If you were asked to name a player from Leicester City you thought stood a good chance of signing for Arsenal this summer you would likely have said Riyad Mahrez or N’golo Kante. If you placed money on one of those two making the switch it appears you’re about to lose it because it seems none other than Jamie Vardy is close to joining Arsenal with rumours of a release clause being activated.
At 29 years old, a year older than the legendary Ian Wright was when he joined, and reportedly costing £20m, this is a truly shocking move for a player who has enjoyed only one prolific season in England’s top flight out of two attempts. The question now is: is this a move out of desire, convenience or sheer desperation?
The likelihood of the situation is that with Welbeck out until next season, Arsenal cannot afford to not sign a new forward. With that being the case the options are simple:
1. Stick with what you have.
2. Spend upwards of £35m on someone who really isn’t worth it – Icardi, Lacazette, Morata.
3. Wait to see if any top class forwards are discarded by an elite club signing another top class forward – Looking at you, Karim.
All of these options have their own pros and cons to them but it seems that Wenger, Gazidis and Law have decided to forgo the above choices and attempt to sign someone they think can come in and be a part of the squad and contribute. Wenger has recently been quoted as saying he expects Giroud to be his first choice forward next season and it makes sense when you look at the signing of Vardy. Outside of a change in system and philosophy, or some crazy growth in Vardy’s game, it is difficult to see him establishing himself as the definitive first choice forward at Arsenal.
Towards the end of the season, Wenger noted that Giroud was a player who scored in cycles. In the words of Wenger “He has had games where he has gone boom, boom, boom, boom, boom and after he had a little spell where he didn’t score.” In Vardy, Arsenal would have another player of that ilk. The Leicester City striker scored 24 goals (8 more than Giroud with 5 being penalties) but he also demonstrated some streaky qualities. The first 16 games of the season saw Vardy total 15 goals which included a record 11 consecutive goal scoring games in a row. The 16 games after that saw him find the net 3 times before his final 4 appearances of the season yielded 5 goals. Vardy’s season, despite the fairy tale protection surrounding it, was the definition of hot and cold and there is no shame in that.
Shortly after his retirement in 2013, Wenger suggested that he knew Sir Alex Ferguson was preparing for his departure when he signed Robin van Persie. Many will try to draw parallels between that signing and Arsenal signing Vardy. This deal would represent a major shift in the modus operandi of Arsenal. This is a significant outlay for a player whose usefulness to Arsenal can only be short-term and who will have very little resale value in a few years ala RVP. Whether the acquisition will prove to be as fruitful is up in the air.
Arsenal fans have demanded a statement of intent from Arsenal this summer, and while some will say that trying and failing to sign top class players does not represent intent, this peculiar bit of business should meet their criteria. If Vardy can come into Arsenal and provide the “boom” when Giroud is not then this move will look like a stroke of genius. However, if he comes in and shows he is nothing more than a big fish in a small pond player who doesn’t have the skill set to be effective in a more technical team, then Wenger and his staff will be made to look like a couple of mugs who have been ripped off.