Saturday 21 April 2018

Hector Bellerin flirts with Barcelona and Olivier Giroud delivers ultimatum in fresh headache for Arsenal

Olivier Giroud has said he wants to stay at Arsenal
Olivier Giroud has said he wants to stay at Arsenal

Jeremy Wilson

Hector Bellerin and Olivier Giroud have both indicated that they could be open to moves away from Arsenal despite manager Arsene Wenger’s attempt to complete a series of early summer signings.

The transfer of left-back Saed Kolasinac from Schalke was formally confirmed on Tuesday and Wenger has still not given up on signing Monaco striker Kyrian Mbappe, but there are also likely to be prominent departures this summer.

The most obvious uncertainty surrounds those players with only one year remaining on their contracts, notably Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, but a degree of restlessness is evident elsewhere.

Bellerin is a target of former club Barcelona and, while Arsenal are adamant that there is no prospect of him leaving this summer amid a contract that expires in 2023, the 22 year-old appears noticeably less convinced about his immediate future.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo, Bellerin said that it was a “great thing to know about the interest of a club like Barca” and that “you never know what can happen”. He also talked about wanting to play in the Champions League and how his family had returned to Barcleona.

When Bellerin signed his latest contract at Arsenal last November, he spoke about being “happy to be a Gunner for many more years” and how he was not thinking about another club.

Although Wenger has been publicly dismissive of Barcelona’s chances of signing Bellerin, there is an obvious potential parallel with how Cesc Fabregas became progressively more determined to return to Spain.

He also made similarly ambiguous public pronouncements until the pressure for his move eventually became difficult to resist.

Giroud has also indicated that he is not completely happy at Arsenal following a season in which he started only 11 Premier League games but still scored 12 goals amid 18 substitutes’ appearances.

Despite chasing another striker, Wenger sees Giroud as especially valuable because he is so distinct from his other attacking options. Giroud’s aerial strength and ability to hold the ball up allows Arsenal to vary their tactics and his actual goals-per-minute ratio was far better last season than Danny Welbeck, whom Wenger started in the FA Cup final.

Giroud is currently with the France national squad and has been of interest to Marseille. “Wenger is counting on me even though he hasn't used me much,” he said. “I won't settle for such limited playing time.”

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