YAMA Weekly Roundtable: A Look Back At the Transfer Window
Each week, a few of the writers at You Are My Arsenal will answer questions regarding recent matches, transfers, squad developments, and other goings-on at Arsenal Football Club. Stay tuned for opportunities to have your questions answered by the YAMA writers in the future! In the meantime, Justin Fisher (@jtfisher34 on Twitter), Morgan Ofori (@Cruciateblog), and Dope Gooner (@dopegooner), along with guest writer @SemperFiArsenal, have tackled a handful of Arsenal-related questions below:
With the January window closed, what score would you give Arsenal’s transfer business out of 10?
Dope Gooner: This might be an unpopular opinion, but for me it’s a 6/10. First and foremost, we made some serious inroads toward shrinking the wage bill with the number of players who left. In particular, not having to pay big earners like Kolasinac and Aubameyang is significant. When Leno, Lacazette, Elneny, and Nketiah depart this summer, that additional load off the wage bill will give us some much-needed spending flexibility in the next transfer window. Additionally, the signing of Matt Turner preemptively plugs the hole at backup GK that we will have this summer. It’s nice to chalk that off as one less thing to worry about in what should be a busy summer. Yes, we didn’t do anything that kicks our squad up a notch, but the fact that we avoided panic signings or loans shows growth. We didn’t chuck money at something we weren’t sure about out of anxiety, we stuck to the plan. I think in the end, that sort of process will lead to good things.
Cruciateblog: I’m going to go with 5/10, the prognosis is not as bad as some would have you believe but there certainly was room for improvement. I believe there was some significant progress in terms of further shaping the squad into one that is ready for specific upgrades and only absolute quality. Aubameyang, Mari, and Kolasinac all did not play all that much in the first half of the season for different reasons, however it is clear that this current iteration of Arsenal has evolved beyond these players and what they have previously brought to the table. The only reason I have not rated the transfer window any higher is because of the seemingly premature decision to loan out Ainsley Maitland-Niles to Roma, who had proven himself an able deputy in the absence of the experienced duo of Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka. This window was used to lay groundwork for the Summer transfer window. There cannot be much blame attached as to the lack of additions as January is very difficult, and Arsenal have shown that their most active period is in the Summer, and that they are willing to spend regardless of league position.
SemperFi: I know this wasn’t an ideal window but I think there has been an overreaction on social media. Getting rid of deadwood should have been done much earlier. The team in itself isn’t bad right now. January window is historically a tough one so giving this a 7/10. Would have been 10/10 had we gotten a good striker (Isak for me) and a CM, but wasn’t to be.
Justin Fisher: I think I am going to go with a 6.5/10, because while it was not an ideal window (who in the Premier League did have an ‘ideal’ window?) I saw some more encouraging signs that the new regime in charge are not going to make the same mistakes that burden the club longterm. While it would have been nice to sign a striker, there simply was not an attainable striker on the market that would have really moved the needle. The club were ready to spend big on Vlahovic and it is clear they will spend money when they can, and while I personally am a big fan of Isak, I am glad that Edu and co. did not spend 2x market value, repeating the mistakes from the Nicolas Pepe signing.
What business do you wish Arsenal had done?
DG: I do wish we had figured something out at striker. I’m just not confident at all that Lacazette and Nketiah can get us into the top four. It would have been nice to bring in someone more trigger-happy than the former and more useful in Zone 14 than the latter. However, the goals have primarily been coming from Martinelli, Smith Rowe, Saka, and Odegaard this season, and I expect that to continue. It would be shocking if Pepe didn’t also get in on the action. So we’ll see how that plays out.
JF: Like I am sure the rest of the group are saying, striker is still a huge issue for the rest of the season. The club has gotten itself into top 4 contention with relatively minimal goal contributions from the striker position, so it is not the sheer goals that I am worried about. I am more worried that we are so reliant on a trio of young players (Saka, Martinelli, ESR) and to some extent Odegaard to provide our entire goal output. Naturally, as we have seen in January, young players are inconsistent and it is no coincidence that our form is directly related to the form of those three players.
