6 new signings on board but has Arsenal’s summer been a success?
We look at whether Arsenal’s summer was a success after Unai Emery brought in six new signings during the transfer window.
At the end of last season, as the misery of Arsenal’s pitiful performance in the Europa League final faded, reality whacked every Arsenal fan square in the face as it became apparent that there’s a fine amount of work to do.
The first issue was the lack of Champions League football, meaning the club was restricted to a £40m budget. The second issue was the hierarchy was still finding its identity. The third issue was with only six weeks to sort all of this out, was it realistic to expect the team to be in a better situation than the one it found itself in on that miserable June evening?
At this point in the summer all factors pointed to no.
However, skip five weeks and while the team isn’t necessarily ‘better’ there’s no doubt the atmosphere towards the club have improved and there’s genuine excitement for the start of the season.
Therefore, how have the club managed to create such an environment, and should Arsenal fans really be that excited?
Reflecting on the season it was clear that Arsenal were top heavy. The team had proved once again that on the attacking front there were goals in abundance but at the back there was a lot to be desired (more on this soon). In spite of the goals, the attacking opportunities seemed one dimensional. If Aubameyang or Lacazette didn’t produce some magic, and if Mesut Ozil didn’t turn up – both figuratively and literally – the team couldn’t break down a resilient defence.
Therefore, every Arsenal fan knew, and apparently Unai Emery more than anyone, the team needed a winger.
After a couple of failed attempts at Wilfred Zaha, the club went to do something amazing. They led an international fan base to believe in a player they’d never heard of five minutes ago, to such an extent, it was decided, undoubtedly that it was a better signing than Zaha.
I am of course talking about Nicolas Pepe, and while I am in the group who barely knew a stat about him, I can safely say that the £72m acquisition has completely altered mine and most Arsenal fans outlook towards the season. He’s young, athletic, supposedly hard working, and did you know only Kylian Mbappe got more goals and assists than him in Ligue 1 last season?
Whether Pepe proves to be the player we all hope he is, at this point, is slightly irrelevant. The real reason his signing has lifted the fan base so much is that he’s a coup. He’s a young, internationally sought after player, with a hefty price tag that Arsenal signed. He wasn’t offered to them, they signed him. They made a statement by dropping £72m (I don’t care how many years it’s been split over) and signed a player you’d assume was at the top of their wish list.
In many ways, Pepe is a bigger signing than Alexis Sanchez, because while the latter may have been more talented, Barcelona wanted to sell him. In contrast, Arsenal bought Pepe, he chose Arsenal and everyone hopes it’s a real turning point in how the club conducts business.
Pass the marquee signing of Pepe, the board managed to bring in some other valuable signings. Losing Aaron Ramsey hurt but Dani Cellabos, although only on loan, appears to be a young international hungry to impress. Again, he’s a relatively known name with an abundance of potential and although the club would rather Ramsey, there’s no doubt that Ceballos is an exciting player for the squad. He’s got character, talent and desire, and more importantly, Emery can be confident of him making an impact on the starting eleven. This is no Denis Suarez, this is a real valuable addition.
A quick mention is also deserved for Gabriel Martinelli, the first signing of the summer and although he’s the least inspiring, after the impact Guendozi had last season, the fans have a reason to have similar hopes for the young Brazilian striker, and at only £6m, how wrong can it go?
That’s the top half of the team, and whether it has improved is yet to be seen. Ramsey’s loss cannot be understated – see the teams collapse after his injury last season – however with Ozil appearing to be in good spirits, and with Reiss Nelson coming back, Joe Willock a year older and of course Pepe, there’s a lot to be excited about. Other than shifting the waste of space that is Mykitarian and getting Aubameyang and Lacazette to sign new contracts (something which appears to have happened!), there is nothing more Arsenal could do to their attack in this window.
Now we get to the fun part, the defence. Ninety nine percent of Arsenal fans could have told you of the clubs dying need for a winger, but every fan of football and even those who only discuss the sport over cups of tea at work, could have told you that Arsenal need a centre back.
This statement is so true that you could have been frozen for the last ten years and during all that time as a block, the weakness in Arsenal’s defence would have increased rather than decreased.
The tarnished Laurent Koscienly has finally left, Callum Chambers has returned from his loan at Fulham but most worryingly Mustafi is still there. The club did manage to bring in highly rated 19 year old William Saliba for £27m but he’s not joining until next season so there’s no point discussing him now.
With just 48 hours to go before the window closed it looked like we could actually head into the new season with a worse defence than the one that conceded a shameful 51 goals in the Premier League last year. However, thankfully we managed to bring in two defensive signings on deadline day.
David Luiz has arrived from Chelsea but it remains to be seen whether he’s the answer to our defensive problems or offer a Krusty Clown to Mustafi’s Ronald Mcdonald. It’s certainly a risky signing but at least he’s got experience in the Premier League.
However, the signing of Kieran Tierney from Celtic for £25m should prove to be excellent business as he’s a top left-back and will be an improvement on Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac, hopefully making a big difference to the back four not just now but for future seasons too.
We’ll have to wait and see how the new players settle but if Luiz does his best Sideshow Bob impression then we may be looking forward to some very enjoyable 5-4 wins this season.
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