The Hard Tackle analyses Arsenal’s transfer business and gives its verdict of the Premier League giants’ performance in the summer window.
The 2021 summer transfer window is officially over in the Premier League, with the international break already upon us. This little club footballing hiatus should give the teams some valuable time to regroup and create a new game plan around the new players before the season resume during the second week of September.
For Arsenal, these are difficult times when pressure is mounting on Mikel Arteta after three successive defeats and very little improvement to back the massive investment over the past 18 months. With the transfer market slamming shut late into Wednesday night, the Gunners had spent more money than any other top-flight club in Europe, dishing out a mammoth €165 million on new arrivals.
It appears Arteta had lived up to his promise earlier this summer that he would oversee a massive squad overhaul in the summer after a disappointing 2020/21 campaign. And while the club clearly hasn’t shied away from breaking the bank in the transfer window, many fans have criticized the quality of investment.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at how Arsenal fared this past summer after what was a roller-coaster of a window in Europe.
INS: Ben White, Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares
OUTS: Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira (loan), Willian (released), Matteo Guendouzi (loan), Willian Saliba (loan), Dejan Iliev (loan), Reiss Nelson (loan), Runar Alex Runarsson (loan), Hector Bellerin (loan), David Luiz (released)
MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Martin Odegaard
In a summer that saw Arsenal being criticised for overpaying for most of their new signings, the addition of Martin Odegaard on a permanent deal was perhaps the most significant piece of business for Mikel Arteta.
Ever since Odegaard returned to Real Madrid after the end of last season, Arsenal’s priority was to sign a new number ten who can fill the massive void in the creative department. They were linked with multiple players across Europe, including the likes of Houssem Aouar and Leicester City star James Maddison.
In the end, the Gunners had to settle for Odegaard once again, this time in a permanent deal and for a reported fee of €35 million. It was nothing short of a bargain for the Gunners, considering how the Norwegian had impressed during his six-month loan spell at Emirates during the backend of last season.
Although the young playmaker’s tally of two goals and two assists certainly doesn’t appease the eye, his overall impact was far greater. He offered an ideal pinch of creativity, using his movement, ball-carrying and more importantly, the ability to find those passes in behind the backline that helped experienced forwards like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Whether or not Odegaard can provide the same this season remains to be seen. But he does offer Arteta a ray of hope given his unquestionable technical skill that does arguably channel the presence of former star Mesut Ozil, in that number ten slot.
Indeed, the 22-year-old has all the traits in his locker to become the poster boy for Arsenal once they embark on the path of a renaissance. And with time, the attacking partnership of him, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka has the potential to light up the Premier League.
Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Willian
Willian’s arrival at Arsenal last summer was a shrewd piece of business in itself by the Arsenal. In a team that mostly comprised young and emerging talents, the Brazilian’s vast experience and sheer pedigree at the highest level of football seemed to be just the kind of variety the team had needed to spark into life.
Unfortunately, the move just did not work out at all, with the winger ending his maiden season at Emirates with just one goal and five assists, two of which came in his Premier League debut with Arsenal against Fulham. It was not a good look for the player who was highly revered as one of the most established attacking options available in English football.
But most importantly, the move turned out to be extremely detrimental for Arsenal as Willian’s hefty wage packet and a three-year contract mean that the club’s financial prowess was largely crippled in the summer. Willian himself became a target for the club’s supporters due to his lack of consistency and poor performances.
To their fortunes, the severe criticism saw the Brazilian agree to mutually terminate his contract in the summer and head for his homeland Brazil, to play for Corinthians. It was a deal that worked out well for all parties involved, with Arsenal reportedly saving £20 million while Willian will finally get the opportunity to get some regular game-time under his belt and end his career in his homeland.
The Big Miss (A Player Who Should Have Left): Sead Kolasinac
Heading into the new season, there were multiple candidates who deserved to leave Arsenal either due to their struggles with injuries or poor performances that played their part in steering the club towards further mediocrity.
While Arteta and Edu have mostly done well to release David Luiz and Willian while finding new clubs for Hector Bellerin, Reiss Nelson and Runar Alex Runarsson, one player they should have offloaded months ago is Sead Kolasinac.
The Bosnian international has been nothing less than a liability for Arsenal over the years, with his lack of technical prowess and inconsistency certainly not good enough at the highest level of football.
As such, when the Gunners had offloaded him back to Schalke last summer, it seemed to be a step in the right direction. But after six months in Germany, Kolasinac has returned to Emirates and appears to be a part of Mikel Arteta’s first-team plans, even featuring in the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City recently.
With Kolasinac back in the first-team fray, Arsenal are now back to where they were six months ago. The 28-year-old is not a competent backup for Kieran Tierney and his presence in the side blocks the first-team route for new signing Nuno Tavares, who could potentially offer much more to the table.
Final Verdict: FAILURE
The signings of Takehiro Tomiyasu and Martin Odegaard were a step in the direction as far as Arsenal are concerned. But the positives do not outweigh the negatives, with the Gunners grossly overpaying for Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Albert Sambi Lokonga, none of who appear likely to immediately improve the overall quality of the squad anytime soon.
Moreover, the failure to sign a top-class midfielder and offload fringe players like Kolasinac and Lacazette could be hugely detrimental over the next four months, so it is hard to imagine the north London giants emerging as a top-four or even top-six contenders anytime soon.