfica have dominated for so long.
Quick, strong and with an eye for goal, he would boost their options up front. However, there is a risk associated with investing in a striker who isn’t proven in top European competition nor the Premier League. Slimani played seven Europa League games last campaign, only scoring once. His goal tally betters that of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, but the comparison between the Portuguese top flight and the Premier League in terms of quality and intensity is left to be questioned.
He is not of the calibre that fans now demand at Arsenal either. To seriously improve The Gunners’ credentials, they need a forward who is a known success in England or a player at the level of the likes of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Karim Benzema or even Alvaro Morata, all of whom they have been linked with over this window.
As for Morata, reports suggest that he favours a switch to Chelsea or Manchester United. The Spanish striker isn’t the most prolific out there, but with goals in a Champions League and Coppa Italia final, he is attracting big clubs due to his penchant for delivering on big stages. It would represent a future investment for Arsenal, one which could suit Arsenal and develop a deadly front-line alongside Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez.
Yet, the lure of José Mourinho at Manchester United could prove an overwhelming factor, whilst Chelsea boast a strong Spanish contingent which may sway Morata that way also. PSG are another team lurking around his services, but Arsenal are interested, and again, will look to him if a Vardy move falls through.
Incomings will not be the only thing on Arsenal’s mind during the Euros though as some may look to resurrect their fortunes away from North London. Theo Walcott is one who has had a difficult time with the Gunners, and at the tail end of last season saw, his form skydive to a new low.
Walcott ended the 2014/15 season on fire with a hat-trick against West Brom, and topped off with the opener in their FA Cup final triumph over Aston Villa. He then excelled in Arsenal’s highlight victories over Manchester United and City at home and was in the process of cementing a spot in the side, but the turn of the year saw the turn in outcomes for Walcott. Fans got on his back and he ended the campaign as a bench player, coming on to make an impact and inevitably missed out on a spot in the England Euro 2016 squad.
Liverpool are rumoured to be enquiring to his availability as Jurgen Klopp hopes to add pace to his side’s armoury. Walcott was linked with Liverpool last summer, at the same time as Raheem Sterling was in the midst of his long-running exit from Anfield. Unlike the Jamaican-born winger, Walcott remained on that occasion, but now may be thinking about starting again and finally fulfilling the levels thought of him as teenage break-through from Southampton.
Despite this, Wenger has insisted Walcott has a role in the team next season as a winger and seems keen to keep him on. Nevertheless, the realisation of falling behind in the pecking order for England and the emergence of Alex Iwobi at Arsenal may make Walcott question his stability in the first-team picture.
It seems to me that Walcott needs a fresh challenge and furthermore, he has had so much turbulence at Arsenal with injuries, squad departures and consistency. After all, he still has not established whether he is a striker or a right midfielder after 11 years with Arsenal. A move up north to Liverpool could suit him with their high-pressing, dynamic game alongside Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Phillipe Coutinho.
If a deal to sell Walcott is made, it makes way for the arrival of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. It is known that the Armenian has one year left on his contract in Germany and is in ‘no rush’ to sign a new one, clearly stating an invitation to any buyers. Now, Dortmund’s sporting director has claimed they will be deciding what the future holds for Mkhitaryan “this week”. If a new deal is reached, he is insisting on a release clause being part of it, again a temptation for any club willing to move in for the Dortmund playmaker as his agent adds a future away from Germany’s yellow wall is possible.
The attraction of Champions League football, world class talent around him, and the need for success again could draw Mkhitaryan to North London.
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