With the offseason being condensed and shortened, I think everyone knew what this wild month and a half would be like. At least, I thought I knew what it was going to be like. I didn’t. Every week, every day, and every hour has had news emerging from left and right that has me trying to figure out which direction to look in and which direction to run.
Willian signs then Raul is asked to leave. Vinai, Edu, and Arteta take more control and Gabriel deal is rumored to be completed. Away kits are launched, fixtures are released then Pat Rice and Stewart Houston are removed from their role with the scouting department. As if the shifting of those two Arsenal icons wasn’t enough, Freddie Ljungberg announces that he is leaving the club in search of a manager role at other clubs. It wasn’t a shock departure, but it’s never a great feeling to say goodbye to an Invincible like Ljungberg with the memories he has given many during his time as a player and coach.
The offseason has me on the edge of my seat. It has me gripping tightly to my phone and jumping at every vibrating notification. Every notification that I think will be one announcement, only for it to throw a wrench in my thoughts and send me hurtling down a new path. Honestly, with everything happening one on top of another, it has the making of stomach in throat stuff at times.
So I thought I would list out a few things that MAY be worth talking about as we start the week. Although, I expect the topic to change quickly at the rate it is going.
Over the weekend, late on Saturday into Sunday, Fabrizio Romano announced that Arsenal had finalized the agreements with Lille’s central defender Gabriel. It has been quite the saga with plenty of back and forth, up and down negotiating. Believe the media and journalists, believe the clubs, or believe people are liars, the truth likely lies somewhere between it all. But in the end, Gabriel has reportedly turned away from Napoli and possibly Manchester United to become a Gunner.
While there has been not statement from the club, it is reported that Gabriel will be in London for a Monday medical and following that, we can hope for an official announcement that will let us begin a deeper conversation into the player he will be and how it will fit within the Arsenal team-build and dynamics. Very exciting stuff. And if these same rumors are true, Arsenal have sealed his signature for a 5-year deal, at roughly £70k/per-week for £27m in transfer fees. To land a 22-year-old prospect at the heart of your defense for that price could be a smashing bit of business!
Still waiting on Aubameyang
On the other hand, we are still waiting for the official announcement of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who may prove to be the more important signing Arsenal can make this offseason. While Arsenal are in the midst of a massive, team overhaul, Aubameyang offers Arteta goal at an efficient rate that takes away a significant amount of the pressure of completing the whole overhaul in one window. With him on the field, you have a player that can capitalize on even half a chance.
There will be a worldwide sigh of relief from Gunners when he is officially announced as extended. Some believe it is already complete and Arsenal are yet to announce, while others believe Aubameyang is biding his time and seeing what kind of business Arsenal can complete early in this window before signing away some of the few years he top-level playing he may have left in the tank.
Georgson to rescue set pieces?
Almost everyone is aware that at the time of Arteta’s appointment, one of the major concerns would be who he would surround himself with. Between people the club have handed him, people that have joined up, and those who are simply available, he has managed to put together a decent side. After all, you don’t simply waltz your way past first, second, and fourth place finishers down stretch while picking up a piece of silverware without quality. But there is room to make the staff truly his own and grab greater talent now that he has shown the footballing world what he is capable of as a manager.
One of the most glaring issues for the Gunners this year was set pieces. In the Premier League, Arsenal conceded 20 of their goals, over 45%, from a set piece – worst in the league. It was to the point where as a fan you were sat at home with a nauseous feeling in your gut when the ball went out for a corner or a foul was conceded anywhere within 40 meters.
Yesterday, David Ornstein tweeted that Brentford’s Andreas Georgson has been brought onto the staff and had started as the new set piece coach. It is a continuation of the club restructure we have seen over the recent months and is certainly a welcome. The league average was 13.7 goals from set pieces meaning Arsenal have significant room for improvement. Hoping this week to learn more about Georgson’s role at the club and thoughts.
Player sales talk: AMN, Sokratis, Lucas Torreira?
Coming off the back of Willian’s signature, Gabriel’s likely signature, and hopefully Aubameyangs, it has not gone unnoticed that Arsenal have not made any major sales. Coming into the summer many were well aware that the club’s ability to do a significant amount of business was contingent on their ability to sell well and often. With reports coming out that certain deals, like Thomas Partey’s, are not feasible without significant funds up front, Arsenal need to start to see movement flowing in the opposite direction. The three names being mentioned the most right now: Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Lucas Torreira, Rob Holding.
Maitland-Niles continues to be connected to Wolverhampton and Newcastle with a suggested fee of £20m. It’s a decent amount of money, but for a player that has shown a keen ability to succeed wherever Arteta needs him to play, the fee seems low and like one we will come to regret down the line.
Sokratis has been linked with a move to Napoli. It is well known that Napoli are likely to miss out on Gabriel if he signs with Arsenal and given Sokratis has fallen out of favor since the restart, he could be a great fit for the Serie A side. If Arsenal can bring in Gabriel and move along Sokratis it will be a splendid bit of business early in the window.
Lucas Torreira is another name that many Arsenal fans will have on their “sell” list. It is not that Torreira is bad in particular, it has more to do with his ability to fetch a price and the obvious inability to meld well with Granit Xhaka in the midfield. It was a tough year for the Uruguayan who was played out of position, given multiple managers, suffered injuries, and already had issues with life in London. It seems he longs for a life back in Italy which makes the links with AC Milan, Fiorentina and other Serie A clubs a fantastic fit. If he goes, I wish him nothing but luck. Sometimes moves just don’t pan out.
Finally, it hard to beleive but Arsenal have a game at the end of the week. Just four weeks after an epic FA Cup final victory, Arteta and Arsenal will go for a second piece of silverware in the month. As is customary, the Community Shield is played between the FA Cup and Premier League winners from the previous year. It just doesn’t usually happen so immediately.
Arsenal will play Liverpool in what is likely to be a very odd match. Given the amount of games played during the restart, the brief holiday break, and the upcoming season, it is likely that this match will feature two squad made up almost entirely of second string, backup players.
I don’t imagine that will mean much to either of the managers who never let an opportunity to compete and win pass them by. Don’t be dismayed by the news. The last time these two teams played in a game with teams composed on non-starters we got a 5-5 cracker of a Carabao Cup game that ended with Arsenal losing in penalties. Despite the result, it was still one of the best games to watch all season. I assure you we will have more coverage on the game as the week goes on, including Arteta’s first press conference since the FA Cup finals. Should make for a good conversation.
Sit back and stay tuned. I don’t imagine this period will become any less hectic in the coming days and weeks. With the Premier League starting on September 12th, Arsenal facing a daunting October of fixtures, and the added power Mikel has been given in Raul’s absence, Arteta will want to make sure his team is ready to go and that as much business is completed as possible before his attentions shift in priority to the game itself. This should make for a fun time to follow the news and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts!
I will leave it there. Have a great start to the week and look out for a potential announcement or two from the club!