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What is Arsenal's Transfer Strategy?


Before the arrival of Mikel Arteta and Edu to the club, Arsenal's transfer strategy was somewhat questionable. There was little in a clear strategy or direction and the signings that were made were often underwhelming. Sokratis Papastathopoulos for £14.4m, Lucas Torreira for £25.8m and Alexandre Lacazette for £47.7m are all pre-Edu signings that did not live up to their hype or seemed uncomfortable in the Premier League. Since the arrival of Edu as Technical Director, Arsenal's transfer strategy has been much more calculated with signings such as William Saliba, Gabriel Martinelli, Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Magalhães to name a few. These players represent a shift to trying to implement a young, high-potential squad which can be built on without the concern that they only have a few years left in their career. Since building a good base for the team in this sense, Arsenal could then focus on buying more experienced players such as Gabriel Jesus and Thomas Partey to add experience and a winners mentality to the squad- something that will allow younger players to learn and thrive from.

Overall Strategy

With Arsenal having their first Technical director in Edu, there was finally some collaboration in the transfer sense- A multi-pronged approach with the manager, technical director and other backroom staff who all contribute to suggestions. This allows the manager to make signings not just for their squad, but for the Arsenal Squad. The plan is that regardless of who the manager is, the players who sign don't just want to sign for money or the manager, but because they want to be at Arsenal and build their career at the club. This is backed up by an interview with Edu after the Fábio Vieira signing where he said this:

“We have to go into the market for exciting players with the right age, right attitude and right mentality. We want to see a club like Arsenal with a young squad, an exciting squad with a big, big future because as I said last summer, the idea is to have a young squad. We want to give them the opportunity to play together for two, three, four, five or six seasons."

The fact that signings are no longer focussed on achieving immediate success but building a career at Arsenal and expected to gel and grow together over the course of a few seasons, paint a picture of our approach and it has so far turned out well. With an average squad age of 25 at the start of the 21/22 season, the fact that the team finished in 5th is a great achievement and should give some indication of where the squad can be in a few seasons with constant improvement and greater experience and trust given to younger players. Saka, 20, is an established name in the first-team and has been for a few years whilst trust has been given to William Saliba after 2 years on loan to gain enough experience and quality so that he can slot into the defence easily. Not only that but Edu wants to ensure the attitude is right with prospective new signings and when talking to a potential signing from Borussia Dortmund, Edu had this to say:

“I faced an experience like this, for a player in Dortmund. I started to talk to them, engage the player, talk to the family, but always, ‘Yeah, but what about my contract?’ I said, ‘Listen, I want to understand first if you engage with this if you like this. If you like it, I can talk, but not the opposite side’."...

...“‘Ah no, let’s talk about the money…’ No, no, no, no. And one day, I said to the agent: ‘Guys, thank you very much, it’s not what I want to do’. Boom.”

This is exactly the right approach Arsenal should be taking, especially in a global transfer market that is more often than not dominated by money rather than ambition for the player and their prospective club. It is a sign that the players believe in Arsenal and want to help the team and not just themselves.

Story so far this window

At the start of this transfer window, Arsenal had a lot of deadweight in the squad- Alexandre Lacazette, Mattéo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira all had their own individual issues at Arsenal and did not want to be at the club. These kinds of players are essential to be allowed to leave because if they do not want to be at the club for reasons other than finances, their enjoyment and desire at the club can be called into question and will only disrupt the team harmony and morale. In total, the players who have left this season were sold at a loss of £83.66m showing Arsenal's desire to reduce the bloat in the squad, whatever the cost. So far this transfer window, Arsenal have sold 5 players permanently and have signed 5 players too at a price of £118.86m.

Here is a breakdown of the permanent transfers this window:

Arsenal's net spend this window totals to a hefty £97.44m but the three signings who make up the bulk of this are expected to be key players for us in the coming seasons. Gabriel Jesus is the new star striker who has already made a big impact in his first two games at the club, Zinchenko has started both of the first two league games and is expected to be a constant first team player. Fábio Vieira has been injured and we are yet to see how good he is, but judging by his record in the Portuguese first division last season he should be a regular first team option and another answer to our creativity and unpredictability problem. Matt Turner is a replacement for Leno who left the club and serves as a backup to Ramsdale, whilst Marquinhos is a player for the future who is unlikely to be a regular first team player this season. Despite the large amount of money spent, there are still areas that need improvement from a depth perspective.

Strategy for the rest of the window

Looking Arsenal's squad right now for the season ahead, there are definitely areas that need improving or at least need more depth:

Analysing the squad, it is clear that there is very good squad depth in many positions, however there are also a few positions where it is an issue. At right-back, we have 4 potential [natural] players, but Ben White is also able to play in that position. In terms of quality and willingness to be at the club, however, Bellerin is keen to leave the club as is Maitland-Niles and Cedric has shown his lack of quality many times last season and therefore we could be left with only one good natural right-back. Xhaka's role can be filled by Vieira and potentially Smith Rowe too, but in the other central midfield role, Partey, Lakonga and Elneny are all defensive options and are not viable replacements for Xhaka's role, especially in our positional play system whereby Xhaka is frequently the furthest forward player. Finally, on the right wing Saka provides a fantastic starting option but Pépé has looked doubtful and inconsistent at times and there is some doubt as to Nelson's future at the club.

Looking at these issues, the three positions that should be a priority to strengthen are central midfield, right wing and right back. Marquinhos could be used as a right winger as Arsenal prefer to use inverted wide attackers, but with his lack of experience at this level, he is unlikely to be a favoured choice in this position.

What to expect

With the transfer window closing in just under 2 weeks (1st September) there is a fair amount of work to be done to acquire the targets needed. Depending on outgoing players, right-back may not be a position to focus on yet so there should be 2 positions we should be actively looking to recruit for- central midfield and right wing.

So far we have been linked to two players to fill these roles: Youri Tielemans and Yeremy Pino. Both have impressed for their respective clubs and Pino would fit the strategy of signing young players for the future.

Youri Tielemans would certainly be a viable option to rotate with Xhaka and he offers a slightly more attacking approach to the Swiss international whilst Yeremy Pino would serve as a good backup for Saka on the right.

For a more in depth analysis on Youri Tielemans, check out the post made about him in the 'Rumours & Recommendations' category. Football Manager fans will know about Yeremy Pino but if you're not too clued up on him, stay tuned for an analysis of him sometime next week.

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