Skip to content

Arsenal put the emphasis on youth in summer of change

Arsenal allowed 25 players to leave the Emirates Stadium this summer either on loan or permanently

David Luiz congratulates Alexandre Lacazette after the striker gives Arsenal the lead

Arsenal's summer overhaul concluded with Henrikh Mkhitaryan completing a season-long loan move to Roma on the final day of the European transfer window.

The Armenian became one of 25 players to leave the Emirates Stadium either on loan or permanently during the summer, and it is a move which sums up the club's new approach to squad-building.

By moving on the 30-year-old Mkhitaryan, Arsenal not only reduce their wage bill but also free up playing opportunities for young academy graduates such as Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson.

Here, we take a look at how Arsenal have transformed the personnel and profile of the squad during a summer of radical change at the club.

A summer of change

Nicolas Pepe during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Spurs at the Emirates Stadium
Image: Nicolas Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille for £72m

At the end of May, we asked Sky Sports readers which Arsenal players they would keep and which they would sell ahead of the summer window.

The poll revealed 11 players the fans wanted to depart, with David Ospina, Nacho Monreal, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Carl Jenkinson, Calum Chambers, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil all voted out.

Three months on, and seven of those 11 names have indeed departed in a hectic summer which has seen a total of more than two dozen players leave the club on a permanent or temporary basis. The number might be even higher had Arsenal been able to find suitable suitors for Mustafi - privately and publicly advised to depart by Emery - and Ozil.

Also See:

Arsenal were busy in terms of incomings as well, breaking their transfer record to sign the £72m Nicolas Pepe from Lille while also paying large sums for left-back Kieran Tierney and 18-year-old central defender William Saliba, who went straight back to St Etienne on loan for the season.

Pepe has featured prominently in the opening weeks of the season, providing the assist for Alexandre Lacazette's goal in Sunday's north London derby, and while Tierney is still recovering from an injury, there have also been debuts for David Luiz, loanee Dani Ceballos and Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli. Emery's new-look side is already taking shape.

INS: Gabriel Martinelli, Dani Ceballos, William Saliba, Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney, David Luiz

Total spent: £138m

Dani Ceballos
Image: Dani Ceballos arrived on a season-long loan from Real Madrid

OUTS: Aaron Ramsey, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Cohen Bramall, Julio Plegezuelo, Charlie Gilmour, David Ospina, Daniel Ballard, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Ben Sheaf, Xavier Amaechi, Krystian Bielik, Takuma Asano, Carl Jenkinson, William Saliba, Danny Welbeck, Dominic Thompson, Vontae Daley-Campbell, Eddie Nketiah, Alex Iwobi, Nacho Monreal, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mohamed Elneny, Kelechi Nwakali

Total received: £56m

* All figures from the Transfer Database. Fees referenced include add-ons but do not include loan deals.

Player turnover

The turnover of players at the Emirates Stadium has been rapid, not just this summer but over the last few years. Indeed, the extent of the change becomes clear when looking back at Arsenal's matchday squad for their 2017 FA Cup final win over Chelsea - less than two-and-a-half years ago.

As well as having a different manager in the dugout, with Unai Emery in place of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have moved on 14 of the 18 players involved that day at Wembley.

The only survivors are Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Xhaka and Ozil.


Monreal's departure to Real Sociedad means Arsenal's longest-serving senior player is now Ozil, who joined them in 2013. The playmaker's future was the subject of speculation earlier in the summer, but a move never came to fruition. And yet, despite his experience, he is still waiting for his first appearance of the season, with Emery favouring younger alternatives.

Youth over experience?

Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and James Olayinka in pre-season training
Image: Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and James Olayinka in pre-season training

One obvious conclusion from Arsenal's summer is that they have placed youth over experience.

In Lichtsteiner, Koscielny, Mkhitaryan, Ospina and Monreal, they have sold or released five players over the age of 30. The 32-year-old David Luiz did arrive from Chelsea, but the only other players in the squad aged 30 or over are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ozil and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Otherwise, the squad has a youthful feel. With the exception of Luiz, their summer signings had an average age of 21. There is also a promising crop of academy graduates competing for a place. Willock and Nelson have already impressed this season, while Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka are waiting in line, too.

When Willock and Nelson started at Newcastle on the opening weekend of the new season, it was the first time since February 1998 when Arsenal had named two English teenagers in their starting line-up.

Behind the scenes

Raul Sanllehi believes Arsenal are capable of attracting the calibre of players they are looking for
Image: Raul Sanllehi is Arsenal's head of football

The change has been just as dramatic behind the scenes. Where once there was an all-powerful manager in Wenger, now there is a whole team in place to look after off-field matters, allowing head coach Emery to focus solely on what happens on the pitch and making Arsenal more efficient in the market.

Raul Sanllehi has overseen the summer business in his role as head of football, with help from chief executive Vinai Venkatesham as well as technical director Edu. The Brazilian was appointed in July following the departure of former head of recruitment Sven Mislintat earlier this year.

The hope now is that Arsenal have all the pieces in place to keep them moving in the right direction for the long-term. Their efforts to build the side up for the future have only just begun.

Expect more change to come.

Our biggest season yet on Sky Sports

The Premier League is back and you can watch more games than ever before on Sky Sports. We'll show 128 Premier League games exclusively live - and have the first pick of matches every weekend.

We have new Saturday Night Football slots, with games every weekend at 5.30pm, Friday Night Football, Super Sunday and Monday Night Football.

Plus, you'll be able to watch Premier League highlights shortly after the full-time whistle on the Sky Sports website and app - without being a Sky Sports subscriber.

As well as all that great live action, we'll also bring you Saturday Social (9.30am, Saturdays), Soccer AM (10.30am, Saturdays), Soccer Saturday (12pm, Saturdays), Sunday Supplement (10am, Sundays), Goals on Sunday (11.30am, Sundays) and The Debate (weeknights) for the best reaction and analysis.

Soccer Saturday Super 6 is Back
Soccer Saturday Super 6 is Back

FREE TO PLAY: £2m jackpot if 2m Players Enter

Around Sky