It can be difficult to define what a true marquee signing is. Is it something defined by the money paid for a player?
Or is it down to the reputation of said player? And if it is, who determines that reputation? Arsenal fans know what they think a marquee signing is and in their eyes Ryan Fraser isn’t one.
Recent reports claim Fraser has emerged as Arsenal’s number one target this summer with the Gunners weighing up a £30 million deal for the Scot.
This has sparked derision, not just from rivals supporters, but from the Arsenal fanbase as well. This, as they see it, is not good enough for a team in their current situation.
That may well be true. Arsenal have a lot of work to do if they are to lift themselves up into the Premier League’s top four next season, with so many of their rivals around them already spending big this summer, and on current speculation it doesn’t appear that the much longed for squad overhaul will materialise.
As an individual target, though, why are so many unconvinced by Fraser’s potential move to the Emirates Stadium?
The 25-year-old was, after all, the second most prolific assist maker in the Premier League last season. He was a revelation for Bournemouth and is the sort of relentless, irrepressible hub of energy Arsenal need in the attacking third.
Could it be that Fraser’s nationality is a factor in how he is evaluated?
Compare the derision Fraser has faced to the hype around James Maddison, for instance. Fraser might be three years older than the 22-year-old Leicester City midfielder, but he registered double the assists of Maddison last season, recording nearly the same rate of shots on goal and key passes per game.
What’s more, Fraser has three seasons of Premier League football to his name while Maddison is fresh from his maiden top flight season. So why has the latter been so excitedly linked to Manchester City, the best team in the country right now, when the former is widely seen as an indictment on Arsenal’s perceived lack of ambition?
English players have long been considered more expensive – see the reported £90m Leicester are demanding for Harry Maguire this summer – but Fraser, as a Scot, sits at the other end of the spectrum. Some nationalities simply make for more attractive targets in the transfer market – see the excitement any time a club signs a Brazilian – and Scottish players just aren’t that attractive.
It’s not just Scottish players who are undervalued, but players who play in Scotland too.
Virgil Van Dijk, a £13m signing for Southampton and three years later the most expensive defender in history, is perhaps the best example of this. Moussa Dembele, a £20m signing for Lyon last year and now a reported £40 m target for Manchester United, is another such case.
Scouting should look beyond such perceptions, but prejudices still exist, particularly among supporters.
Is there really any other basis for the derision Fraser has faced since being named as an Arsenal target? Statistically, positionally, tactically and financially, a move for the Scot makes sense, but that isn’t enough for some.
Of course, Fraser isn’t just from an unfashionable footballing country, but plays for an unfashionable club as well.
Not many superstars have made their way to the top of the sport via Bournemouth, but then how many had reached such heights via Southampton before Van Dijk did it?
In many ways, Fraser would be the quintessential New Arsenal signing.
He is undervalued and under-appreciated, overlooked by bigger-spending rivals and would improve the Gunners’ current squad. Some Arsenal supporters might not like that, but they must ask themselves – is their problem with Fraser the player, or what he represents and says about their club at this moment?