Reports in The Daily Mail and L’Equipe are claiming that Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar has turned down a new contract with the French club, with his current deal set to expire in the summer of 2020.
The news will have put Arsenal and Liverpool on high-alert, who both pursued Lemar during the last summer transfer window but were unable to prize the 22-year-old away from The Principality.
Of course, this is does not guarantee that the Frenchman will be allowed to leave, as we have seen with the Riyad Mahrez saga in Leicester, football clubs appear to be taking the power back from the players where transfers are concerned. Monaco have demonstrated this themselves through their successful attempts to beat away interest from across the Channel so far. The prodigious winger will not come cheap either, the breath-taking fees paid for Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and former Monaco man Kylian Mbappe have set the market for players with Lemar’s level of talent. With all of that being said, if the Monaco hierarchy have their business hats on, they will realise that selling Lemar with 2 years remaining on his contract would be the optimal time to do so, as time ticks on, the price they can demand for the player will decrease. A quick look back in time will also tell that players who want to leave Monaco usually get their wish in the end, the most high-profile examples being James Rodriguez to Spanish giants Real Madrid and the aforementioned Mbappe to Ligue 1 rivals PSG. Another important consideration for Monaco is the effects of an unhappy player on a dressing room, a side-effect Leicester are saddled with as we speak.
So, if Thomas Lemar is set to move on, is it Arsenal or Liverpool that need him most? Let’s examine the cases for both sides.
Lemar is a versatile player, able to line up on the wing or through the middle, the first of these two options represents a hole in the Arsenal squad that needs filling. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott have been shipped out in the last six months, the acquisition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan has helped this issue to an extent, but the Armenian is not what you would call and out-and-out winger, Lemar could bring a valuable speed threat to the perimeter in North London.
The Frenchman would also help Arsenal get younger in attack, with the Gunners now sneaky old in forward areas. Mkhitaryan and Ozil are 29 and Aubameyang will join them this year, Arsene Wenger (presuming his run of coaching immortality continues) will not want to be in a position in two or three years where all of his star players are declining at the same time. Lemar would appear to fit the philosophy of Arsenal as well, having stated in an interview with BeIN Sports ( as interpreted by espn ) back in June that he likes to “concentrate on passing as much as possible”, this is evidenced by the fact that Lemar has the joint 3rd most assists of all midfielders in Ligue 1 this season, with every player who has more than him having played more games. That will be music to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s ears, all but one of his goals at Borussia Dortmund came inside the penalty area, so I’m sure he wouldn’t turn down another teammate who is happy to provide chances for him. An interesting question if Lemar were to head to the capital is how would the move affect Alexandre Lacazette? It’s difficult to see Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Lemar, Aubameyang and Lacazette all starting, would the former Lyon striker be happy shunted out to the wing or backing up Aubameyang on the bench? Perhaps he could be used as a bargaining chip in a potential swap deal, it wouldn’t be the first high-profile trade Arsenal have executed.
The situation at Anfield is different, Liverpool have a proven and prolific front three of Mane, Salah and Firmino. At first glance you would think they don’t need another big money forward, but Jurgen Klopp needs to replace Philippe Coutinho after his departure to Barcelona. The “MSF” trio are fantastic footballers in their own right and have been sensational this season, but Coutinho was the star of the team and it would be difficult to stomach for Liverpool fans to watch the best player they’ve had since Luis Suarez walk out the door and no attempt be made to replace him. Liverpool’s attack has not slowed down monumentally since the Brazilian magician’s exit, but if one of their current forward line were to go down injured for a lengthy period (which has already happened with Sadio Mane on more than one occasion) they would be in trouble. Bringing in a player like Lemar who can play in any of the three positions up top would ease these concerns considerably and I think he would fit in well at Liverpool because of that versatility, Klopp likes his attackers to rotate, with Firmino playing as more of a false nine than a fixed striker and Salah drifting infield to wreak havoc for opposing defences, that system could be perfect for Lemar.
It’s safe to say that both Arsenal and Liverpool would benefit considerably from having a player of Thomas Lemar’s calibre (though their respective never ending defensive issues need addressing first) but on balance I think the Gunners need his talents more than Liverpool, the club is crying out for some youthful exuberance and more top-tier talent to lift the lingering dark cloud of fan frustration hovering over the Emirates Stadium.