Grading Arsenal’s Transfer Business
The Summer of 2019 will live long in the memory of every Arsenal fan. It’s been nothing if not a rollercoaster. As Arsenal supporters, we went into the window with a great deal of scepticism for a number of reasons. The reported £45 million budget, the disappointing end to the 2019 season and not having Champions League football to offer our biggest targets being some of the reasons for the negativity.
However, since the appointment of club legend and Invincible Edu as the new technical director, Arsenal have been busy in the transfer market, reminding our rivals that we can still compete. Edu and Head of Football Raul Sanllehi managed to snap up six major signings before yesterday’s 5pm deadline. Many of these came as a complete shock so it’s time to take a step back and have an in-depth look at the signings and departures at Arsenal and analyse the impact which they may have in the coming season and beyond.
Nicolas Pepe (Lille – £72m):
The signing of Nicolas Pepe sent shock waves across Europe when the deal between Arsenal and Lille was announced. One of the most highly touted players in Europe after his stellar campaign last year with Lille in Ligue one, Pepe wasn’t viewed as a possibility for the Gunners at the beginning of the window. However, Sanllehi and Edu pulled off the seemingly impossible when they agreed to smash Arsenal’s transfer record to beat Napoli to the £72 million Ivorian.
With 22 goals and 12 assists last season, Pepe’s addition should form a front three to rival that of Manchester City and Liverpool. Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe will give defenders nightmares, both in the Premier League and Europe. Gunners’ fans will expect an immediate impact from the winger and expectations for the season as a whole have certainly been elevated by his arrival.
Kieran Tierney (Celtic – £25m):
The Deadline Day signing of Kieran Tierney from Celtic was been one of the most drawn out transfer sagas in the Premier League this summer. An energetic full back, the 22-year old Scot will add both defensive and attacking quality down the left-hand side and could put up impressive assist numbers with Arsenal’s attacking options. He is currently recovering from hernia surgery which he had at the end of last season and Emery will be eager to get him back to full fitness and integrate him into the side as soon as possible.
Whether Tierney’s arrival will lead to either Nacho Monreal or Saed Kolasinac departing the club before the European windows close later this month remains to be seen but he is definitely an exciting addition.
David Luiz (Chelsea – £8m):
To paraphrase Commissioner Gordon from the Dark Knight, David Luiz is the defender Arsenal deserve, but not the one we need right now. Undoubtedly the shock of Deadline Day, Arsenal’s move for David Luiz only surfaced in the media with less than 24 hours to go before the window closed. His quality is undeniable, capable of being a world class defender with fantastic technical ability. It is however, his reliability which must be questioned.
The 32-year old Brazilian will no doubt be an improvement on the options Emery currently has at his disposal but maybe not the type of defender Arsenal need to propel them back into title consideration. Luiz will bring big character (which has been lacking) and some spectacular highlights to Arsenal this season but also is sure to have the occasional calamitous error which will leave us all shaking our heads. For a small fee and on only a two-year contract, Arsenal will have the option to go back into the market for another central defender in either the January window or the Summer 2020 window.
Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid – Loan):
Coming off the back of a very impressive U21 European Championship campaign earlier this Summer, Ceballos attracted a lot of attention from Europe’s top clubs. With stiff competition in midfield at his parent club Real Madrid, Ceballos seemed set to join North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur. By choosing Arsenal over their neighbours, even alluding to this in his unveiling video after signing, the occasionally controversial Spaniard made himself an instant fan favourite at the Emirates. Ceballos is a typically silky Spanish midfielder who possesses fantastic vision as well as the ability to glide past opposition players with ease.
It is these attributes which have seen him being likened to Santi Cazorla, one of the best technical players to have graced the Emirates pitch. Ceballos will arrive as a partial Aaron Ramsey replacement, being capable of playing off the striker or in a more deep-lying midfield role where he can dictate the tempo of the game. His arrival adds welcome competition for Mesut Ozil as well as the likes of Granit Xhaka and Lucas Toreirra who all at times underperformed last season.
Grade: B+ – but only because it was a loan deal
Gabriel Martinelli (Itunao – £6m):
Arsenal’s 1st signing of the Summer, Martinelli has come in from the Campeonato Paulista league in Brazil. The Brazilian was sought after by many of Europe’s biggest clubs, with Barcelona and Manchester United just two of the clubs that showed an interest. The teen was drafted into Brazil’s training squad prior to this Summer’s Copa America competition and is certainly held in high regard in his home country. Since arriving in late June, Martinelli has impressed in pre-season.
His pace is electric and work rate is outstanding. He also has the ability to come in field to find space and create opportunities for himself and others. Martinelli may well have been signed as a player for the future but based on his pre-season performances it wouldn’t come as a shock if he were to follow in Matteo Guendouzi’s footsteps and have an immediate impact this season.
William Saliba (St. Etienne – £27m):
This talented teenager will spend next season on loan at St. Etienne as per the transfer agreement between the two clubs. Most Arsenal fans will not know a whole lot about the teenager but much like Dani Ceballos, rejecting a move to Tottenham will help ingratiate himself with his new club’s supporters. Only 18-years old, he has the ideal size and stature for a centre back and big things are expected of him in his native France. Arsenal fans will be hopeful that Saliba will be worth the wait and can make a major impact when he arrives in London in 2020.
Grade: A- and only because he went back on loan
Along with the great additions to the squad there were also some major departures from the club this Summer. Though it was known for quite some time, Ramsey saying his goodbyes at the end of last season was difficult for most Arsenal fans to take. A legitimate club legend, Ramsey grew up at the Emirates and will always be remembered for his FA cup Final winners in 2014 and 2017. Danny Welbeck and Petr Cech left at the conclusion of their contracts.
Welbeck will look to put his injury woes behind him and get his career back on track at Watford while Cech retired from football to take up a coaching role at former club Chelsea. Koscielny who was a good servant to the club over his nine-year spell definitely didn’t leave on good terms. Refusing to go on the club’s pre-season tour of the US and taking part in what most viewed as a very disrespectful announcement video when he was unveiled at Bordeaux earlier this week, Koscielny has seriously tarnished his reputation amongst Arsenal supporters. Carl Jenkinson lived the dream of every Arsenal fan, getting to train and play with the club he loves and managing to win trophies during his time there.
His spell came to an end this week when he joined Nottingham Forest for £2 million where he should prove to be a good addition for the Championship side. On deadline day, two Arsenal academy products also left the club. Alex Iwobi left to join Everton for £35 million which while always sad to see a homegrown player leave, this will open up more playing opportunities for Reiss Nelson.
Eddie Nketiah as many suspected, left on a season-long loan deal to Championship join Leeds in a bid to gain more experience at senior level which will definitely assist in his development.
Overall Arsenal’s transfer window has been an unquestionable success. Strengthening in wide areas, filling the gap left by Aaron Ramsey’s departure and perhaps most significantly bringing in reinforcements at the back, the club have managed to address all the areas in which improvement was needed. All these signings should see the Gunners making a real push for a top 4 finish, as well as competing in the cup competitions. With the signings of, in particular Pepe and Luiz, Arsenal are sure to be, at the very least, one of the most exciting teams to watch this season.
Overall Grade – A- it has been the best transfer window in recent memory