Exclusive: Journalist James Benge Talks Arsenal Transfers & The Latest On Lacazette


Our writer Chris Baker had an exclusive chat with Standard Sport reporter James Benge about Arsenal’s summer 2016 transfer activity thus far and what to expect from the Gunners by the time the window closes.

The cries for a striker continue for Arsenal, they have been heavily linked with Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette in recent weeks, can you see a deal materialising?

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For now it seems rather difficult to call. In public Lyon are making clear that they have no desire to sell Lacazette, though it’s hard to escape the sense that that’s little more than a negotiating tactic designed to drive his price up.

However that could put Arsenal off because I’m really not convinced that they are 100 per cent sold on signing Lacazette – certainly not at the sort of inflated prices that this market demands for good, but not great, strikers. And I think that’s a perfectly reasonable judgement to make. In the desperation to sign a striker, any striker, it’s worth bearing in mind that Lacazette is largely unproven at the top level. His goal scoring record in Europe is mixed, there’s definitely good reason to wonder if he’s a flat-track bully.

And if you buy Lacazette now and someone better, say Antoine Griezmann, comes on the market you’re stuffed. So this might go down to the wire. But Arsenal’s options aside from Lacazette are really rather limited, they struck out on Jamie Vardy and the rest of the options open to them are even more expensive or, in Gonzalo Higuain’s case, gone. If I had to make a prediction I would lean towards Arsene Wenger gambling on him, but only just.

We’re midway through the summer transfer market now and Arsenal have arguably only signed one first team player (2 if you include Holding) how many would you expect to sign for Arsenal before deadline day?

Wenger said at the start of the summer he wanted to add three players to the first-team and that remains the case. I suspect Holding may have been one of those three until Mertesacker’s (and Gabriel’s) injury but now he acknowledges the need for experience. With Granit Xhaka having arrived (for a lot of money) that would leave two more to come.

Incomings are not the only thing needed at Arsenal, there are some players who need to be shifted on from the Gunners books, Yaya Sanogo for example, do you expect them to be with Arsenal come September?

Sanogo is available and a few youngsters could leave on loan but the clear out has already happened. Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky are gone, Wojciech Szczesny has returned to Roma on loan. Unless someone offers more than £25m for Theo Walcott (which I doubt) I can’t see any high-profile departures.

Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere all only have two years left on their contract, the former two were said to be happy at Arsenal but there is no sign of either signing anything imminently, would you expect all three players to stay with the Gunners for the foreseeable future?

Yes, especially Ozil and Wilshere. Sanchez has perhaps the most doubts, he was in a furious mood at the end of the season, but the market for him is rather limited, particularly now that Juventus have signed Higuain. There’s only so many super clubs out there.

All this might change if Arsenal start the season really poorly and/or miss out on the Champions League. Then Ozil and Sanchez may look at what alternatives are open to them, but I’m not sure there are that many.

 Arsenal are in desperate need for a centre back following Per Mertesacker’s and Gabriel’s injuries, they have signed Rob Holding, who has impressed on tour but will not be asked to hold the fort as of yet, do you think the Gunners will sign a defender before the window closes?

Well Arsene Wenger said they’d sign one by the Liverpool game! I would be very surprised indeed if he didn’t bring in someone with experience, Shkodran Mustafi is the name being linked the most and there’s definite interest there. Valencia would probably be willing to do business and the money is available for him.

Wenger again finds himself in the position where he’s looking at a wide range of very good centre backs without a single obvious candidate available. There’s been interest in Kostas Manolas and others but the prices are high for players who are mostly unproven at the highest level. John Stones might, for instance, be perfect for Arsenal but you’d basically be taking a £50m punt on potential.

If Arsenal were to fail in their pursuit for Lacazette, do you feel they would still sign a striker this summer?

Yes, although given he is roughly their fourth choice they’d really be scraping the barrel. If Lacazette doesn’t arrive they may look for a young or cheap option to back up Giroud, because there don’t seem to be many alternatives who represent a definitive upgrade on a very good striker.