Signing James Maddison is Not Smart Enough.
Here is a primer: in terms of what each player can do with the ball, Emile Smith-Rowe is a better talent than James Maddison. Faster, taller, more technical and versatile, the ‘Croydon De Bruyne’ is an extremely gifted player whose potential might reach world-class levels. This is also the club’s view, given the objective that any new signings will be seen as a backup/rotation option to the young Englishman and the conferral of the ’10’ to him, instead of, as The Bell predicted, James Maddison.
James Maddison however is a very good player in his own rights. In other circumstances, he would have been well worth the effort and money needed to sign him from Leiceister. He is older, more experienced and far more aggressive than Emile Smith-Rowe. He brings setpiece expertise and a knack for scoring from range. And he is not yet fully developed, either.
For these reasons, signing James Maddison in addition to Emile Smith-Rowe is genuinely exciting. At worst, we would have one of the best depth at attacking midfield in the world. However, it must be said that the signing is not smart enough when everything is considered.
The hierarchy of Arsenal football club were no doubt embarrassed by the fact that we had no attacking midfielder to speak of for large swathes of last season. We were previously known as that club for attacking midfielders. We were renowned for stacking them up like so much candy. And, suddenly, we had none. You can say that the reaction of the club to get a marquee signing for an outrageous fee is justified. However, given the fact that we are not as financially capable as the Manchester clubs, one must question the smartness of the deal.
Houssem Aouar is a great talent like James Maddison, proven at the highest levels of the game and a perfect fit for Arteta’s system, he is available for less than we bid for last season. I am not aware of any issues with his signing but are those issues so great as to justify spending more than twice the money on a James Maddison?
It is not a question of the player, as both players are good. It is a question of resource allocation. I do not know our budget but I know it’s not unlimited. Signing James Maddison for what Leiceister will demand for him will leave us short in some other areas. Maybe it even implies selling a potential 15-goal-a-season midfielder in Joe Willock for cheap. Maybe it implies other things. But I’m damn sure it implies something.
As fans, our love for the club must be guided by sensibility regarding what is possible. Barcelona, one of the richest clubs in the world, are in a serious financial mess because of this. They misallocated their vast resources and ended up with a uselessly bloated squad. We also have smaller examples closer to home in Manchester United.
Unless the club thinks that Emile Smith-Rowe is some poor chap who will be sold for cheap in a few months time, there is really no point in signing James Maddison when he will be a rotation player for a superior talent within two seasons. Wonderful option but ultimately a waste of resources given who else is available on the market.
James Maddison will be a quality signing. He will be a massive signing. He will be a statement signing. But it is difficult to say he would be a smart signing. This is a deal I expect the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea to make, not Arsenal. Other capable options are available.