How Arsenal’s Transfer Window Should Be Approached

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Unai Emery
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery shows dejection during the medal ceremony following the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Arsenal’s 2018/19 season could be summed up using the word inconsistent. It included amazing highs such as an unbeaten run that lasted twenty-two matches, big league wins against North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United, a Golden Boot winner, and their first European final in thirteen years.

It also included some upsetting lows including a shaky defence, an underperforming Mesut Özil, and a failure to get a Champions League spot even though only six points out of the last five games were needed.

The start of the 2019/20 season will mark fifteen years since Arsenal last won the Premier League; three years since they were last in the Champions League; and ten years since they last made it past the Round of 16 in the Champions League.

Not the greatest record to say the least. Arsenal’s transfer window could not be more important. There are several key areas they need to address if they want to get back to where they once were.

How Do Arsenal Approach Their Transfer Window?

Attackers

When looking through Arsenal’s squad, it is astonishing to think that they only had one winger who played for the first team, Alex Iwobi, in the 2018/2019 season. Often times, Unai Emery resorted to playing players out of position on the wings, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Özil, and Aaron Ramsey. Near the end of the season, Emery was forced to play a different system to accomodate for this; he had to use fullbacks as the sole wide players in the team.

It may sound absurd that Arsenal need to invest in another forward player; they scored 73 league goals last season, only behind Manchester City and Liverpool. That being said,  the underlying statistics show that Arsenal’s high volume of goals scored in matches may be unsustainable.

The Champions, Manchester City, scored 95 goals. Understat.com separates a team’s goals into five situations: open play, from corners, set pieces, direct free kicks, and penalties. Manchester City outperformed their xG in only one category last season, scoring two free kicks while their xG was 1.48.

To compare, Arsenal outperformed their xG in three categories last season: from corners, from direct free kicks, and from the penalty spot. Over the course of the season, they outperformed their xG by 8.20.

This means that they should have scored approximately eight fewer goals. Arsenal fans will be ecstatic that their team is so clinical, but they should be wary that this type of form is rarely sustainable. Currently, Arsenal rely too much on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette for goals, and while they have created a formidable partnership together, they do need help.

Wide Forwards

Width up top will not only relieve the pressure off the two strikers to score; it’ll also help stretch oppositions’ defence, and give the fullback an extra player to play off of while in possession.

Earlier this week, Arsenal signed eighteen-year-old Gabriel Martinelli from Ituano F.C. The Brazilian predominately plays as a left winger. He is a dynamic player who will often tuck inside and either shoot from in and around the box or layoff the last pass to set up a goal.

He was integral to how Ituano played as he was the focal point for their whole attack, but the jump from the league in Brazil to the Premier League is huge. It’ll be interesting to see how Emery utilizes Martinelli and how many minutes he’ll receive with the first team.

Wilfried Zaha to Arsenal has created a lot of buzz recently, with several reliable sources reporting that he is one of Arsenal’s main targets this summer. It’ll be costly; but Zaha has incredible flair, technique, and dribbling skills.

This leads him to be one of the most unpredictable, and dangerous attackers in the league. He is often a nightmare to defend against, and Arsenal can only improve with him in their starting XI.

Replacing Ramsey

Earlier this year, it was announced that Aaron Ramsey would leave Arsenal, with his move to Juventus F.C finalized in February, officially becoming part of the Italian giants on July 1st.

Ramsey leaving is a big blow for Arsenal. The work ethic, versatility, and dynamism he brings in attack and defence are crucial to the club. He was one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers this past season, and they will feel his absence on the pitch.

No reliable reports have said that a Ramsey replacement is a prirotiy during Arsenal’s transfer window. While there are still over thirty days until the transfer window shuts, it looks like a midfielder is not a concern for Emery. If Arsenal go into the 2019/20 season without buying a midfielder like Ramsey, they will struggle.

Defence

A player in central defence is the most obvious need for Arsenal this upcoming season, with them conceding fifty-one goals in the league, more than Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton, Leicester City and Newcastle United. For a club with Arsenal’s ambitions, that record is very poor. A central defender of high quality is crucial to help fix the situation in the back; one is needed in Arsenal’s transfer window plans.

Bernd Leno, Arsenal’s expected starting keeper for next season, had a very good debut season for Arsenal. He was joint fifth on the list of best save percentage in the league only behind Alisson, Hugo Lloris, Vicente Guaita, Łukasz Fabiański and tied with Ederson.

Before their respective injuries, Héctor Bellerín and Rob Holding were playing well in Emery’s system and they will be expected to slot back into the starting XI. However, over the last few years, the top leagues in Europe have seen multiple clubs buy top-rated centre backs and seen vast improvements.

Players like Virgil van Dijk, Aymeric Laporte, Samuel Umtiti (before his injury) and Kalidou Koulibaly are all players that significantly improved their teams’ defence, by helping to organize, lead, and obviously help their teams concede less with their overall quality. It’s clear that Emery likes to play open, attacking football. Unfortunately for him, it’s evident that he cannot win a lot of games playing that way with a shaky defence.

Success Starts With Signings

Arsenal ended the 2018/19 season by finishing outside of the top four, and by losing the Europa League final. Although Arsenal did not regress from the 2017/18 season, they did not improve by much.

In an era of football where teams are getting better; players are getting more expensive; and demands from the higher-ups are getting stronger. Standing still, as Arsenal have done, may as well be the same as falling behind. Arsenal’s transfer window has been lacklustre so far,

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