As you no doubt know, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Borussia Dortmund completed a three team swap of strikers over the last couple days. This bewilderingly complex move demands an answer to the question: who is getting the best of this deal? Let’s look at it move by move.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Dortmund to Arsenal
Arsenal break their transfer record for the second time in as many transfer windows, by signing one of the few elite center forwards in Europe.
Arsenal needed to replace quite a few goals and assists with the departure of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United, and the addition of Aubameyang should equal and likely surpass what Alexis would do with Arsenal.
The bigger question for this move is how this works long term.
Aubameyang is 28 and is uses his elite speed to get into good scoring positions behind defenses, what happens if he loses a step or two over the next 3.5 seasons?
There is also the question of how he fits in with previous record transfer signing Alexandre Lacazette. Aubameyang played on the wing his first season at Dortmund, but that really doesn’t play to his strengths, with the same going for Lacazette.
These question marks will need to be figured out, and reality will dictate that something there will have to give, but in the meantime I am going to dream of Arsenal’s creative midfielders creating chance after chance for one of the best forwards on the planet.
Olivier Giroud from Arsenal to Chelsea
To me, this is a baffling move.
Chelsea already have Álvaro Morata, a striker with the characteristics of a big target man but with modern-player skills. Giroud is a good player, but his years at Arsenal have proven that he isn’t the guy to elevate a good team to an elite level.
As a bench player backing up Morata, he really doesn’t change the way that Chelsea will play besides giving them another big man to aim crosses at.
As a short term move, it is also somewhat confusing. What can Chelsea realistically win at this stage? They have one of the hardest draws in the Champions League against Barcelona. They crashed out of the League Cup to Arsenal.
In the Premier League they are 18 points back of Manchester City and sitting in 4th level with Liverpool after their 3-0 (lol) loss against Bournemouth. I guess they believe Giroud can help them to stay in the Champions League spots, while also making an FA Cup run.
The cost of this move was Michy Batshuayi joining the Chelsea loan army. Actually coming back to the parent club after joining the loan army is a long shot and might be the better player in the medium term, which is a perfect segue to...
Michy Batshuayi from Chelsea to Borussia Dortmund (loan)
Before signing with Chelsea, Batshuayi was one of the brightest attacking prospects in Europe.
With Chelsea he struggled to get game time, and in moving to Dortmund he should pretty much slot right into the main striker role as the Aubameyang replacement. It would be crazy to expect him to replace all of Auba’s goal scoring, but with the traditionally slim pickings of the January transfer window Dortmund have done well.
In addition to picking up a talented but under-played player, Dortmund also got Arsenal to pick up the loan fee for this season for him, which seems like pretty shrewd business by them. The only drawback of this loan move is that there does not appear to be any option to buy in the deal.
Dortmund do however seem to be in position to be able to splash cash after selling Ousmane Dembélé to Barcelona and Aubameyang to Arsenal, if they want to make a deal in the summer.
Who came out best?
In my way too early opinion, I would say that Arsenal won this triangle, with Dortmund placing second and Chelsea in third.
Arsenal were in a pretty desperate position needing to replace Alexis, and ended up doing pretty well from a potentially disastrous situation. It could be argued that they paid too much for Aubameyang, but the market is bananapants, so they paid what needed to be paid instead of hewing to a dogmatic valuation and walking away instead of accepting the reality of the market. This is a relatively new thing for Arsenal to do, and a very welcome one as well.
Dortmund were able to move a player who really wanted out for a good fee, and at the same time were able to secure a talented replacement for the rest of the season while getting someone else to pay for it. I would have like this part of the deal a lot more if there were an option to buy but regardless, they have the cash to make a deal if they want to in the summer after six months of up close scouting.
Lastly, I still have trouble understanding what exactly Chelsea are trying to do and what if anything their long term plan is. Pundits (deservedly) often pile on Arsenal for their lack of long term planning, but this move really pushes that to the next level.
Check back in six months to see how well this analysis held up.
This post originally ran on The Short Fuse