“Well planned”, “proactive”, “meticulous”, “advantageous” — four words many Arsenal fans were probably ready to use to describe Arsenal’s window at the end of the preseason as they hailed the work of Edu and the club. But as the clock chimed 11pm, marking the end of Deadline Day, the closing feelings and sentiments toward it for most will be ones of “inadequacy” and even “failure”.
In the minds of many fans — fairly or not, given our lack of insight — it seemed all too simple for Edu, Richard Garlick, Arteta, and even the Kroenkes to take another step toward endearing themselves in Arsenal fan hearts: finish the window strong with sales or exits and fill as many of the holes as possible with one or two more signings.
I’d even go as far as to say, had the club signed a defensive midfielder and alleviated some fears on Deadline Day, most opinions would be centered around a window that produced a team currently on a five game winning streak, flawless, and ready to take on the rest of the year.
What this Deadline Day leaves fans with is very complex, nuanced, and conflicting sets of emotions. There is a lot of aspects to like about Arsenal’s window — we will explore later — there’s also probably four holes in this squad’s depth that make the year less straight forward to navigate. But, in the face of injuries and challenges to our depth — two aspects people knew could upend our season — the response never came.
I put in the blog two days ago that I didn’t think Arsenal would land a holding midfielder, and while it gives a person no pleasure to be right in these situations, the factors in play put us up against it if we weren’t going to overpay. The club had already set forth some precedents: no overpaying, no bandaid purchases, and not a lot of previous links to holding midfielders that would suggest they weren’t starting at ground level for a name late in the window.
Douglas Luiz, or Aston Villa really, stand at the epicenter of conflicting feelings. Arsenal offered three different fees for Douglas Luiz, the last one around the £26m mark. It was rejected quickly. Reports suggest that Villa had no intention of selling him for less than £40m, an outrageous value for a player in the final year of their contract. Yet, Villa seemed content not to meet Arsenal in the middle, nor above middle at twenty-six. The conflicting feelings are simply that Arsenal needed a defensive mid, but Luiz is hardly even worth the, generous in my opinion, £26m offered. But the need probably made that £26m fee worth while. More than that? It all starts to feel extortionate. It makes me fee; at least content with the attempt the club made and I can’t blame them for walking away.
The problem is that ‘attempts’ aren’t going to solve Arsenal’s depth issues in that position, nor will they solve the potential issues Arsenal have at right wing, striker, and maybe left center back if injuries befall Jesus, Saka, or Gabriel. God have mercy if Sambi suffers an injury this weekend against Manchester United — assuming he plays.
This leaves some frustration when you consider Pepe was loaned out and no winger brought in. To add to the conflict, loaning Pepe was probably the right move. The guy needs to get his career back on track and if it wasn’t going to happen at Arsenal, Arsenal could at least attempt to right the ship elsewhere and, at the very least, return some of his value before next summer.
The depth issues are a problem, and likely will remain a problem in this condensed year. Games come fast and furious early, then there is a World Cup, and only THEN will Arsenal have the ability to bring in more depth — at January window pricing. In the meantime, every time a player goes down, Arsenal fans will fear the worst and curse the window. Edu and Arteta had earned a degree of trust when it comes to landing talents or passing on some in the name of “maintaining the course”, but it’s hard to feel positive about the window when the last taste was so sour.
Arsenal will have a good team. It will be a team that wins games and makes a run at topping the previous season’s point total and betters the final table position. It will also be a team balancing on a knife’s edge between safe and crisis. And that will make navigating these coming months a tricky task for a growing manager.
Grading the window
Arsenal, or Arteta, said the club must maximize every window. Have they? Historically no, probably not, and most will believe they have not maximized this window either. But they did get a lot of business done.
Note: I will be excluding academy transfers in the below commentary
|William Saliba – Back from loan and staying||n/a|
|Reiss Nelson – Back from loan and staying||n/a|
Fee Source: Transfermarkt
|Hector Bellerin||Free Transfer|
|Alexandre Lacazette||Free Transfer|
Fee Source: Transfermarkt
All in all, that list totals to 19 deals. Again, these lists do not count the academy. The first observation feels obvious, lots of business, lots of sales, but a lot can be summarized as a culmination equaling ‘not enough’.
Starting with the sales. Well, not enough sales. The market is tough but Arsenal settled for a lot of loans + options, free transfers, or low fees. Yes, some of this is a product of ‘dead wood’ clean out, but Arsenal and Edu still have a long ways to go when it comes to sales. Total sum of sales: £21.4m
Arrivals? A lot of good names. Jesus has been excellent, Zinchenko is already making a name for himself and inroads toward becoming the nailed on left back, ‘like a new signing’ Saliba looks like a center back with 150 Premier League caps to his name, and we still have yet to see what the very promising Fabio Vieira can offer. Arsenal took a punt on a young 19-year-old Brazilian, Marquinhos, who looks to offer a strong, almost stereotypical Brazilian winger profile, and only paid £3m — a transfer I am always willing to get behind.
Still, despite 7 arrivals — a very healthy amount — it wasn’t enough. It’s also fair to point out that two are coming back from loan, and two were small purchases under £10m in fee. That doesn’t make them less important, but one could argue the saga that surrounds those players is greatly reduced when compared to marquee signings. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how Arsenal fans can feel jaded about the window’s outlook.
Three substantial signings, two depth additions, two loan returns, all completed before the season began. Arsenal spent the rest of the window cleaning house, and I believe the prioritization was correct here. Smart to get the business done early and then look to sell. But when everyone thought the business would pick up at the end of the window in the form of a few more purchases it never did.
And as I said before, it leaves the business for the summer feeling inadequate. And rather than making that one additional signing and giving everyone the unequivocal good feelings of a fantastic window, Arsenal will now continue their hot start with the team they currently have healthy. I am happy to acknowledge the deal today was tough, and even admit that it was fair for Arsenal to walk away, but it’s also fair to judge the club for not being as proactive about the remaining depth issues as they were earlier in the window, especially when the end doesn’t justify the plan.
Overall Grade: 6.25/10
- Purchases made were good
- Remaining holes in the side feel daunting
- Sales were too few and fees rather low
- Total quantity of outgoings great