Arsenal had a higher transfer spend than any other Premier League club during the summer transfer window; Gunners brought in six new faces aged between 21 and 23; strategy is to switch focus to youth but will it save Mikel Arteta?
Friday 10 September 2021 18:38, UK
Takehiro Tomiyasu became Arsenal’s sixth signing of a busy summer on Deadline Day, his £19.8m arrival from Bologna taking the club’s transfer spend past £150m.
The right-back, 22, follows Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard to the Emirates Stadium, with all six signings aged between 21 and 23 years old.
The new additions show a concerted effort to lower the average age of the squad and invest in the future of the club, but has the overhaul gone far enough?
And with Mikel Arteta already facing mounting pressure following Arsenal's dismal start to the Premier League season, will the new faces be able to provide the immediate improvement required?
Sky Sports' Oliver Yew:
When you've made as many mistakes as Arsenal in the transfer market over the past few years, there comes a point when you have to push the reset button.
You have to start somewhere and the business the Gunners have done this summer - following some of their outgoings in January - suggests they have done that.
With no European football to help them attract the calibre of players supporters grew accustomed to in the past, Arsenal have invested in youth, signing six players under 23 and tying Gabriel Martinelli, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe to new contracts.
However, they have also had to cut their losses on a number of players, paying up the contracts of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi before they left for free in January.
The less said about Willian's move to north London the better. From Arsenal's perspective, the only positive is the fact the Brazilian walked away from significant future earnings in order to terminate his contract and complete his move to Corinthians.
The club have had issues when it comes to selling players and only received one proper transfer fee this summer with Joe Willock moving to Newcastle for £25m. Technical director Edu struggled to find buyers for the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
They are just two of a number of players with their Arsenal futures unresolved.
Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, Cedric Soares, and Mohamed Elneny are still at the club, while many others, including Hector Bellerin, were sent out on loan with Arsenal unable to attract bids.
Not all of the club's loan decisions have been welcomed by supporters.
While Arsenal have floundered in the early weeks of the season, William Saliba and Matteo Guendouzi have helped Marseille to an unbeaten start to the Ligue 1 campaign, while defender Konstantinos Mavrapanos is back at Stuttgart and impressing for the German side.
The Saliba decision is particularly curious given Arsenal's dismal defensive performances of late. Arsenal paid £28m for the 20-year-old, who is regarded as one of the best prospects in French football, but he is yet to play a competitive game for the club.
Non-executive director Josh Kroenke, son of owner Stan Kroenke, told Arsenal supporters to 'be excited' in 2019 about their future plans for the club, while Arteta hinted at a big overhaul of his squad in May, but it remains to be seen whether they've done enough.
Despite it being clear to see what Arsenal are trying to achieve, and despite the fact they have spent more than any other Premier League club this summer, many would argue they have failed to strengthen their first-team sufficiently.
Youth is now Arsenal's focus but the under-pressure Arteta needs an immediate upturn if he is to be the manager who feels the long-term benefits.
Sky Sports' Paul Merson:
I think Arsenal's season starts when they come back from the international break. The fixtures coming up are winnable games and they will have to win them, there's no doubt about that.
I think Mikel Arteta will have until the October international break. I think if they haven't improved by then, he will be under severe pressure. I think that's common sense when you're spending that kind of money.
Would I expect Arsenal to beat Chelsea and Manchester City? No. But are there ways of getting beat against them? Yes.
For me, time will tell with the new signings, but at the moment Arsenal are a mid-table team. If they come fifth or sixth, I think they would be pulling up trees, I really do.
Tenth is about right. I don't think they finish above Leicester, and I don't think they finish above Tottenham now that Harry Kane's staying. You look at Everton with Rafa now, and they're going to be organised and hard to beat. West Ham look decent too.
It's not as easy as it used to be. It's not a free ride to the top four, five or six anymore. These other teams are buying good players. You look at Aston Villa, they've got Danny Ings. Why haven't Arsenal gone and bought him?
I worry about the recruitment. I'd do a better job, I tell you now. I'm not asking a lot, I'd do it for nothing, but I'd want Tony Adams with me!
My problem with Arsenal is that they buy players, but they never beat other clubs to a player. No one else is after that player.
With the lad from Bologna, the first thing that comes into my head is that he's a right-back, 23m euros, so why are Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan not buying him? I don't get that.
Sky Sports' Gary Neville:
I'm not sure what Arsenal's transfer strategy is. It seems a bit over the place. Maybe there is one, but it's not clear. Sometimes you can see a left-field signing and think you can see where it comes from, but there's quite a few of them at Arsenal.
I'm not sure what style of play they're going for, but it'll all come out in the next few weeks. Man Utd came out of a period under Sir Alex Ferguson, and it's very difficult. Arsenal are suffering in that way too, the hangover of the Arsene Wenger era.
You're trying to get the club to move forward, but I always think of David Moyes' comment that you're going into the house, and the father's left and you're the step-father. I think that's starting to leave Manchester United nearly 10 years on, but there's probably still an element of that at Arsenal.
It's not necessarily within the squad, sometimes it's the non-football side that holds everything back, that feeling of not being happy in the club.
There's something not right at Arsenal, I think there's a lack of surety at the top. You've got to stabilise after the period they've had with Arsene Wenger.
You look at the senior players in that squad and you think, 'what are they getting from them?' Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka… They've got to get themselves right to create an atmosphere in that dressing room where they're all together and aligned behind the manager.
They have to start working for each other on the pitch and be difficult to beat before they worry about winning loads of matches. They've been very easy to beat so far this season, which is not a good trait.
Sky Sports' Nick Wright:
For all the understandable concern around Arsenal's awful start to the season, it is important to remember that the team that takes them forward will look very different to the one they have had to use in the early weeks of the campaign.
In goal, there is optimism that Ramsdale could command his area in a way Bernd Leno appears unable to. The former Sheffield United 'keeper only turned 23 in May but boasts considerable experience and impressed on his debut against West Brom.
Whether it's him or Leno who starts, however, the defensive unit protecting the goal is certain to be overhauled. Rob Holding, Chambers, Cedric and Kolasinac were starters at the Etihad Stadium but will be squad players when the action resumes.
White will return following his bout of Covid and the defensively-minded Tomiyasu will provide balance for the marauding Tierney on the opposite flank. Gabriel Magalhaes will also be available for selection again following a knee injury.
In midfield, Granit Xhaka's suspension could open the door to Lokonga, who has looked assured in his early appearances, while Thomas Partey is expected to return from injury too.
The Ghanaian was signed at considerable expense last summer and his guile and athleticism have been sorely missed in midfield this season, especially given how well he was playing in Arsenal's warm-up game against Chelsea when he injured his ankle.
A midfield axis of Partey and Lokonga could allow Odegaard to thrive behind Aubameyang.
The Norwegian endured a miserable return to the club against Manchester City, only touching the ball 23 times before his second-half withdrawal, but his creativity could prove invaluable for a side that needs more of it.
Much will depend on how quickly the new arrivals adapt, of course. Arteta will also have work to do to lift the mood in the camp after Arsenal's winless and goalless start. But it will only be fair to truly judge him when more of his resources become available.