Arsenal are the club leading the chase for Youri Tielemans, but the level of their interest has been the subject of a few reports over the past week, with talk that they may be focusing on other targets in other positions.
What would that mean for Leicester City? If Tielemans stays, will the club have an unhappy man in the camp? Would they still be able to do all of their transfer business this summer?
That was one of the main topics covered during our latest question-and-answer session. We also looked at why City have not yet signed any players, what the future holds for Daniel Iversen, what access to players is like at football clubs, and more. Read our answers below.
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Q: Why is it that every transfer window LCFC seem to drag deals out? Or take much much longer to complete them, when compared to other clubs such as Villa, etc? Is it just penny pinching? Surely the majority of the work should be done prior to the window opening?
A: I don’t think it’s the case every transfer window. Even last summer they had signed Daka on June 30 and Soumare on July 2, which seems like reasonably quick business to me. Those two and Bertrand were available for pretty much all of the pre-season matches. If the players are arriving a month before the season starts, that’s pretty good, given there are international matches and holidays that get in the way.
A fair amount of clubs are in City’s situation at the moment. They are one of nine Premier League clubs not to have done any business so far. Villa and Spurs have acted quickly and I do tend to think that is a good sign usually. The best summer City have had in recent years was 2018, when they had Ricardo, Evans, and Maddison all signed before the end of June. That strikes of good organisation.
Yes, the majority of the work should be done prior to the window and will have been done at City, even in spite of Congerton’s departure a couple of months ago. City are very thorough in their scouting, so that might be one hold up, especially if preferred targets are not available or go elsewhere. That then requires another good scour of the market. There’s also the money situation. City do have to be careful this summer with finances tighter, and so more consideration may be needed before they go out and buy players.
Q: Is there any interest in Nicolas Pepe, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Adrien Rabiot?
A: Of those you mentioned, I do think Hudson-Odoi is the sort of player City would look at. Rodgers said not too long ago that he knows how hard it is, having been at Liverpool and at Chelsea as reserve team coach, to keep lots of talented players happy, and that it may be a market for City to take the players on the fringes of the elite clubs and offer them opportunities to get more game-time.
Hudson-Odoi is clearly a big talent. His record of goals and assists is very good for the amount of minutes he has played, he’s quick, and he plays on the right. He’s young too and so his value is only going to go one way. But he is right-footed, and Rodgers prefers to have somebody who drifts inside on his right flank, whereas Hudson-Odoi is a more natural, get-around-the-outside type winger.
Q: I’ve noticed access to the team seems quite limited. No reporters seem to have much knowledge about what’s going on behind the scenes. Most of what we hear from players and coaches are the positives, and perhaps not the realities. Would you agree with that? For example, why was Lee Congerton allowed to leave before a replacement was brought in? Also, do players not talk off the record about what’s happening in the camp, for instance about the Youri situation? Or even better, is it not possible to speak to Youri himself?
A: Access to the team is certainly more limited than in the past, but that’s true of most Premier League teams. Clubs have their own big media teams now, and they have more control over in-house interviews than if done with outside media. Plus, there are rights holders like Sky Sports who the club give preference to when it comes to interviews.
In terms of positivity, I don’t think City stop players from speaking their minds. For European games, the club have to put up a player in the pre- and post-match press conferences, and while a lot of players focus on the positives, there are players that don’t shy away from speaking honestly, like Castagne and Maddison. The good news is that mixed zones are now open again, so we’ll be able to grab players after games if they’re willing to stop and chat, which is something we’ve not been able to do since the pandemic started.
As for players speaking off the record, I think as a football culture, the English game has moved away from that. There’s much more likely to be correspondence with agents than with players themselves. But overseas that’s not always the case. When City won the title, I remember a Danish journalist coming into our newsroom, and he had the whole of the Denmark squad in his phonebook. If he wanted to call Dan Agger or Simon Kjaer or whoever, he could do.
I think City are quite good at keeping things quiet behind the scenes and not letting much leak out, perhaps why you hear less about them than other clubs.
As for Congerton, he was allowed to leave because he’s Rodgers’ friend, and Rodgers did not want to stand in the way of him taking a job that bettered his life, even if it put City in a predicament. But anyway, preparation for this summer was still done when Congerton was at the club.
Q: I know Leicester have to sell players before they can sign five to six players. But I heard City could sign players before important exits. I wonder why there is no news yet?
A: Yes, I don’t think it’s definitive that City need to sell players before they can bring any in. Club finances don’t really work like that. But if they are to do all of the business they want to do this summer, then sales are a must. And if they don’t think those sales are going to happen, they can’t line up players to bring in.
I would hope, and I think the club would hope, that they are able to do the majority of their business before the competitive season begins, but I suspect there will still be movement well into August at City this summer.
Q: Iversen seems to be a wonderful goalkeeper and is No.2 for Denmark and has had two wonderful seasons with Preston. Should we now say that he should be No.2 and sell Ward or if Schmeichel wants to leave put him on the list now and make Iversen and Ward our two goalkeepers? The report in the Mercury recently suggested that we could sell Iversen and buy a third goalkeeper. Surely that’s not really an option?
