Rating and remembering Arsenal’s summer transfer dealings
Granit Xhaka was the first major signing of a big summer of spending for Arsenal

Rating and remembering Arsenal’s summer transfer dealings

A summer that started well, tailed off in the middle but bounced back at the end, Arsenal spent well over £80m on four new major signings but will it be enough?

Rob Tonkinson

As the summer transfer deadline day passes and squads are finalised at least till January, there could be a renewed sense of optimism around the red half of North London.

Could, of course, is the operative word, as a lot of people will bemoan the lack of star-power behind Arsenal’s major signings despite ticking all the boxes of the vacancies required this summer with their four new signings filling defence, midfield and attack.

Early optimism

There certainly was a sense of optimism in May, when Arsenal pulled their first rabbit out of the hat, completing the signing of Borussia Monchengladbach’s Swiss international Granit Xhaka in almost record time.

The Gunners have been criticised for procrastinating and pondering too much in transfer windows in days gone by, a habit that’s lost them a fair few signings to other clubs, so when Xhaka was unveiled for £30m it almost seemed like last season’s runners-up meant business.

Xhaka’s composure on the ball in his early games has seen some comparisons to Emmanuel Petit by even Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, Arsenal fans will not be complaining if the Swiss midfielder has a similar trophy haul as the French World Cup winner during his time at Highbury.

With Euro 2016 beckoning and Danny Welbeck confirmed to be out until next year, attentions soon turned to a striker to compliment Olivier Giroud who himself went almost five months of last season without a league goal.

Jamie Vardy was the name on everyone’s lips as reports flooded in that Arsenal had matched his release clause at Leicester City, the optimism grew and grew, for years Arsenal had dithered and now it looked like they were getting it together for the big push.

The Vardy deal didn’t last, a disagreement over contract lengths led to him signing a new deal with the Foxes during Euro 2016, a new contract to remain at Leicester was also granted to his teammate Riyad Mahrez when the Algerian PFA Player of the Year for 2016 was linked with a move to the capital.

Summer Blues

With Vardy off the table, a list of who’s who of Europe’s elite strikers were linked to a club desperate for a new forward.

The likes of Alvaro Morata, Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette and Mauro Icardi all saw links to the Gunners, some with substantial bids, others just paper talk but all with the same result: no new signing.

As the European Championships closed and pre-season reared its ugly head, Arsenal were still without a new striker and with France making the final of the Euros, it meant their only incumbent striker Giroud would almost certainly miss the opening month of the campaign.

If Arsenal’s lack of depth up front was a worry, it was nothing compared to what was happened at centre-half.

Bolton Wanderers’ Rob Holding did become Arsenal’s second first team signing after a couple of weeks of haggling, Holding has been impressive so far for a 20-year-old, helping the team to a clean sheet against league champions Leicester in his second Premier League appearance.

However, he would never have even been in his position had it not been the long term injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel during pre-season that left Arsenal more than short starting the season, as Laurent Koscielny joined French team-mate Giroud on an extended break after being part of the French losing finalist squad in Euro 2016.

Much like the hunt for a striker sent people mad, the lack of depth at the back left people even madder, the Gunners went into the season with Calum Chambers and Holding, two players with a combined age of 41 starting against Liverpool and getting demolished by the Sadio Mane inspired Reds, going down 4-3 to start the season.

Deadline joy

Despite the anger, despite the jeers, despite the calls for the manager to go, they finally got their men a day before the deadline signing Shkrodan Mustafi from Valencia CF and Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna.

Mustafi had been linked since Mertesacker was injured and always looked as if it would go through, although Arsenal fans did have to spend a couple weeks considering how they’d feel supporting Old Trafford cast-offs Johnny Evans and Phil Jones whilst they were linked as contingency options.

In the German World Cup winner, they have a 24-year-old with vast experience over several leagues including Germany, Italy and Spain.

Perez is a more unknown quantity; the 27-year-old scored 17 goals in 37 games last season for his hometown club but has had a rather journeyman career before hand in Ukraine and Greece.

Regarded as the Spanish Jamie Vardy, perhaps his fight and hunger up front is exactly what the Gunners need to compliment Giroud, from all reports he has a lot of spirit and a great work ethic.

There was a justified pessimism in the middle part of the summer, nobody knows just yet how costly it’ll be to be five points behind the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea at this early stage but one things for certain, nobody involved with Arsenal can complain that they haven’t strengthened around the pitch.