Arsenal have been linked with Paris Saint-Germain’s Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, in a move that more or less mirrors the transfer of Yaya Sanogo last summer: a young, French striker available on a free.
Here’s an irony: Arsenal actually need young players in a number of positions, one of them being centre-forward. The club have Sanogo on the books and there are a couple in the reserve team who have filled out the match-day squad when injuries hit, but Arsenal certainly don’t have a young forward who is good enough to actually make a difference, which is why moves for players like Alvaro Morata make a lot of sense beyond just adding further firepower for next season.
If there is a preference for signing young strikers from France, why miss out on the chance to sign Anthony Martial last summer when Lyon were desperate to sell?
The thing about Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and why there is unlikely to be much interest surrounding his transfer is that he isn’t anything special, and Arsenal already have that. Ask why PSG, a club who need to stock up on homegrown players, are so happy to let the 21-year-old leave this summer? If Arsenal do sign him, the Ligue 1 champions are said to want 50 per cent of any future sale – an indicator that he probably won’t fetch much in the coming years.
Arsene Wenger has been playing this game for years, pretty much since Arsenal moved into the Emirates stadium and adopted project youth. He’d stock up on young players for little to no transfer fee and hope that one of them sticks. There were higher-priced exceptions, of course, like Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but for the most part the young players signed were never stars in the making.
If Arsenal sign Bahebeck this summer it won’t be a steal in the market because it’s difficult to see where he’d improve this team. Arsenal already have to move Sanogo out on loan for next season, so there is little sense in bringing in a carbon copy to replace him.
The only upside to this potential deal is that it won’t really make a dent in the club’s transfer budget this summer. OK, and he may eventually turn into a good player somewhere down the line, but that’s asking a lot.
Wenger does this almost every summer, bringing in a young, obscure name who may present another project for him to work on over the coming seasons. But as the record suggests, Bahebeck, like Sanogo, has more chance of being a miss than a hit.
It’s a throwaway, forgettable, low-risk transfer, and it’s very hard to paint it as anything other than a bargain basement signing.