Twitter was cast into yet more transfer guesses recently, as rumours spread that an unnamed Newcastle official leaked to other employees that the club had accepted an offer from Arsenal for Yohan Cabaye. The general consensus amongst Twitter’s wise heads is that the French international would be a great addition to the Gunners’ squad, but others, including myself, are left wondering whether this transfer could hinder the club this season.
To start off, Cabaye is an excellent player and he is also reaching the years that midfielders often peak in. Any team would benefit from his technical ability, which has been displayed to the Premier League at Newcastle over the past season. The energy, passing skills and the ‘football brain’ that Cabaye possesses are all values that Arsene Wenger is massively impressed by, and he has not been out of his league in England.
The main questions surrounding any new signing, naturally, are in regards to costs. The 26 year old is one of Alan Pardew’s most prized assets on Tyneside and still has four years remaining on his current contract, which is reportedly worth £1.5m per year. Arsenal would have to factor in this £6m to any transfer bid, because Newcastle will want full payment of any contracts still to run on their top stars, as any club would.
The remaining costs would be a negotiation between how much Newcastle would honestly value him at and Arsenal’s valuation of him. Newcastle’s honest valuation would probably be around £20m, and not the ‘fake’ valuation of “not for sale at any price”. Arsenal, or more likely Wenger, will probably value him at around £12m, which would result in a fee of around £16m, plus £6m to buy-out his contract. Arsenal will probably try negotiating for around 25% of this fee to be based around clauses involving games played and success at the club.
There is no denying that £16.5m, possibly rising to £22m (plus wages of around £60k p/w), seems like a great fee for a central midfielder that is probably about to reach his peak and still has the opportunity for resale value, however there are negatives to think about, as is always the Arsenal way.
Arsenal’s first team squad already houses central midfielders in Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who is reportedly moving to a central postion), Santi Cazorla, and Andrei Arshavin, so is there really the need to spend £20m+ on another player of this mould?
The money is better spent, in my opinion, on a ball-winning midfielder. The defensive playmaker option, which I suspect Cabaye would be utilised in if he were to sign, is a great option to any team, however Arteta is more than capable of filling in that position if necessary. What Arsenal has really lacked since the days of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva is a shield across the back four.
The defensive players that Arsenal can call on to fit the ‘ball-winning midfielder’ position are currently Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin, with some other midfielders able to go there if necessary, however Arsneal lack an experienced and natural player in that position.
Cabaye could not perform the defensive duties Arsenal so often could have used, and he is not disciplined enough to pretend to be capable either. He is a player that likes to drift forward and probe the opposition defences with his through-balls and movement. This would ultimately result in any team he was to act as defensive cover for conceding on the counter due to lack of defensive units on the pitch.
The money raised from Robin van Persie’s departure is around £24m and that, along with £14m from selling Alex Song, has largely been spent on the recruitment of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and the afore-mentioned Cazorla. It is highly doubtful that Arsenal will sign any more players above £5m if they were to sign Cabaye for the estimated price, even if they did sell other players.
A much more intelligent option for Arsenal to pursue is former-Gunner Lassana Diarra. He is currently at Real Madrid and a few months younger than his French compatriot, Cabaye. He is well disciplined, can tackle, and he is also a master of playing it simple. His versatility could be very useful too, as he has played at right-back a number of times in his career. This is particularly satisfying for those Arsenal fans who still think that Carl Jenkinson needs another year of reserve football.
Harry Redknapp, who was his manager at Portsmouth, and Wenger have both given great reviews and Wenger is still thought to be a fan. The main issue, since he left the club and fulfilled his potential as a world-class ball-winner, has been pricing. Arsenal has never deemed it necessary to spend big on a defensive-midfielder, but with the position a clear problem for Arsenal, it may be an option now.
There are other options available to Wenger, with Cheik Tiote of Newcastle leading the list in the rumour mill. However, his signing would cost around £20m due to his importance to Newcastle and his contract. It also seems a step down from a player of Diarra’s calibre, as Tiote seems deficient technically to many fans. His tackling and work-rate would be a welcome addition to the Arsenal midfield though.
Yann M’Vila is the other man tipped to arrive at Arsenal, and his strength and passing will go down well with Arsenal players and fans alike, however it is reported that Wenger is not impressed with his attitude. Zlatan Ibrahimovic once famously told Wenger “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions” when asked to play in a trial match, and Arsene Wenger refused to make an offer for the player he had been scouting for some time. It shows that, despite all the hype surrounding M’Vila, Wenger won’t sign him if he doesn’t think his attitude is right.
Cabaye would be a great signing for Arsenal, and he has many admirers elsewhere that would lament missing out on him, however he should be made a firm secondary priority, with first priority going towards signing a ball-winner. The player fits Arsenal’s style, but I fear the real strengthening needed may be brushed under the carpet and go unnoticed with the signing of Cabaye.