Famously star-crossed Premier League club Arsenal have already had a bad winter transfer window. Just last week the Gunners let Manchester United Debo them out of their best player, Alexis Sánchez, and the only thing that could even kind of almost halfway redeem them from that humiliating chump move was the promise of replacing him with a new, not-quite-as-good-but-still-very-good substitute. In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal appear to have locked in on their man. Only actually wrapping the deal up involves two more interlocking moves that, if none of them happen, could ruin everything.
Since right around when Sánchez was officially sold, reports said Arsenal had already agreed on contractual terms with Borussia Dortmund’s world class striker. It took a little longer for the two parties to hammer out an acceptable transfer fee, but because Arsenal were so invested in getting a high-end forward to replace their departed one, and because Dortmund had grown so tired of Aubameyang’s want-away antics, it seemed inevitable that the deal would get in under the deadline. Sure enough, all reports now state that Arsenal and Dortmund have a complete agreement on a £55 million transfer. All that’s left now is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
However, there are quite a few significant i’s that need dotting. While Dortmund do want to get rid of Auba, they have preconditioned the sale to Arsenal on the German team first finding a replacement striker. Thankfully, Arsenal had one at the ready. With Aubameyang incoming, the Gunners would presumably no longer need the services of their second-best (but first-prettiest) striker, Olivier Giroud. Arsenal could sell or loan Giroud to Dortmund, Dortmund could then sign off on the deal shipping Aubameyang back the other direction, and everyone would be happy.
Dortmund were content with this solution, as Giroud would be a pretty solid gap-filler for the rest of the season while the Wonderteen’s outfit attempts to nab themselves a Champions League spot. At the end of the season, they could spend more time scouring Europe for a more long-term replacement. The move to Germany made some sense for Giroud, too. The reason he’d want to leave Arsenal would be to secure himself more playing time in hopes of getting a ticket to Russia in the summer with France for the World Cup. At Dortmund, Giroud would start every match and be fed countless chances to goose his goal numbers and impress France’s manager.
However, there was a rub. Giroud didn’t really like the idea of moving from London to Dortmund. This was in part a reflection of London club Chelsea’s interested in signing Giroud to serve as their backup striker. Giroud would certainly see more gametime as Dortmund’s unquestioned No. 1 striker than as Chelsea’s backup for Álvaro Morata, but he’d probably still play more with Chelsea than he has been with Arsenal, and he wouldn’t have to up and move his whole family to a brand new country. Because of Giroud’s refusal, the Giroud-to-Dortmund angle died. For Arsenal to get their man, Dortmund would need to find someone else.
But hey, what about Chelsea’s current backup? Michy Batshuayi is a young and very promising poacher who, the rare times he is given playing time by the demanding Antonio Conte at Chelsea, demonstrates both why he remains a promising prospect (i.e. he’s great at scoring goals) and why Conte nevertheless doesn’t trust him (i.e. he’s pretty bad at all the more nuanced things Conte requires of his strikers). Conte has been so eager for a backup striker who better fits his tactical setup (meaning a big, strong guy who’s good in the air and can hold up the ball) that the club has been linked to almost literally every single Premier League striker who stands taller than 6-feet and knows how to head the ball.
So if Chelsea got Giroud, which would make Batshuayi available for loan and maybe even to buy, and Dortmund were interested Batshuayi’s services—which is reportedly the case, since Michy is in some ways Auba-lite as a player—then there was a way for all three teams to get what they want. The domino effect would go something like this: Arsenal send Giroud to Chelsea; Chelsea send Michy to Dortmund; and Dortmund send Aubameyang to Arsenal. A little bit fraught possibly, what with transfers being so notoriously finicky, but definitely doable.
And yet it hasn’t proven that simple. Reports said Arsenal would only let Giroud go for a fee in the range of £30 million—a price Chelsea balked at for a 31-year-old rotation player. When Chelsea tried to negotiate that number down, Arsenal were apparently unwilling to play ball and threatened to cut negotiations off entirely. In response to that, Chelsea decided that Tottenham backup striker Fernando Llorente was the aging tall dude they really wanted and proposed a swap deal with Spurs for each other’s backups. If that would’ve happened, Dortmund would’ve been out their easy Auba replacement and either would’ve had to convince Giroud to join them, find another replacement before the transfer deadline tomorrow, or keep hold of Aubameyang after all, thwarting Arsenal’s big chance at partial redemption.
Ah, but of course things haven’t ended there; where there is a will, there is a way. Michy didn’t prove amenable to the idea of exchanging the Chelsea bench for Tottenham’s, and so he rejected the deal that would’ve sent him that way. This led Chelsea to return to the bargaining table with Arsenal for Giroud, while also getting the Blues back on the phone with Dortmund to talk about offloading Michy. As of the latest reports, Arsenal and Chelsea are very close to agreeing on a fee for Giroud, Chelsea and Dortmund too are nearing a loan deal for Michy, and Aubameyang is already in London so as to be on hand to undergo a medical and sign the papers as soon as everyone gets the okay.
It appears like things will work out for everyone involved, which at least for Arsenal’s sake, is just about the positive note they deserve to close this transfer window on after the embarrassment of what happened before. Yep, the happy ending is just about in sight. Nothing to see here, really. There’s no way this could go wrong.