A: I think the most likely scenario for Iversen is that he will be loaned out for one more season, and then will come back and challenge for a spot in the team, when Schmeichel’s contract is up next summer. It’s a complicated one though, as City have been searching around for goalkeepers (hence the links to Brighton’s Sanchez), suggesting that having Ward and Iversen as their two goalkeepers competing for the number one shirt is not in their plans. It might be one or the other competing with a new goalkeeper.
I don’t think there will be any movement on the goalkeeper front this summer, but if there was, it would be a case of City moving Schmeichel on, rather than the Dane himself looking for an exit.
The reason why I’ve suggested there is a possibility that Iversen may be sold is because of the above, in that City already have Ward and are looking at other goalkeepers. Plus they have others coming through. But mainly because Iversen’s stock is extremely high. There are so many clubs in the Championship that would pay decent money for him. It would be a little like the situation with Kamal Sowah last summer. He was a talented prospect, but City could not see an immediate route into the team for him, and knowing he was highly-valued in Belgium, they knew they could sell him for a decent fee and put that money elsewhere. It was £7m with add-ons in the end.
Q: I’ve said weeks ago that with the World Cup happening in November, and Belgium likely to go deep in the competition, Tielemans would be best served to avoid long European trips on a Thursday night and sign a one year contract extension. Is this now more likely in your opinion?
A: Not really, no. I don’t think Tielemans sees his form being affected by playing European as well as league games. He wants to play all the time, and I don’t believe he will be thinking about playing for a club where he can conserve energy ahead of the World Cup. He wants to play for a club where he is going to be a regular, and where he has opportunities to play on the biggest stages possible.
There are conflicting reports regarding Arsenal’s interest and whether it’s diminishing. That’s the key to whether Tielemans will sign a new deal at City. I think it only becomes a possibility once Tielemans has decided there is not the club out there for him this summer. City are unlikely to want him to stay without signing a new deal, as then they are heading towards him leaving for nothing next summer. Obviously they would rather he signed a long-term contract, but a compromise may be a one-year extension, and then Tielemans will have another go at getting a new club next summer.
Q: We finally just released our home shirt, do you think generic Adidas shirts just with sponsors and the club badge added are value for money for the fans? Are we likely to look for another supplier after this final season of the Adidas contract is up or extend the deal?
A: Whether it’s value for money will be down to each fan’s own circumstances, considering everything like disposable income, how often they wear it, how much joy they get from wearing it. Personally, I think £63 for an adult shirt is a lot of money.
I’m not sure what’s happening with the Adidas deal and whether the club are looking elsewhere, but it might be interesting to note that City’s sister club OH Leuven have dropped Adidas this year, with their kits now made by Stanno.
Q: Obviously we’re unaware of any behind-the-scenes transfer stuff that might be going on, but given Rodgers’ previous remarks about freshening up the squad, it is a little worrying that we don’t appear to be particularly active or have specific focus on individual targets at this point? Is it a case of sell before buying? And in your opinion would Youri staying on be good or bad for the club? My own thoughts being he really wants to be elsewhere and could be a negative dressing room presence if he doesn’t get a move.
A: I don’t think it’s the case that they won’t have individual targets. It may just be that those names haven’t come out yet. City are quite good at keeping them under wraps until a deal is 75 per cent done. Their general approach is to get a shortlist of three players for every position they want to strengthen, rank them in order or preference, and then they work on them until they get someone in.
I don’t think it’s definitive that they must sell before buying, but they do need to sell this summer if they are to do all of the business they want to do. So I suppose there needs to be some assurances that sales will go through before they start bringing in lots of players.
Personally, I would like to see Tielemans stay. I think the amount he helps the team in terms of progressing the ball into more attacking areas is overlooked, and it will be difficult for the club to find a player who can do it as well as he can. And I certainly don’t think he will be a negative influence. He’s absolutely not that type of character. It’s not the case that he does not enjoy being at Leicester, it’s just that he believes there might be clubs out there more able to help him achieve what he wants in his career.
Q: As it’s looking more likely that Tielmans will stay now, with Arsenal’s Vieira signing from Porto, does that mean our finances will be hit to try to get 5-6 players we need as we would have around £30 million less to spend? Secondly, what are your thoughts for the new season with regards where we can finish?
A: Yes, it’s fair to say there will not be as much money to bring players in if Tielemans doesn’t go, but then again, City would have one fewer player to replace. However, I don’t know if Vieira going from Porto to Arsenal really should affect the Gunners’ stance too much. They are completely different players. I suspect their interest will diminish in Tielemans only if they decide their money is better spent elsewhere, strengthening other positions.
I think the lack of European football and more time on the coaching pitch will help the club’s performance domestically. I think with the quality of the starting line-up at City, it’s not unreasonable that they will be challenging the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United for a place in the top six. The top four I think would require a slip-up from a club unlikely to do so. Liverpool and Man City are about as good as English teams have ever been, while Spurs under Conte and Chelsea under Tuchel are very, very good teams too.