Deadline day came and deadline day went and what came out of it from an Arsenal perspective was a series of exits and no incomings. There are a few people who are questioning whether that was wise because after we started off the summer with a bloated squad, the view from some quarters of the Arsenal fanbase is that now we have sold a few players and are a bit short. This is particularly the case in defence and after it was confirmed that Holding had left the club (will come on to that deal in a sec) for Crystal Palace, our back line now includes:
I’ve omitted Timber because of his injury, Cedric is expected to leave the club still and there are talks that Reull Walters could be in line for some minutes from the bench or as an option, but when you look at that group of six players, it does feel a little light. This is especially the case given that Zinchenko and Tomiyasu are injury prone. If we have a similar situation to the end of last season and Saliba’s back goes and Tomiyasu picks up an injury that keeps him out for a few months, we’re essentially looking at a back four of White, Gabriel, Kiwior and Zinchenko and those guys would end up playing all of the games.
Of course we also have Thomas Partey who can play at right back and Arteta has used him like that in every game this season, but I think most of us would prefer to see him in at the six and White restored to that right back slot, wouldn’t we? Also, Partey is a player who is going to play most weeks and with that being the case, is it dangerous to have your rotation options as regular players? Maybe, maybe not; there will be players who are going in to games warmer than if you dropped in an Elneny, for example, who has barely featured at all.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m still not sure whether I’m happy with our squad or whether I’m slightly nervous because of the increased importance of games like the Champions League that will mean we are more susceptible to injury than last season.
But hey, we have four months before the January transfer window opens and if we’re struggling with one or two knocks come December I’d imagine the club will make moves to bring somebody else in. In fact, I’m almost convinced the club will have to, because both Partey and Tomiyasu disappear off for the Asia Cup and AFCON in January, so we are super short when that happens.
So after all that initial spend, where did we end up? Did we balance the books after all? TransferMarkt says we made €67.9million but it doesn’t mention a loan fee for Sambi or Runarsson, although I expect if anything that would be peanuts, so let’s assume €68million in and it says we spent €234.9million, which means a net spend of £167million (ish). Whilst still pretty hefty, the second placed finish, the Champions League coin (€16million for group stages, plus circa €900k per win, €9.6million for Round of 16, so if we get there we’re probably talking just north of €33million without the gate receipts money), will all add up to pay for some of that cost.
Have we improved on the squad now though? Do we have the numbers in? Compared to last season, are we better?
That’s a tricky one to answer. We’ve gained Rice which is a big uptick. We’ve lost Xhaka and replaced with Havertz which, at this moment in time, is a downgrade although maybe he will come good and I think we’re all prepared to get behind that and hope for it. We’ve improved our back up ‘keeper massively but I don’t think that’s a position that is going to have that much of a marked difference and the one area we did look very strong in – defence – we’ve lost our other signing for the whole season to injury. So on the face of it, we only look a little better than we were last season.
But maybe you can say the same for others too? City lost Mahrez, Laporte, Gundogan, Cancelo (although he wasn’t playing in the end, admittedly) and have added Gvardiol, Nunes, Doku, Kovacic, whilst De Bruyne is also out for a significant period of time. Of course the Belgian will be back in a couple of months but Gundogan for Kovacic looks like a downgrade to me. Gvardiol is sure to be a solid signing for Laporte and so maybe an upgrade there, but will Doku hit the ground running and replace Mahrez instantly? Maybe, maybe not.
Liverpool lost Fabinho, Henderson, Firmino, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain (although admittedly he spent half the time injured), Milner and have let Carvalho go, with Szoboszlai coming in (upgrade on Carvalho), Mac Allister (upgrade on Henderson?), Gravenberch (for Fabinho?) and Endo (for Keita?) so I’d probably say they probably achieved a ‘par’ there too. We all know what United fans think of their window so, in fact, I’m not sure there are any teams that really ‘moved the needle’ with their signings this summer.
So perhaps it isn’t so bad. Sure, we are taking a little gamble with defence in letting Holding go, but having spent the best part of the last two or three years saying that we need to move on from the likes of him, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to say we should have kept Holding. I do wish that we’d have done better than a £1million loan fee and £2.5million in add ons though. It feels like Palace have had us over a barrel there for a guy who will work well as a deep-lying low block defender in that Palace side. They will know they got an absolute steal and for £1million you do wonder whether it was worth it. I guess if you’re banking a million quid and getting his wages off the books it is sensible, but only time will tell.
I’m a thousand words in to today’s blog and so far haven’t even mentioned the press conference from Arteta, which was pretty funny to be fair. His talk of different routes to work, about using 43 different formations against City, etc, etc, it all seemed like he had decided he was going to have a bit of fun with the journo’s yesterday. But ultimately we didn’t get anything else from him that we wouldn’t have expected so I think i’ll park that for now and tomorrow focus on the pre match build up.
So I’ll catch you all tomorrow. Have yourselves a good one.