CB: As stated above, I believe if the club was going to let Ainsley Maitland Niles go, then, at least a temporary solution for the midfield should have been organised before the window got going. The striker signing feels like a failure because the top target was available(rarely happens) in January. That was a unique situation, players of the quality that Dusan Vlahovic possesses are normally readily available for transfer in the Summer. The club will have its reasons for going with the current cohort and not desperately adding cover. Eddie Nketiah, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette could all conceivably not be at Arsenal next season. It is within their best interests to provide intense competition to those within the first team, so they can remind potential suitors of their qualities. It is a gamble but one worth taking in the context of the journey that Mikel Arteta and his team is on.
SF: I think Arsenal have taken a huge gamble but it might turn out to be a well-calculated one. The plan in January was to streamline a squad which for far too long has been bloated and carrying some overpaid deadwood like Sead Kolasinac. We were only planning on getting upgrades and not looking for short-term options, or players who wouldn’t necessarily help us long-term. Ideally I would have loved for us to get a CM on loan (a Xhaka backup like Arthur) and invested in a CF right now. But I guess the plan is to spend heavily in the summer as there will be more options as well as cash available, and there is more scope in the wage bill and to stay within Financial Fair Play rules which is another consideration if we have to sign a big striker and midfielder.
Do you agree with the decision to terminate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s contract and let him move to Barcelona?
DG: I love Aubameyang, but absolutely. In hindsight, giving him that new contract was a terrible idea, and getting rid of him goes some way toward righting that wrong. Even before he ran afoul of Arteta, it was clear he was in a bit of decline. Additionally, our style of play was moving away from his strengths. And once he was stripped of the captaincy and banished from the squad… Well, there’s very rarely any way back from that kind of thing. For what it’s worth, the other players don’t seem too bothered by Arteta’s actions. In the long run, getting the burden of Aubameyang’s wages off the books will benefit Arsenal greatly.
JF: I admittedly was not expecting to be as sad as I was seeing Aubameyang unveiled as a Barca player. His form during the FA Cup run at a time when the world was in shambles was incredible and I am sad his time at Arsenal has come to a close under such disappointing circumstances. It is clear KSE have instructed Edu to reduce the wage bill, and with Aubameyang off the wage bill there is no longer a singular high wage player with which others can use as an easy benchmark. I think with this transfer window (along with the summer) the club has set itself up to be healthier long term.
CB: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is one of the best strikers Arsenal have had in the Emirates stadium era. I always thought he fluffed his lines big time in Baku (2019 Europa league final), even though he was instrumental in getting Arsenal there. But he showed a year later in the FA cup Semi Final and Final that he was capable of carrying an Arsenal team. I was in favour of the new contract but I don’t believe many of us could foresee his subsequent decline. He was tactically suitable to the team at that point and, crucially, had a good relationship with Mikel Arteta. Ultimately, we do not have all the information behind him being ostracised from the first team, and it will be interesting to see whether this angle is covered in the upcoming Amazon documentary. I agreed with the decision to let him move to Barcelona because it then gives Arsenal a chance to extend young players’ like Bukayo Saka’s contract and give him a realistic wage not affected by an imbalanced wage structure. Some may argue that players like Auba leaving looks bad in the eyes of the younger players but I think it gives Arsenal a chance to invest in “closer to their prime” players that can aid younger players’ development and more room to reward their highest performers.
SF: Yes. To be honest we all knew Aubameyang was never going to play for Arsenal once he had a fallout with Arteta. Arteta doesn’t compromise on his ‘non negotiables’ and I think that’s the right approach. Letting him go before the situation turns sour was the right move. Always loved Aubameyang but defaulting multiple times only has one outcome. Wish him good luck at Barcelona.
What are your thoughts on the two American incomings, Matt Turner and Auston Trusty?
