Every summer seems to be the biggest in Arsenal’s modern history, and every summer probably is their biggest since the year prior, but this year it holds a great deal of truth.
The Gunners are falling further and further away from their old days of a guaranteed top four finish under Arsene Wenger that fans potentially took for granted, yet the club’s hierarchy have been investing in the squad relentlessly since the Frenchman’s departure, which is something that wasn’t done whilst the legendary manager was in charge.
That doesn’t exactly add up, but if Arsenal of all teams are splashing the cash, the teams around them must be as well, which is true. The investment quite clearly hasn’t been right for immediate success; unlike the likes of Manchester United who struck gold with Bruno Fernandes, for example (despite no trophies under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they are clearly a shoo-in for the top four every season).
Nicolas Pepe, £72m. Thomas Partey, £45m. Alexandre Lacazette, £48m. Willian, £200k per week wages. All signed for immediate success – which has not come despite the odd FA Cup win. It can be argued that Pepe is an investment for the future, and that is the case, but if you spend that amount of money on a player they better hit the ground running.
Mikel Arteta’s men finished eighth in the Premier League last season, and it could have been a lot worse if they hadn’t hit a good run of form when their season was all but over. This is an extremely alarming position to finish for a club of Arsenal’s stature. Much like Pepe in a sense, Arteta is a long-term project, but instant success is still a necessity. His free trial period is over, it is make or break for the Spaniard; and if he doesn’t invest wisely this transfer window, it will likely be adios Arteta.
What have Arsenal done so far this summer? Invested wisely, amazingly.
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Nuno Tavares has come in as a handy back-up to the injury prone, short sleeve wearing Kieran Tierney. Albert Sambi Lokonga signed earlier this week; a 21-year-old with great potential and has already shown what he can do for Anderlecht and Belgium Under 21’s. Lokonga’s likely game time remains to be seen, but either way, you can never have too much depth in the centre of midfield.
In terms of departures, Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard returned to Real Madrid after their loans. Not exactly disastrous for the north Londoners, especially in Ceballos’ case. Mathew Ryan’s loan also ended, and the club wanted to sign him permanently but didn’t put up much of a fight for the ex-Brighton man’s signature. David Luiz’s contract expired, which is fine.
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Now it gets a little more controversial when it comes to these two. Matteo Guendouzi and William Saliba were both loaned to Marseille. Guendouzi has an option to buy in his transfer, Saliba does not. I won’t get into this too much as it should probably be an article itself, but a large section of fans are unhappy with these deals. The Saliba situation confuses me a lot, but there must be method to the madness, that’s what I have convinced myself anyway. Guendouzi clearly does not get on with Arteta, and the club were never, ever going to side with the player in this situation.
What should Arsenal do for the rest of the window? Keep investing and selling/loaning wisely, obviously.
A mass squad overhaul was basically guaranteed, but that hasn’t happened yet. Granit Xhaka should be gone to AS Roma by now, but he is still an Arsenal player. Xhaka is another one that should be an article itself, so that’s all I’m saying on the matter. How Sead Kolasinac is still at the club baffles me. Lucas Torreira, I really like, but has to be sold. Also, Hector Bellerin has been likely to leave for weeks. I’m not a massive fan of the Spaniard, but if he was to stay, it wouldn’t be a disaster. Alexandre Lacazette has an uncertain future amidst his contract situation. Sell him or offer him a contract. If it gets rejected at least the fans will know what is happening and can move on.
There is a lot of deadwood in the club, there has to be a solution for these guys sooner rather than later.
I haven’t even got started on the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson. Nketiah, Nelson and Willock won’t be good enough for where Arsenal want to be in my opinion, but they also haven’t been given a fair shot, so I would happily admit that I’m wrong about that in 12 months time. AMN on the other hand, his versatility cannot be understated, but he wants to play in midfield, which I don’t think is a feasible option. Arteta must get his thinking cap on and work out a scenario that works for all parties.
So who have Arsenal been linked with? Just about everyone and their dog.
What do they need? Another central midfielder, a starting central defender, a back-up goalkeeper, and a new striker wouldn’t go amiss. A new first-choice right-back would be desirable as Bellerin hasn’t fulfilled his potential, but only if the 26-year-old is sold shall Arteta and co go into panic mode and prioritise a replacement.
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Houssem Aouar from Lyon, pay the money, £25m is so cheap for someone of his quality. James Maddison, much like Odegaard, would be a welcome addition to lift some of the playmaking burden off of Emile Smith Rowe. Ben White is joining, and what a signing he is, hopefully I haven’t jinxed it now. Aaron Ramsdale has been heavily linked, but spending over £25m would absolutely baffle me. On the plus side, at least he isn’t a Chelsea reject. Sam Johnstone would do nicely if he is happy to be second-choice to Bernd Leno. £10-15m? Lovely. In terms of a striker, your guess is as good as mine.
Italy international Manuel Locatelli is a great player, but I don’t think he has any intention whatsoever of coming to the Emirates. Edu should move on. Someone should not need that much convincing to join.
I knew Arsenal had a lot to do this summer, but I’ve rambled on a hell of a lot more than I’d first anticipated. At this stage I’m just smashing my thoughts into the keyboard without any hesitation. It is worth mentioning that if there is a player I haven’t brought up, chances are I’m happy for them to stay, or that I don’t really care.
Other names linked to the club include Barcelona’s Neto, Renato Sanches, Max Aarons, Odegaard, Sassuolo right-back Mert Muldur and Tammy Abraham (uh-oh, a Chelsea reject). A few confusing ones, but that should be expected in the transfer window.
Signing five or more players for the first-team probably won’t end well, that’s a lot of integration and adapting, but it might be completely necessary. Edu and Arteta need to fix Arsenal, and if they don’t recruit and sell/loan well, they could be in trouble, and Arsenal Football Club could be in even bigger trouble.