How effective was Arsenal's transfer business this summer?
Finally, we have reached September – the month when the football can do the talking, no more transfer speculation – well not until the Winter window opens and we get to do it all again. It was a record-breaking Summer window which saw over £1 billion change hands, an eye-watering amount when we consider how far football transfers have increased in just the last five years or so.
Arsenal are one of the clubs that had their transfer policy heavily scrutinised since last season had been put to bed, so come the end of the window, how did Arsene Wenger fare?
The club was more active in the transfer market than some had expected – at least eventually. Their business totaled £93 million which seemed unlikely just over a week ago. Fans were growing increasingly worried and restless due to them only having signed an assured ball-playing midfielder in Swiss international Granit Xhaka and two youngsters in the shape of Rob Holding and Takuma Asano.
Rob Holding – (Bolton) – £2 million
Shkodran Mustafi – (Valencia)- £35 million
Lucas Perez – (Deportivo) – £17 million
Granit Xhaka – (B. Monchengladbach) – £34 million
Takuma Asano – (S. Hiroshima) – £5 million
Mikel Arteta – Released
Takuma Asano – (Stuttgart) – Loan
Joel Campbell – (Sporting Lisbon) – Loan
Calum Chambers – (Middlesbrough) – Loan
Mathieu Flamini – Released
Samuel Galindo – Retired
Serge Gnabry – (Werder Bremen) – £10 million
Issac Hayden – (Newcastle) – undisclosed
Tomas Rosicky – Released
Wojciech Szczesny – (Roma) – Loan
Jack Wilshere – (Bournemouth) – Loan
There were some surprising developments in the exit column, with Serge Gnabry leaving permanently to ply his trade in the Bundesliga, and the loan departures of both Calum Chambers and Jack Wilshere. Wilshere and Chambers both need games and will both be working under managers that could improve their game.
The latter is working under Aitor Karanka, an accomplished defender in his time at Real Madrid. Wilshere will be under the tutelage Eddie Howe, who is already winning plaudits for his work at AFC Bournemouth. The Arsenal academy product will be integral to the club’s survival as he looks to make the most of some much needed playing time.
The most important thing to come out of this transfer window was that Wenger may finally have addressed the need for a far stronger spine in the starting XI.
The number one priority this Summer was the need to bolster the central defensive area. The acquisition of Rob Holding from Bolton was met with disbelief and apprehension, but his early performances have been surprising and have not done his future any harm whatsoever.
The arrival of Mustafi is, however, an indication that Wenger is willing to spend any amount of money, providing he believes the player is an upgrade on what he already has, and seemingly, when other avenues have been exhausted.
Injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel seemed to have forced Wenger’s hand, but nevertheless, fans will be relieved that he bit the bullet and got his man. Mustafi, 24, is a player for the present and the future. Already a World Cup winner with Germany, the defender will be looking to make himself a permanent fixture in the Arsenal back-four.
Mustafi has good aerial ability, a decent turn of pace, impressive distribution and is a good reader of the game. In the past, Arsenal have been accused of being too passive and slow in defence, so with the possible partnership of Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny, there is a reason to be optimistic.
Granit Xhaka comes to the Emirates with a big reputation from the Bundesliga. He is a typical Arsenal player: comfortable with the ball in any area on the pitch, confident in possession, and has a high level of pass accuracy. However, unlike many recent signings, he likes a robust challenge or two, which is arguably something Wenger’s sides have lacked since the departure of Gilberto Silva in 2008.
Something that is leveled at this current Arsenal squad is the “lack of leaders” in the squad. Xhaka is exactly that. The 23-year-old already has captaincy experience at his former club and he is definitely future armband material at The Emirates.
Many strikers were linked in the Summer; Alexandre Lacazette, Gonzalo Higuain, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku to name just a few. The arrival of Lucas Perez finally gives Arsene Wenger some different options in attack.
The signing of the Deportivo striker could eventually prove to be a shrewd piece of business from the Arsenal manager. Perez comes to Arsenal following an impressive season in La Liga with strugglers Deportivo, eventually finishing 15th last season. Perez netted 17 goals, contributed eight assists and impressively created 72 other chances – no mean feat in a team that struggled for large parts of the campaign.
In conclusion then, yes, Arsenal probably could have had a better transfer window, but did they have a bad one? Not by a long shot. They have options, slightly more squad depth, as well as cutting away some “deadwood”.
The one complaint fans rightly have will be the same one it always is – there were times this Summer when Wenger seemed to dither, and it is no secret the best teams get their business done early. Manchester United and Manchester City did just that, allowing them to establish a good team chemistry in pre-season before shipping out the unwanted members of the squad towards the end of the window.
Xhaka looks settled in the Arsenal midfield, it remains to be seen if the same will be said about Mustafi in defence and Perez in attack. Perez, 27, has put in the work and pulled himself out of relative obscurity after completing stints in Ukraine and Greece with FC Karpaty Lviv and PAOK FC respectively. The Spaniard has a chance to finally prove himself at a big club, if he can replicate his form from last campaign Arsenal will have a real bargain on their hands and find themselves in title contention.
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