Sadio Mane’s impending move to Bayern Munich could trigger a transfer merry-go-round which Arsenal could be involved in.
Bayern Munich are likely to need to sell to make room for the Liverpool winger – with both Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane linked with moves away.
On top of this, speculation is increasing that Raheem Sterling could be moving from Manchester City.
That would put 3 wingers of similar age and profile on the market. And Arsenal could do with an extra wide forward. So who should we go for?
Let’s start with the English lad, Sterling.
He has been linked with a move away from Manchester City for the last few summers.
Now 27-years-old, he has never started less Premier League games since his breakthrough season back in 2012 for Liverpool.
He still has a good 5 years left in his career. The question is does he want to spend that time as an increasingly bit-part player, or does he want to force a move to somewhere that he begins to play week in, week out once more?
On paper he looks just what Arsenal need.
Our left hand side is our weaker side and he would certainly improve it – adding goals, assists and a direct style of play.
There is a worry that he has already peaked.
2017/18: 18 league goals, 11 assists
2018/19: 17 & 10
2019/20: 20 & 1
2020/21: 10 & 7
2021/22: 13 & 5
Whilst he has still put-up decent numbers for a winger in the last two years, they are diminishing numbers. His game time has reduced by 20% since the 2019 season/
Whilst he is still just 27, he has just completed his 10th full season of Premier League football.
542 games for club and country, there are plenty of miles on the clock.
The question is what has Pep seen to reduce that game time? Those statistics that you only see in training – his top end pace, acceleration, sharpness.
If these are on the decline, then he is a player to avoid. The problem is we will not know if they are declining.
A player that relied so much on explosiveness and pace. Once it begins to go, he could be done (see Theo Walcott).
Someone will take a risk on Sterling this summer. I am just not sure whether it should be us.
The one that got away.
I have written the real story of Gnabry previously on the blog. It is well worth a red.
Just 6 months younger than Sterling, he has 50% less games in his career (277 v 542) – that highlights just how many miles Sterling has on his clock.
Gnabry’s talent was never in question when he was at Arsenal. He was earmarked for huge things.
Injury and a poor loan deal saw him seek a move back to Germany where Bayern Munich eventually got him in a cut price deal from Werder Bremen. It was a move that left a bitter taste in many peoples mouths.
When Gnabry left for first team football, it was clear he was not ready to be playing at Arsenal’s level – the fact it took 2 seasons and spells at Bremen and 1899 Hoffenheim before he made his Munich debut indicates this.
But he has flourished into the player we all hoped he would become.
There are a couple of worries about him though.
The move of Jadon Sancho to Manchester United has shown that the gap between the Premier League and Bundesliga is huge.
Whilst Bayern Munich are a force to be reckoned with on the world stage, there is not much else in behind.
That means Gnabry gets plenty of opportunities to play against what are frankly Championship level teams and stat pad.
Whilst his Bundesliga record is strong for Bayern – 46 goals in 122 games – his Champions League record is poor.
You take out the 2019/20 season where he scored 9 in 10 games, he has just 3 goals in 21.
In that 2019/20 season, he scored 4 of his goals in a single game against Spurs.
20 goals in 31 games for his country also looks a strong record, but he has never scored at an international tournament.
His international goals have come against Northern Ireland (4), San Marino (3), Estonia (2), Romania (2), Russia, Switzerland, Latvia Armenia and Iceland.
He has a single goal against the Netherlands in UEFA 2020 qualifying and scored against Argentina in a friendly.
His record very much feels like one of a “stat padder” and this makes you wonder if he is really what we need to take us to the next level?
I would also be concerned that he has played the majority of his career on the right hand side.
We have Bukayo Saka on the right and need to be investing in cover for him. Gnabry is not cover but competition.
It is the left hand side where we need to increase our quality.
A few people have put Gnabry left, Saka right, but the left is not a position Gnabry has played much in his career.
If we are investing £30million+, we should not be buying a square peg to put in a round hole.
Signing Gnabry would also lead Arsenal to get the “Pogba criticism” of selling him for very cheap and signing him back years later for a lot more.
The comparison between Gnabry and Pogba is perhaps unfair as Manchester United let the Frenchman go for nothing and resigned him for £70million. The figures are very different to what we sold Gnabry for and are expecting to sign him.
I am not sold on Gnabry. I wonder if there is a little nostalgia from fans. And question whether he is good enough to take that step up.
Finally we come onto Gnabry’s team mate at Bayern Munich – Leroy Sane.
Sane is one of those players that many of us have watched since he had his breakthrough season for Schalke in 2015.
The summer of 2016 I wanted Arsenal to be in for him, but he moved to Manchester City for £37million.
He always seemed to be on the fringes of the Manchester City team, never quite fully breaking through (although I do feel this is how Pep likes it).
He was competing with the likes of Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Jesus Navas and Riyad Mahrez for a starting place.
After 3 years of trying to establish himself as a first team regular, he left for Bayern Munich.
As mentioned above, Pep seems to like to rotate his front-line regularly. Very few of his forwards end up with over 30 Premier League starts in a single season.
This season is a perfect example of that: Bernardo Silva (33 PL starts), Kevin de Bruyne (25), Foden (24), Sterling (23), Grealish (22) & Jesus (21). Does Pep have a theory that to keep everyone fresh and firing, there is a certain amount of minutes a player should play? Or is it just because he has an embarrassment of riches that he needs to rotate a lot.
I think Sane’s failure to fully break through at City should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt.
There is a concern however over his performances for Bayern Munich.
After 2 years he is already looking to leave (or are they shopping him out?).
In that time he has started 18 and 22 games respectively scoring 13 goals.
It is not a record that particularly excites me.
He left Manchester City due to lack of game time, and he rumoured to be leaving Bayern Munich for the same reason. You then have to question his hunger.
Is he striving every day in training to improve, to force his way into first team action. Or is he coasting on his natural talent and expects to start week in week out just on that.
If it is the former, then he is a hungry player with a lot to prove. If it is the latter then he is more suited to a West Ham where he would start every game without really trying.
Sane has spent much of his career on the left hand side which, as already established, is Arsenal’s weaker side.
He would come straight into our first team, which would then leave Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe as the cover on both flanks.
I guess the question is when Mikel Arteta and Edu look into his eyes, do they see a player with hunger. With burning desire to get his career back on track. Or do they see a player that just wants to coast through his career.
I started this blog thinking about who I would prefer between Sane, Sterling and Gnabry.
As I wrote it, I felt more negatives and question marks than positives over which one we should sign.
With their ages and what they can give to us, I wonder if we should invest the £30-£35million into someone younger, hungrier. Someone like Cody Gakpo.
But if push comes to shove, I would probably pick Sterling over Sane and Gnabry.
Who would you want?