The name of Arsenal is never far away from the transfer rumours section of the media—especially as summer fast approaches—and the Gunners have been linked with a huge name in recent days; that of Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney.
Rooney's future was already coming under the spotlight of speculation in recent weeks, and that has now intensified with the news that United boss Alex Ferguson is retiring and David Moyes being chosen as his successor. This has led some in the media to suggest that Rooney is on his way out—and Arsenal are keen suitors (via Wayne Veysey of Goal.com).
The forward has a big name and a big price tag, but is Arsenal the right destination for him? The Gunners must spend to reinforce their squad this summer, but is Rooney the right player for them?
Here are the tactical, transfer and general make-or-break aspects of this particular rumour.
Arsenal fans have had to endure summer after summer of big-name players leaving the Emirates for pastures new and for pastures significantly more trophy-laden too.
Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, Samir Nasri, Kolo Toure, Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy...the list goes on and on of players who have gone on to enjoy success away from the Emirates, often with big rivals of Arsenal. The most recent is of course Robin van Persie.
The Dutchman made a big-money move to Manchester United in the summer of 2012, much to the chagrin of Arsenal fans, and he will have completed his first season by winning the Premier League title and top-scoring to boot.
Bringing in Wayne Rooney from United would send the message out to fans and players alike that the movement was not all one-way traffic out of the Emirates, and that Arsenal were capable of buying their own greats as well as building them.
Arsenal have only paid over the £15 million mark for players on a small handful of occasions, depending on which source you adhere to for valuations. Last summer they signed Santi Cazorla for almost £17 million from Malaga, while Jose Antonio Reyes also could have cost up to a similar amount.
What is almost certain, though, is that a bid for Wayne Rooney would be on a scale not seen before at the Emirates, certainly breaking their transfer record and probably doing so by some considerable distance. The Goal.com report suggests that around £25 million will be required for Manchester United to part company with Rooney.
While Arsene Wenger is thought to have plenty of money to spend this summer, he has always been at pains to secure quality along with value for money. Rooney would represent a huge layout on one player, and he is already 27 years of age, which is significantly above the average age of under 24 years of the biggest transfer deals done by the Arsenal manager.
Rooney is expensive, and Rooney will turn 28 just a couple of months into the forthcoming 2013-14 season—but Rooney also brings a proven history of turning in quality performances for club and country.
Even as a teenager, there was a reason that United were willing to part with £30 million to secure his long-term service.
At his best, Rooney has tremendous vision and execution of a range of passes on the ball, he can beat defenders with strength and subtle touches of the ball, his movement is good in the final third, and he certainly knows where the goal is.
He can also be counted upon to put in a real shift and work hard for the team cause in a variety of positions.
The United No. 10 has scored more than 150 Premier League goals, has played over 70 times in the Champions League to date and has 35 goals in 81 caps for England—quite some pedigree for a player who is widely considered to be available in the forthcoming transfer window. There won't be many going cheaper who can offer the history of proven success that Rooney can.
Let's move onto the tactical aspect of the deal.
For most of the current campaign, Rooney has operated in a withdrawn forward role, playing off the front man and even as a more-or-less orthodox central midfielder, as Ferguson sought to balance the team with Rooney's creative abilities and the availability of other attackers and midfielders.
His main role has been as the No. 10 player, the central attacking forward with licence to roam during attacks, and dropping deeper into an additional support midfield role in transition play and when defending.
For Arsenal, this is arguably the area in which they are most stacked with options within the entire first-team squad.
Santi Cazorla has proven an excellent addition and plays in that role more often than not, while Jack Wilshere, when not injured, also thrives in the role. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby and the lesser-spotted Andrei Arshavin can also all feature in that role to one extent or another.
That list of players spans the entire breadth of Arsenal's squad depth of course, so not all would lose out in the same way, but there can be no doubt that if Rooney was deployed in this role then there would need to be a definite shuffling about of Wenger's preferred starting XI.
The more obvious choice would be to play Rooney as an out-and-out forward—as a No. 9 striker.
Olivier Giroud has been handed this responsibility for much of the season, with the likes of Gervinho, Podolski and Theo Walcott coming into the side in the same position when required.
Wayne Rooney is arguably better than all of them in this role and certainly has a better track record over time, though of course he plays it in his own style, much different to a Giroud or a Walcott.
Starting Rooney through the middle up top is perhaps the most appealing idea to Wenger, as he would be guaranteed goals—Rooney played much higher during 2011-12 and netted 27 league strikes—as well as work-rate. He knows that Rooney drifts wide and deep, allowing the likes of Walcott to surge into spaces from wide areas, and it would let Santi Cazorla continue in the No. 10 role behind the attack.
Arsenal and Manchester United have forged an especially strong rivalry during this Premier League era; it started before Rooney's arrival at Old Trafford, but it certainly hasn't gotten any less intense since then, which is in part why the van Persie departure to the Red Devils was so unpalatable to Gunners fans.
Neither club would sell to the other if they had any choice, but a player's opinion and requirements have also to be met in deals these days.
Would United want to sell Rooney to Arsenal? Certainly not.
Would Rooney himself think the swap would do him good? It's unclear at present and depends in part on what other options he thinks he has. Any potential deal would certainly come under a great deal of scrutiny from the watching public and media, and with the high fees involved, Arsenal would have to be completely assured of the forward's continued ability to have a massive impact.
United fans have also idolised Rooney for a number of seasons, and there are those who feel he should be the established first choice in attack, not forced out of the club.
It's a tricky deal to imagine happening, but as RVP proved last summer, it's not an impossible one.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that Rooney needs a new challenge.
He has been substituted, or starting on the bench, far too often in recent months for a player of his quality and importance, and he no longer appears to be the obvious choice to make things happen for United when they are struggling to break down the opposition.
Whether a new United manager—but an old boss for Rooney himself—will turn out to be a positive or a negative influence is yet to be revealed, and indeed any transfer may materialise before we have a real chance to find out.
Either way, the numbers make grim reading for Rooney at Old Trafford lately, as he has played the full 90 minutes in Premier League matches just three times since mid-February. A move at this stage in his career, which should be the peak years of his performance, might be what is needed to reinvigorate his abilities and drive, which have for so long marked him out as a top player in the league.
There is one final complication for Arsenal to bear in mind, which is of course the spending power of rival clubs who might see Rooney as a transfer target.
Within the Premier League, should Rooney choose to remain in England, only Manchester City and Chelsea would be able to match both the transfer fee and his wages, which are reported at around £200,000 per week. Chelsea and Man City will also both be in the Champions League next season, which Arsenal have yet to guarantee themselves, and the blues have a Europa League cup final to look forward to as well—while City were defeated in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Arsenal failed to make any kind of impact in the cups this season and have gone eight long years without a trophy.
Outside of the Premier League, Monaco, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and the likes are all likely to splash out big money on new signings, and Rooney would be something of a marquee capture for all of them.
Arsenal will certainly have their work cut out if they are to convince Rooney both on a sporting and on a financial side of things that his future would be best served by moving to the Emirates, but perhaps it is not quite as far-fetched an idea as it might once have seemed.