The margins for error at Arsenal in the coming year are so fine that a poor performance in the transfer window’s summer months could have a lasting effect on their season as a whole.
And with the club being hurt by a reportedly meagre transfer budget after failing to reach the Champions League, returning to the competition will likely be top of their priorities for the forthcoming campaign.
Links have placed Arsenal in pole position to secure the signing of Saint-Etienne youngster William Saliba as they look to bridge the gap between themselves and the top four – but in being bold by splashing around £25m on the 18-year-old, the risks involved suggest either The Gunners are confident the wonderkid can help them do that, or are otherwise downright crazy.
There are far more cons than pros when it comes to signing Saliba – however good he is.
Arsenal do not have the luxury of being able to take chances – success is paramount now. Taking gambles should have been last year’s strategy, and while that they may come good in the shape of Matteo Guendouzi, their latest attempted foray into the French market to tighten the error-strewn defence must be successful beyond doubt come May.
But that relies on Saliba staking a claim to being Arsenal’s No1 defender, whilst producing the results required to get The Gunners back in the Champions League.
And for the price his current club have quoted for him (and a reported loan back to Saint-Etienne), it may not be a worthwhile sum to accept with other targets on the club’s radar and the absence of financial legroom in a time of urgent improvement.
Finding a defender is surely Arsenal’s top task this summer, and going for a more known quantity could shore up their backline without either hurting the purse strings or relying on unearthing a superstar.
In other words, Unai Emery is better off spending more on someone he knows would deliver, rather than outlay over half his supposed allowance on a prospect for the future that if he doesn’t succeed next year, will not be reaping personal rewards from.
The likes of Brighton’s Lewis Dunk have been one of those quietly mooted as Arsenal’s potential defensive saviour, and even if he were to command a higher fee from The Seagulls, a proven Premier League centre-back of Dunk’s stature would instantly create a selection headache ahead of the new season – without any questions over ability.
Saliba may be one for the future but Emery’s time has run out. He must produce a top-four team this year to get the club moving forward – so as exciting as the teenager may be, the manager should turn him down in favour of a quick fix.