It may seem like each day brings a new rumor about Arsenal’s potential — links that try to explain how Arsène Wenger will empty his uncharacteristically large war chest — but the big money rumors have focused on relatively few targets. Most of the summer, you heard Gonzalo Higuaín’s name connect to North London, but at the death, Napoli swooped for the Real Madrid star. Now Luis Suárez is the most prominent player connected with the Emirates, but that pursuit is starting to sound somewhat Higuaín-esque. Now momentum is building behind the pursuit of Atletico Mineiro midfielder Bernard, though that link entails the same basic question: When will Arsène Wenger spend?
The 20-year-old’s price is roughly half that of Suárez’s, but with the South American champions said to want just short of $34 million for Brazilian international, Wenger would still have to crush Arsenal’s record fee ($23 million) to lure Bernard from Belo Horizonte. With Atletico Mineiro able to hold out and other suitors willing to meet a lower price, Wenger is going to have to pay the going rate to get lure the winger to North London.
The extent to which Arsenal need Bernard isn’t exactly clear. While he is one of the best players in Brazil, will he have a great impacter than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would this year? In his first year in England, would he out-perform Lukas Podolski? Or perhaps Arsene Wenger envisions starting a line of three in attacking midfield of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, in which case the bar to earn playing time would be even higher. If Wenger doesn’t think Bernard can come in and meet that standard, how does that affect how much his willingness to meet Atletico Mineiro’s demands?
All of which are perfectly reasonable considerations, and if some players end up leaving North London before the season starts (Cazorla, Podolski, Gervinho in the gossip pages), a crowded scene may yet clear out. Regardless, while many teams of Arsenal’s stature are now spending this type of money (if not more) to acquire Thiago Alcantara, Stevan Jovetic, Isco-esque pieces — players who may or may not be in their teams’ starting XIs next month — the Gunners continue to wade warily through the transfer market. Is there any point where Wenger will cease trying to trim the last couple of million off a price and start bolstering Arsenal’s squad?
Gooners hope there comes a point when these types of discussions become antiquated, when Arsenal finally brings in the type of players that will end all the doubt as to whether Arsene Wenger will actually spend money. But until that first big signing makes his way to the Emirates, it’s all speculation was to whether Arsenal’s approach will always leave the club susceptible to rival buyers swooping in, meeting sellers’ prices, and leaving the Gunners collecting out-of-contract talents and low-priced margins.
Kevin De Bruyne has been as valuable an attacker as any in the Premier League season, so his injury suffered this weekend is quite a big deal.
There were fears that Manchester City’s Belgian attacker would be gone for more than a month, but manager Pep Guardiola has quelled those concerns to an extent.
[ MORE: NCAA star’s fastest hat trick ]
De Bruyne will miss Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League match against Celtic, which shouldn’t bother the club too much, though his absence Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur could be felt more keenly.
Guardiola said that both De Bruyne and his Belgian teammate, Vincent Kompany, should be back in two to three weeks time. In De Bruyne’s case, Guardiola’s specifically mentioned after the international break. That puts him in line for an Oct. 15 trip to Everton.
The manager also related that he’s excited for his first trip to Celtic Park, as he’s not been to Glasgow to face Celtic in his career.
“Everyone talks to me about the atmosphere, I’m looking forward to playing here. I know how strong they are here. I spoke with my old players, and they have said this is a special environment.”
Kickoff from Scotland is 2:45 p.m. ET.
There are some absolute beauties on tap for Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, with two Premier League clubs in play and a pair of matches pitting top teams from Germany and Spain.
[ MORE: UCL Tuesday roundup ]
All Wednesday matches kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET.
Celtic vs. Manchester City
Having been hammered 7-0 at home by Barcelona, Celtic’s “reprieve” is a trip to face Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. Brendan Rodgers will need to pull every trick out of his hat to avoid another blowout, as City had little trouble in dispatching a solid Borussia Monchengladbach side 4-0.
Arsenal vs. FC Basel
Both Group A matches were 1-1 draws to open the stage, though few expect draws on day 2. That’s because giants Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain move onto perceived lesser lights in Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad.
The Gunners are flying, having gotten their toughest fixture out of the way in a 1-1 draw at PSG. Arsene Wenger‘s crew is fresh off a 3-0 thumping of Chelsea, and will be aware of Basel’s best: Serey Die, Birkir Bjarnason, and Taulant Xhaka, brother of Arsenal’s Granit. That’s right… all the Xhakas.
Atletico Madrid vs. Bayern Munich
A road goal led Diego Simeone’s Atleti past Bayern in last year’s UCL semifinal, and the Bavarians will hope for a better fate under new boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Barcelona
Man, this group. A very good Gladbach side will have to rebound from a 4-0 loss to Man City by hosting Barcelona. The good news for the Germans is that Barcelona will be without Leo Messi, though that mattered little in Barca’s 5-0 win in La Liga play this weekend.
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Napoli vs. Benfica
Besiktas vs. Dynamo Kyiv
FC Rostov vs. PSV Eindhoven
After being named the NCAA Soccer Men’s Player of the Week, Spanish junior Albert Ruiz went out and set the base for a repeat.
The Florida Gulf Coast striker scored three goals in three minutes and 19 seconds on Tuesday, and the Eagles needed everyone in what turned out to be a 6-5 thriller.
FGCU was up 5-0 after 16:16, but saw that lead drop to 5-4 by the 55th minute.
[ MORE: Pochettino happy with “must win” defeat of CSKA ]
Back to Ruiz, his three goals all came before the game was 10 minutes old (9:02 to be exact). The team’s Twitter account says that’s a record to start a game, besting the record was set by Indiana’s Steve Burks on Oct. 6, 1973. Burks scored his three goals by the 11:41 mark of the first half.
If you look at the clock, too, we think it’s more like nine minutes on the dot.
Ruiz scored seven times in 11 games as a sophomore, and is battering that impressive mark this year. It’s not even halftime at FGCU, and he’s up to 11 goals in his ninth game of the season. That puts him into a tie with Buffalo’s Russell Cicerone for the most goals in men’s D1 soccer (and Ruiz has more than 45 minutes to play).
The 6-foot-2 forward is going to be attracting a lot of attention, especially considering this is his second hat trick in 10 days.
Manchester City visits White Hart Lane for a match-up of this early season’s first and second place Premier League clubs.
City will have one less day of rest than its Premier League rivals, though both are coming off road matches in Europe.
Spurs beat CSKA Moscow 1-0 on Tuesday, while Man City is battling Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany a day later.
[ MORE: Pochettino happy with “must win” defeat of CSKA ]
A win would pull Spurs to within a point of the leaders, while a City victory would guarantee, at-worst, a five-point table advantage for Pep Guardiola‘s bunch.
Kickoff is at 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday, and our own Joe Prince-Wright has the preview for you with the latest PST Extra (above).