Five Cheap Signings to Improve Arsenal this Summer
It is no secret that due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Arsenal are struggling financially. In the case of many lower league clubs, it threatens their survival, whilst the money flowing into the Premier League may lead fans to think that these clubs are safe.
If ever there was an indication of the effect of the disease, it occurred this week when Liverpool, European Champions and surely soon to be domestic champions, were forced to pull out of a £50m transfer for RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner due to ‘financial reasons’, despite having courted the player for the best part of two years.
If a club with the money that Liverpool have surely accumulated over the last two seasons cannot afford this, all of a sudden the large fees for Thomas Partey, Dayot Upamecano and Houssem Aouar that have been circulating the Arsenal rumour mill seem far less likely.
With this in mind, this article seeks to address five ways in which Arsenal can improve their squad inexpensively this summer. I think that much of any transfer budget Arsenal have should (and will) be reserved for strengthening central midfield with quality, so I have tried to avoid this position where possible. Instead, I have looked at cheap options to strengthen other areas that need it.
Before I begin, however, I would just like to make one further point. I see Arsenal as a project- the club is in a position where it cannot just be fixed in one window. As such, some of these signings will be investments that have the potential to be rough-cut gems in the same form as Gabriel Martinelli and Matteo Guendouzi.
With that cleared up, let’s dive in.
1. Cedric (Permanently).
Signing a player who is yet to play for the club sounds ludicrous but in this scenario makes a lot of sense. Cedric moved to Arsenal on loan in January 2020 and was recovering from injury, but will have worked closely with Mikel Arteta since and surely understands what he expects from his players. The problem he came to solve, Arsenal’s backup right-back position, still exists, with Calum Chambers still injured and Ainsley Maitland-Niles convinced his best position lies elsewhere.
On £65,000 per week according to Sportrac, as well as costing no transfer fee, the 28-year-old Portuguese international would contribute to solving a problem that Arsenal have had for several years now, and would allow youth prospects such as Osei-tutu to further develop before being thrust into the squad. In my mind, it is a no-brainer and saves funds for other, more important areas of the pitch.
2. Malang Sarr
21 years-old and a free agent this summer, when it comes to centre-backs Arsenal could do, and have done, a lot worse than taking a look at Malang Sarr (£35m for Mustafi immediately springs to mind). Sarr is a left-footed, left-sided centre-back who is quick and has a fantastic eye for a pass, both requisites in the high-intensity style that Arteta is trying to implement.
After a successful 2018/19 season where Sarr played just shy of 3000 minutes, his form dipped slightly in 2019/20. Playing only 16 times (with six of these being at left-back), he demonstrated that he still has plenty to learn as you would expect from a young defender.
Sarr is not necessarily ready to step in and improve the first XI immediately. However, with David Luiz’s future looking uncertain and Sokratis and Mustafi not getting any younger, it is a no-risk signing with a great deal of potential. This is exactly the sort of deal a cash-strapped side such as Arsenal should be looking to get done.
3. Adil Aouchiche
A midfielder that few have heard of plucked out of France on the cheap and brought to North London. Sound familiar?
These deals don’t always work out, but with transfer funds at an all-time low this summer, it may be worth taking a punt on 17-year-old Adil Aouchiche. The attacking midfielder currently plies his trade in Paris Saint-Germain’s second team, having featured just three times for the senior side this season. Hardly impressive, but the soon to be a free agent is very well-regarded across France, and scored nine goals in the under-17 euros in the summer of 2019.
With 16 goals in 25 appearances for the French U17 side, he represents another highly talented player from the seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of French youngsters. Once again, Aouchiche would be a player for the future, but it is a future Arsenal should look to consider now. Poor planning has previously seen the club lose out on players such as Julian Draxler, Julien Brandt and other top talents. To really make the most of this window, Arsenal will have to take risks, and Aouchiche could be one such risk.
4. Mario Gotze
Two weeks ago, Borussia Dortmund announced that Mario Gotze would be leaving on a free at the end of the 2019/20 season. A man whose career has been hampered by a chronic disease, the German international remains only 27 and, with Mesut Ozil’s significant drop off in form, would represent an interesting option on a free transfer, offering far more experience and likely ability than Aouchiche.
Whether Arsenal sign another creative player in the no.10 mould depends entirely on whether Mikel Arteta chooses to retain the 4231 system we have seen so far, or if he instead opts for a 433 with dynamic no.8s. If he sticks, Mesut Ozil will need support.
Tactically, signing a right-footed player makes sense, as it adds a degree of variety to a side which has often seen Ozil and Nicolas Pepe, both heavily left-footed, stationed out on the right side together. The result of this is predictability, which makes it much easier for defenders to stop attacks down that flank. Signing a right-footed playmaker would significantly aid Pepe’s playstyle as it would create more unpredictability, and in turn, create more chances for the Ivorian to demonstrate his visible talent.
Two potential stumbling blocks present themselves for this signing. Firstly, Mario Gotze has not played a great deal of football recently, making just 15 Bundesliga appearances this season. The second caveat is finances. Although a free agent, it is rumoured that Mario Gotze is looking for a contract similar to his previous deal at Dortmund, which stood at about €8m per year, approximately £170,000 per week. However, a man as decorated as Gotze may well be worth the price as a short term solution to Arsenal’s creative woes.
5. Dominik Szoboszlai
RB Leipzig’s success in recent seasons has been in no small part due to their opportunities to cherry-pick players from sister club RB Salzburg. Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Dayot Upamecano are just three names that immediately spring to mind.
The best way to prevent this? Beat them to it.
One player Arsenal should, and undoubtedly will, be taking a look at this summer is 19-year-old Hungarian Dominik Szoboszlai. The young talent has been deployed largely on the left-hand side over the 2019-20 campaign but has all the natural offensive abilities to be a natural central midfielder, where he has played on occasion. He would be a fascinating option in a 433, although his defensive contributions do leave something to be desired, something that could be solved with the correct coaching.
Equally, he would come cheap, with rumours pricing him at just £15 million. Whilst he could follow the footsteps of other former RB Salzburg players and join fellow wunderkind Dani Olmo at RB Leipzig, this window represents a fantastic opportunity for Arsenal to get ahead of other clubs, and it is one that they need to make the most of.
Arsenal’s biggest weaknesses lie in midfield and centre-back. The latter will hopefully be aided by the incoming William Saliba, whilst a fix for the midfield spot will not come cheap. Due to this, Arsenal will have to spend frugally in other positions, even more so now given the economic climate. This list offers five affordable players who offer either an upgrade on what the club already have, or begin setting the club up for the future. Even with limited funds, Arsenal can still have a very successful summer window.