Mikel Arteta’s mystic ability to convert his unrivalled communication skills and Arsenal’s disjointed performances into remarkably positive results has ensured that the boat he is so fond of talking about is on the right course.
Yet, going into the final days of the transfer window, the Gunners’ squad resembled something more akin to a lumpy bedspread, too thickly stacked with players in one area (centre-back) and thinly spread in another (central midfield).
The club have made some necessary additions to try and pad out the latter but a distinct shortage of departures has left the squad still somewhat uneven.
Signed From: Chelsea (free)
In a window which was dominated as much by the prolonged absence of the infamously well-paid Mesut Özil, Arsenal have seemingly teed themselves up for the same scenario after presenting a three-year deal to another 30-plus flair player in decline, Willian.
Signed From: Flamengo (£14m)
Pablo Marí’s nascent Arsenal career has been brutally hampered by injury, limiting the judgements that can be made regarding his arrival. At least at 27 he is one of the few players in their peak years.
Signed From: Southampton (free)
By the time Cédric first kicked a ball for Arsenal, he’d been at the club for five months and signed at least three separate contracts, the last of which tying the 29-year-old down for four years.
With Hector Bellerín still very much in north London and Ainsley Maitland-Niles coolly striding his way ever more into Arteta’s plans, opportunities may be limited for Cédric even when he is fit.
Signed From: Lille (£27m)
Arsenal may have taken a while to officially announce the signing of Gabriel, but the Gunners did get the commanding Brazilian in situ early enough for him to start the Premier League campaign with a dream debut at Fulham.
The left-footed 22-year-old has slotted in nicely to Arsenal’s fluid defensive system and will only improve at his new on-ball responsibilities with more practice.
Signed From: Real Madrid (loan)
After almost having his loan spell terminated in January, Ceballos has made a remarkable recovery to become an integral part of Arteta’s side. As well as Arsenal’s chief ball progressor in midfield, Ceballos brings a layer of steel to the obvious silky skills, regularly pressing the opposition and contributing out of possession.
Signed From: Dijon (£1.8m)
While the fee for Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson was suitably low, the Iceland international’s shot stopping statistics are a cause for concern, as is the fact that Dijon, a side battling relegation in the French top flight, felt emboldened to drop him to the bench for much of last season.
Signed From: Atlético Madrid (£45m)
The £45m arrival of Thomas Partey in the late stages of transfer deadline day have split opinion. While some herald his arrival as the saving grace of Arsenal’s window, others ask the pertinent question of what he actually does to an elite standard.
As one of the two central midfielders in Atlético Madrid‘s 4-4-2, Partey didn’t stand out as either a particularly noteworthy defensive midfielder – failing to rack up impressive (or even mediocre) defensive contributions – or an effective box-to-box player, scoring just three league goals and registering no assists.
A valid caveat to this is the restrictive tactical implications playing for Diego Simeone’s Atléti may have had on his output and the idea that he has more to offer is something Partey has been keen to stress since leaving.
Transferred To: Roma (free)
With one year left on his deal, Arsenal and Mkhitaryan came to a compromise by mutually terminating the 31-year-old’s contract and allowing the Armenia international to re-join Roma on a permanent deal for free. Arsenal will surely benefit without his wages but perhaps in a pre-pandemic era may have earned a fee.
Transferred To: Aston Villa (£20m)
By 5pm on a hazy Saturday afternoon last June, anyone associated with Arsenal football club had little to thank Neal Maupay for. The Frenchman’s stoppage time winner at the Amex Stadium earned Brighton all three points in a 2-1 win, and came in the same game Bernd Leno was forced off injured after an incident with Maupay.
However, the latter of those two events gave Emiliano Martínez the chance to shine between the sticks.
In an ideal world, Arsenal would have kept both Leno and Martínez to vie for first-team duties. Yet, given the perilous financial position the club find themselves in, the chance to gain £20m from a player who, in all likelihood, wouldn’t have commanded anywhere near that fee just a handful of months ago, was too good to pass up.
Transferred To: Hertha Berlin (loan)
That same seaside trip marked Mattéo Guendouzi’s most recent Arsenal appearance. After it was claimed that the 21-year-old Frenchman ‘taunted’ Brighton players over their salaries during the match, he was subsequently banished from training.
Getting Guendouzi out of the club is best for all parties but it is only a temporary departure on loan with no fee extracted from Hertha Berlin.
Transferred To: Atlético Madrid (loan)
The tenacious Uruguayan began life under Mikel Arteta as a regular, often filling in alongside Granit Xhaka in the double pivot of a 4-2-3-1. Yet a combination of injury and return to favour for Ceballos saw Torreira’s first team opportunities limited, starting just two of Arsenal’s final 20 fixtures.
Offloading his wage contributes to thinning the squad but, much like Guendouzi, Atlético Madrid haven’t coughed up any loan fee.
Arsenal’s Overall Transfer Grade – Summer 2020: B-
Arsenal have made some decent additions, with the re-loaning of Ceballos and arrival of Gabriel key, but to a squad which remains bloated.
The club have a staggering eight choices at centre back, not even including Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac; traditionally left backs who have been regularly used as the left-side centre back in the three-man defence Arteta favours.
Martínez is the only sale Arsenal have made which has generated any revenue at a time when the club are in such a precarious financial position that they parted ways with a beloved mascot.