Though optimism is always in the pre-season air at the Emirates, Arsenal fans have more cause than ever to believe ahead of the upcoming campaign.
With manager Arsene Wenger landing some world-class assets in the summer transfer window, the Gunners now have the look of a side destined for domestic greatness. But the Frenchman may still have a few tricks up his sleeve.
Here, we look at two stars linked with a move to north London and assess exactly what they could bring to the fold.
Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa has appeared in the Arsenal rumour mill once again, with a possible switch back to the Premier League on the cards.
The Belgian defender is reportedly on the way out of the Emirates, and Wenger himself revealed that he’d seek a replacement for his captain should he depart, as per Sky Sports: "It could happen. Yes, it's a possibility that he goes and if he goes we have to replace him because he is an important player in our squad.”
The versatile Arbeloa, then, appears an ideal replacement for Vermaelen on paper, but the reality is a little different.
Is Alvara Arbeloa a worthy replacement for Thomas Vermaelen?
While the 31-year-old occasionally manages to earn a place in the Real Madrid side, the way that he neglects defensive responsibilities ahead of getting forward isn’t something that Arsenal would want to buy into.
As WhoScored.com’s statistics reveal, Arbeloa made just 18 La Liga appearances in 2013/14, picking up seven yellow cards in that time.
Those cards weren’t because the Spaniard is such a tenacious tackler that his play warrants a booking or two but because the number of times that he was caught out of position forced him to take drastic action.
In that respect, he’s very similar to Liverpool’s Glen Johnson, who has more than enough ability in attack only to horribly let that down with an inept defensive style.
The fact that Arbeloa is a small fish in an unbelievably big pond with Real Madrid is what sees him get away with it, but he’d have far more responsibility to put together professional performances at Arsenal.
The Gunners need defenders whom they can rely on—the kind who kept Vermaelen himself out of the team last season. Journalist Rafael Hernandez believes that they should steer clear of Arbeloa with that in mind:
Arbeloa's absolutely awful on and off pitch, could make André Santos look good, Arsenal should stay away.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) August 1, 2014
Replacing a player of Vermaelen’s calibre takes more than a panic buy, and Wenger should do some shopping around to find the right man before putting an offer on the table.
A player who Wenger has done his homework on, though, is Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, who has been a target of the Frenchman for some time.
As Pete O’Rourke of Sky Sports revealed, Arsenal had a €30 million bid rejected for the midfielder recently, with the Portuguese club not agreeing with the amount on the table:
Reports in Portugal claim Sporting Lisbon have rejected a €30million bid from Arsenal for William Carvalho. #AFC— Pete O'Rourke (@SkySportsPeteO) July 20, 2014
However, Metro reports that the two clubs are now coming closer to agreeing a fee for Carvalho, with Sporting ready to let their star man go for an amount less than his £37 million buyout clause.
The report comes after Irish Examiner sports editor Tony Leen revealed that Lisbon are starting to give way on their quest to hold out for the release-clause fee, but there’s still work to do for Wenger:
Inside word is that the gap between Sporting & Arsenal is narrowing. Whether Arsene will go the extra mile....Your guess is as good as mine!— Tony Leen (@tonyleen) August 1, 2014
Paying out a little extra for Carvalho wouldn’t be the worst bit of business that the Arsenal boss has ever done, though, as the 22-year-old has all the makings of a future star.
His sublime tackling and distribution ability combined with an unstoppable engine makes Carvalho one of Europe’s brightest defensive midfielders, and he’d be a perfect replacement for the aging Mikel Arteta in the middle.
While parting with about £30 million for a player screams lunacy, class comes at a price. If Arsenal want to shore up their back line next season, then Carvalho is the way to go.
If this transfer window has taught us anything, though, it’s that Wenger is willing to splash the cash when the right player comes around.
Carvalho is exactly that, and though it was previously unlike Wenger to break the bank, he could be about to do it again.