If there is one thing that Arsenal cannot afford to do at this point in their club and team overhaul, it’s waste a transfer window. The club is attempting to keep themselves on a tight plan to put themselves back in contention for Premier League’s top 4, Champions League, and title contention in the next few years. To do that, they need to find ways to run a tight, ruthless ship. There are only two opportunities a year to make these moves and the January window is undoubtedly the tougher one to not only get things done, but make sure they are done right.
“In preparation for the summer”. If there was a phrase that summarizes the intent of Arsenal’s window, it may be just that. Maybe, “with the future in mind” but that feels pretty obvious. However, in order to achieve this goal, Arsenal had to quite literally pay the price for past mistakes, and they learned exactly what those mistakes cost a club.
Outgoings were always the name of the game for Arsenal who found themselves in an interesting place of players on high wages not playing, players contracts coming to a close, limited financial flexibility to make longterm purchases, and a few budding stars that could shape and dictate how the club moves forward but need further assessment. The reaction: find loans and clear “wood’.
- Mat Ryan (Loan)
- Martin Ødegaard (Loan)
Arsenal came into the window needing a creative midfielder that could rotate with Emile Smith Rowe, push him for minutes, and contribute without a lot of runway time to get settled. They also needed a back up keeper, preferably one that qualified for homegrown status, despite their purchased of Runarsson who hasn’t panned out or shown an ability to really make it at this level since his summer signing. Finally, there were reasons to believe that Arsenal were in need of a left back to support Kieran Tierney once Kolasinac was loaned to Schalke.
Arsenal managed to get in a perfectly acceptable backup keeper in Ryan, although starting off with a hip injury is unfortunate. When it comes to Ødegaard, it’s hard to argue Arsenal could have done better from a loan. There may be reasons to be hesitant about how his arrival will effect Smith Rowe, but that burden falls onto Arteta’s shoulders. It’s Arteta and the club that must look after Emile’s growth. Overall, a really great selection.
When it comes to the left back, I think a few people will be concerned, especially in conjunction with the news that Tierney will miss another match tomorrow. He has proven to be an injury prone player, but Soares as stepped up just as well at left back as anyone you could bring in on loan. It essentially leaves Arsenal with Tierney, Cedric, and Saka as left back options and Bellerin, Soares, and Chambers as right back options. Throw Pablo Mari and Gabriel in the left back mix as well, although they certainly can’t play the Tierney role. It’s a slight risk, but it might be one Arsenal get away with for this season. They will definitely need to address it come summer.
- Mesut Özil – Contract terminated
- Shkodran Mustafi – Contract terminated
- Sokratis – Contract terminated
- Matt Macey
- Sead Kolasinac (Loan – Arsenal covering some of wages)
- William Saliba (Loan)
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Loan)
- Joe Willock (Loan)
- A few youth players – Matt Smith, Joseph Olowu
The most important part of this window was undoubtedly the clearing of Arsenal’s bloated squad. At one point during this window, Arsenal had 31 first team players — far too many. Not only does that not work well when it comes to squad registration, but you run into problems with players wanting time or headaches with veteran players that know they aren’t going to get time. It doesn’t leave room for you to bring up youth players for meaningful involvement, plus there were reports of division forming within the locker room. To summarize: you put a lot of unneeded, added stress and issues in the lap of your manager over the next 4+ months as you figure out how to exit these players.
Arsenal’s response was much needed and, at the very least, effective. Costly, but a necessary evil. They paid out the contracts of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis, and Mustafi, while finding a loan for Kolasinac. By doing so, they remove two players that would remain unregistered and moved along two other players that may have been added to the unregistered list this time around or simply not seen minutes. While it cost Arsenal a pretty penny, it likely saved a few pounds, which always helps.
As for the other outgoings: Macey, Saliba, Maitland-Niles, and Willock. Macey was a goalkeeper that was always going to be moved out of Arsenal — either in January or during the summer, so finding him a deal now works, but Arsenal didn’t get anything in return. A common trend this window.
The situation with Saliba needed resolving, and it needed to be done early in the window. The club already made a bit of a hash with Saliba’s situation early this season by not getting him a loan, nor registering him for the Europa League. They found him a loan, put him in a league he knows on a team in which he wouldn’t face competition for minutes, and begin to salvage the situation. Only time will tell how Saliba feels about returning to Arsenal long term or what Arsenal’s intents with him are.