JF: As a resident of Philadelphia, I follow MLS quite regularly, specifically the Philadelphia Union (where Auston Trusty came through the academy and started his professional career at). To be honest, I don’t think Trusty will ever play for the first team, nor was it a move intended to strengthen the first team. He will likely spend a year or two out on loan and will eventually be sold on, but with a reportedly nominal transfer fee, the move is purely relationship driven. Major League Soccer has become more prominent in the global transfer market in recent years, with Bundesliga teams regularly buying young prospects directly from MLS, and this signing is building the relationship between the Colorado Rapids (also owned by KSE) and Arsenal for future potentially more impactful transfers. However, I think the move for Matt Turner is a really nice piece of business. Clearly Bernd Leno is going to leave this summer and there will be a big hole to fill in the backup keeper spot and Matt Turner is an excellent shot stopper, an attribute that is much easier to translate across leagues. While he has some work to do in his distribution, he is a few years older than Ramsdale and I see the two complementing one another well and both improve from one another.
CB: As someone that admittedly does not know much about the MLS, it is interesting to see how many American based players are now plying their trade in Europe. It was a market that was notoriously ignored for years because of a perceived lack of quality but there are many international quality players around these days. As far as Matt Turner goes, if he is coming to replace Bernd Leno, then that is a good idea as Arthur Okonkwo and Karl Hein are too inexperienced to be in contention for the number one spot. Matt Turner is an experienced international and that can only be good in aiding Aaron Ramsdale’s development and focus.
The Trusty signing smacks of the sorts of signings we see the City group make within their cabal of international clubs, relationship building and oiling the wheels for a favourable partnership/future deals. I would not be surprised to see Arsenal make more signings of this type in the future.
DG: Despite being an American, I actually don’t follow the MLS too much. I do know of Matt Turner from the USMNT, and I think he makes a lot of sense as a backup to Ramsdale. He’s a very talented shot stopper, and I trust that Arsenal’s scouting department sees enough in his distribution ability that we don’t lose much in that aspect should he have to play instead of our starting keeper. The Trusty deal to me smacks of relationship-building between KSE-owned football clubs. He’ll probably get loaned out to European sides until we ship him off for a few million a couple seasons down the line. It’s as corporate as a signing gets, in my opinion. But that’s the game these days.
SF: To be honest I don’t watch MLS or have watched very little so I wouldn’t say I have watched them extensively and would be wrong for me to comment on it. I have however talked to fellow Arsenal fans who happen to be Americans and watch the MLS and got to know Turner is good with his feet and one of the best players in the US as of now. Watched a few YouTube videos and read stats as well as some articles which suggests he would be an asset to have. No comments on Auston as of now. But will be keeping an eye out for both these players from now onwards.
In your opinion, where does the current squad finish at the end of the season?
JF: I am a general optimistic person, so I am going to lean on that and say that we will finish 4th and at last we will be able to celebrate St Totteringham’s Day and restore order in North London.
CB: I think the current squad as it stands finishes anywhere between 4th and close 6th. Absences should not affect a team that is out of all other competitions and only has 17 Premier league matches left to play. If Arteta is able to utilise 2 or 3 more of the players outside of his starting eleven effectively on a more regular basis then that is a team that can make the top four. Arsenal struggle to come back into games that they go behind in first, that tells me there is a lack of game changers present in the squad, their rivals for the 4th spot, Manchester United and Spurs do have these players. I think that this will genuinely be the difference between all three sides.
DG: I think we’ll finish either 4th or 5th, and the difference between those two places will be how we perform in our remaining matches against Spurs and United. I’m not too worried about our squad; we have held onto the players who had us third in the league in shots per game and fourth in shots on target per game. Someone has to step up, and I think a player from the “core four” in our attack will. Playing 17 matches in 14 weeks shouldn’t be too much of a burden on the squad, so here’s hoping injuries aren’t an issue either. Whatever happens, it’s going to be decided on fine margins.
SF: I think there are too many variables involved to give you a definite answer as of now, like injuries to key players and suspension/covid to them but if we can keep the ‘core’ 11 man team fit and healthy, I can see us fight for top 4. Right now Top 6 is the safest bet.