This time last week, with Xhaka in the bag and Vardy’s release clause activated, there was an unusual sense of optimism about Arsenal’s summer transfer business.
In the intervening seven days, that optimism has largely evaporated, at least according to social media. The implication is that the player wants more time to decide, and that both clubs are waiting to see what happens.
Inevitably, in the absence of the potential Vardy transfer meeting deadlines guessed at by journalists, the vacuum of news has been gleefully filled by anyone with a desire to sell stories. Regardless of whether or not there is a story to sell.
This often non-committal and seemingly baseless speculation has led to fans of both teams experiencing something of an emotional roller coaster, with many hungrily devouring anything that even vaguely resembles an update.
Every comment from every quarter (particularly that old favoured ‘unnamed source’) has been analysed, interpreted and the basis for entire narratives. Conspiracy-theory-esque suggestions have twisted and turned and gone full circle without the existence of any information to support them.
What the evolution of the unofficial stories (in the absence of any factual evolution) shows us, is that the prospect of Arsenal buying an even vaguely proven striker is an absolutely huge one for fans and news outlets alike. This reflects both the size of Arsenal’s global fanbase and the oft demonstrated size of the internet presence of that fanbase. But crucially, it also reflects the almost universal recognition of the potential impact of the arrival of a quality front man.
Despite the underrated impact of Giroud, the post-injury/pre-injury efforts of Welbeck, and the presence of some front-men of promise in the youth ranks, it is self-evident that a genuine goalscoring threat with mobility and determination could make a bigger difference to the team than anyone bar those likely to be out of the price range of even Arsenal’s new-found financial clout.
With the team having one of its worst scoring seasons under Wenger, and all our current striking options prone to extended barren spells, it’s not exactly rocket science; and given previous pursuits of Higuain, Suarez and Benzema, it’s pretty clear that Le Boss knows it too.
This particular story has also obviously been magnified by Vardy’s incredible personal journey and that of his team, his nationality and, in all honesty, the lack of any other high-profile transfer news.
This in itself reflects one of the curious elements of this on/off/who knows transfer story. Experience has taught us all that even when both clubs, the player and the agent are all pulling in the same direction, transfers can often take several days, if not weeks.
Equally, we all know that during international tournaments, transfers of selected players only tend to get concluded once the player in question’s team is eliminated. There are very occasional exceptions, in cases of competing suitors, or if it is a minor footballing nation involved.
And yet the illusion of urgency (and the consequences of a lack of urgent conclusion) has been created on the basis of a deadline set by a journalist, albeit a comparatively reputable one.
Perhaps the majority of speculation has a basis and Vardy IS undecided and leaning towards staying in the East Midlands. Perhaps Arsenal have, behind the scenes, already moved on to other targets. Perhaps the club finds itself in a holding pattern due to the whims of a player who, in usual circumstances, would expected to follow Danny Mills’ advice and be willing to walk down the M1 to North London.
But it’s equally possible that the transfer has already been concluded the behind the scenes and the announcement is being delayed for one of any number of possible plausible reasons. Or things remain undecided, but the club knew he would take the Euro’s to accept or decline their offer.
One thing is certain. Whatever information there is floating about hasn’t come from any Arsenal sources. People connected to the club who leak info very quickly find themselves out of the loop. So even if we take the speculation about Vardy’s mindset as gospel, we can be confident that no-one knows what Arsenal’s stance is.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that news doesn’t find its way into the public domain via other sources. But invariably the limit of that leaked information is a player’s interest or lack of it, and the club scouting a player or negotiating a contract or a fee. In this case we know a bid has been made, and we know they player has a degree of interest and discussed terms. So we have already been at the limit of normal newspaper/internet revelations for a week.
Until player or club make a statement, or there is evidence of a completed medical, there is literally nothing else to discover about this story that has any credibility. Either a conclusion has been reached and silence is being deliberately maintained by all parties, or no conclusion has been reached and everyone is waiting on the player, and only those directly involved and extremely competent mind readers are in a position to comment further.
Indeed, though much derided, David James pretty much hit the nail on the head:
David James, Talksport, on Vardy to Arsenal: “It’s either gonna happen or it’s not, depending on whether there’s any truth in the rumour”
— Jim Munro (@JimMunro) June 7, 2016
Even looking ahead to other significantly rumoured transfers, German accounting laws mean Ricardo Rodriguez can’t happen for at least another fortnight, and Henrik Mkhitaryan won’t be going anywhere until Dortmund get some clarity on the futures of Aubameyang and Reus, having already lost Hummels and Gundogan this summer.
And frankly, unless their hand is forced by other interest, it is unlikely Arsenal are going to be keen to push through other transfers until they have further clarity regarding their incoming striker options. Vardy joining will likely leave the club with more money to spend on other positions, and may even influence who they pursue in those roles. If Vardy arrives, it might make sense to pursue Mahrez ahead of Mkhitaryan given their incredible on pitch chemistry.
Equally, if Vardy stays put, it’s likely Arsenal will have to spend a larger chunk of their transfer kitty on one of their other preferred striking options.
Accordingly, as fans, by far the safest option for our collective and individual sanity, is to avoid indulging in too much of the transfer speculation drug until some of the big boys depart the European Championships and Copa America. Until that point, it is very unlikely the transfer market spinning wheel will creak into anything beyond first gear, with the odd minor signing offering an occasionally punctuation in the paragraphs of International Tournament Football. I’m sure July and August will more than make up for it, as is usually the case in tournament summers.
The key thing for Gooners to remember is that the club are clearly trying to make the right moves as far as the squad is concerned, and that we already have one shiny new toy we can get accustomed to as the tournament progresses. And we can all enjoy the tabloids linking us to every lesser known player who has a decent game between now and mid-July.