Finally, the Hale End kids. Coming into the day, there was talk of Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and Reiss Nelson going out on loan. Arsenal got 2 of the 3 done as Willock went to Newcastle and AMN went to West Brom. It’s a shame they couldn’t find a destination for Reiss Nelson who could also use with a loan, but both Willock and Niles will benefit from their time away. At the very least, Arsenal will have much of the evidence they need to make a decision on their future. Everyone will be hoping they settle in and have a great finish to the season. It’s clearly what they needed, now they have to take their opportunity and make the most of it.
“£700k-per-week saved. £11m” misnomer
There has been a statement going around the internet that this window has saved Arsenal over £700k-per-week in wages by moving these players on which totals around eleven million pounds between now and the end of the season.
The amounts come from the players’ wages, obviously, and tally up to roughly that £11m mark:
- Özil £350k p/w
- Kolasinac £100k p/w
- Sokratis £92k p/w
- Saliba £40k p/w
- Macey £9k p/w
- Mustafi £90k p/w
- AMN £35k p/w
- Willock £20k p/w
But, the stat is false, at the very least extremely misleading, and I think it’s important to talk about why, before we reach next summer and people are wondering why there isn’t an extra £11m in transfer coffers.
In order to terminate the contracts of Ozil, Sokratis, and Mustafi, Arsenal had to pay their way out of them. These terminations were “mutually agreed upon” to the tune of paying out the majority of the money still owed on their deals. You can add in Kolasinac who was loaned to Schalke but Arsenal are still responsible for a chunk of his wages.
For instance, Arsenal owed Ozil another £7m on his contract. While it’s believed Arsenal haven’t paid that full amount, it’s fair to assume they have paid most of it. Id guess at least £5million, but probably closer to £6m+. That’s half the “savings”, and Sokratis and Mustafi’s situation is pretty similar. Throw in the Kolasinac wages and you eat into it a little bit more.
All in all, it would be fair to suggest Arsenal maybe saved a few million pounds, depending on the structure of the deals, but it’s important to remember that “players don’t lose money” in sport when it comes to contracts — almost ever — and they haven’t here. In order to move them along, Arsenal likely had to pay somewhere between £8-10m for the suggested £11m…so…False.
Additionally, all of these players contracts were done at the end of this summer, expect Kolasinac’s so Arsenal have essentially decided to fast forward that process by paying them out and allowing them to leave, but that’s not really saving money. If you spend £500 pounds in January, rather than spending it over the course of 5 months, you haven’t saved that money. So why would Arsenal do it?
For many of the reasons listed at the start of the article: reduce squad bloat, remove players without a future at the club — especially ones unlikely to get time or even registered due to homegrown quotas, end the suggestion of locker room division that were reported, ease the numbers Arteta needs to work into training sessions, and make room for younger players to participate. For example, it was reported that eight youth players trained with the first team yesterday ahead of Wolves. That’s possible with fewer first team members taking up those spaces on the training ground.
This move absolutely needed to happen. It’s better for the team, better for the club, better for the coach, and better for so many reasons, but the idea that it was mass-savings its not accurate. That amount is removed from the wage bill which will help come next transfer window when Arsenal look to have another huge window, but most those wages were coming off the bill at that point anyhow.
Final grade: 7/10
I thought Arsenal did excellent work this window and I applaud the efforts of Edu and Arteta. In order to do it, they had to terminate a fair amount of contracts and pay people off — they also have struggled to get fees from other teams for players which is a slight concern — but they did what they had to in order to put themselves in a great position to make the Summer window count.
Arsenal also found loans for Maitland-Niles, William Saliba, and Joe Willock — all of whom needed that in order to continue their progression forward. Finally, Arsenal managed to be resourceful and find themselves two players on loan deals that offer great backup and some presumable quality should they get time. Ideally, Ryan doesn’t see minutes because that means Leno has been hurt, but Ødegaard already has seen time and will likely get more. Finding that in loan form and not having to make rash, permanent purchases is a major win.
Unfortunately, Arsenal couldn’t find a left back, nor could they find loans for Reiss Nelson which probably would have put this window at an 8 for me.
What would have warranted a 10? Had Edu found a way to accomplish all that, as well as fetch a fee for Mustaf or Sokratis, or paid less for Mesut Ozil to leave. I think those are really big asks and nearly impossible to do, but in reality Arsenal haven’t saved significant funds from those three. Still it needed to be done and it’s a major win, but not sure it qualifies as a 10/10. In the end, Arsenal have reduced their squad size early, they brought in a good midfield loan, but they lost depth at full back. If Tierney is hurt, the window make look a little less successful.
It’s important to remember this was a January window, so if you were expecting major purchases like we see during the summer, you may have started off on the wrong foot to begin with. Arsenal have paved a way for the future, all in preparation for the Summer and that is a good step.