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21/22 First Team General New Contracts Transfers Youth

Summer 2021/22

The transfer window finally closes with a snap for six months.

What teams have at their disposal will have to last them until January at this point, so any players looking for moves to and from Arsenal will need to wait another six months.

Here’s how Arsenal faired over the summer window:

Ins:

DateNameFromFee
10/7/2021🇵🇹 Nuno Tavares🇵🇹 Benfica£6.7m
19/7/2021🇧🇪 Albert Sambi Lokonga🇧🇪 Anderlecht£17.2m
30/7/2021🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Ben White🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Brighton£50m
20/8/2021🇳🇴 Martin Ødegaard🇪🇸 Real Madrid£29m
20/8/2021🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Aaron Ramsdale🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Sheffield Utd£28m
31/8/2021🇯🇵 Takehiro Tomiyasu🇮🇹 Bologna£16m

Total: £146.9m

Outs:

DateNameToFee
24/6/2021🇬🇷 Kostas Mavropanos🇩🇪 StuttgartLoan
21/6/2021🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Zech Medley🇧🇪 KV Oostende£1m
1/7/2021🇧🇷 David Luiz🇹🇷 Adana DemirsporFree
6/7/2021🇫🇷 Mattéo Guendouzi🇫🇷 Marseille*£10m
7/7/2021🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Kieran Petrie🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Swansea CityFree
15/7/2021🇫🇷 William Saliba🇫🇷 MarseilleLoan
13/8/2021🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Joe Willock🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Newcastle Utd£25m
25/8/2021🇺🇾 Lucas Torreira🇮🇹 FiorentinaLoan
30/8/2021🇧🇷 Willian🇧🇷 CorinthiansFree
31/8/2021🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Reiss Nelson🇳🇱 FeynoordLoan
31/8/2021🇪🇸 Héctor Bellerín🇪🇸 Real BetisLoan

* Mattéo Guendouzi’s move to Marseille is a season-long loan, with a purchase obligation for £10m at the end of the loan spell.

Total: £36m
Total Net Spend: -£110.9m

Overall, a fairly mixed bag from Arsenal. A huge amount of money invested, and comparatively very little received in return.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had an effect on the transfer window and on the way things have played out so far this summer, but a paltry £36m (£10m of which will not actually arrive in the accounts for another season as Mattéo Guendouzi is technically on loan for another season before the obligation comes into effect) to offset a stupendous £147m spent on new players is not a good look for Arsenal’s accounts this year.

Let’s take a look at Arsenal’s business this summer.

Mattéo Guendouzi was always likely to leave the club in some capacity.

Incomings
Arsenal’s incomings are a respectable bunch, decent signings that address the medium to long-term future of the club, but there is very little for the short-term.

Martin Ødegaard, Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu certainly fulfil issues the club has now, however, Nuno Tavares is signed as cover for Kieran Tierney (though the failure to offload Sead Kolašinac has immediately made the transfer redundant in the short-term); Albert Sambi Lokonga is a long-term replacement for Thomas Partey and Aaron Ramsdale is more of a Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson replacement at this point than a Bernd Leno replacement.

The deals that have been done have either been completed entirely too late or for a greater sum than the player’s market value.

Ben White is perhaps the best example of this. White is tipped for a bright and beautiful future in the game, however, questions are raised, even among his biggest supporters, over the whopping £50m fee that Arsenal have paid for the England youngster.

Whatever White’s abilities and potential are, they don’t seem high enough to merit such exorbitant spending. £50m should be signing you the finished article, not a “might be”.

White also seemed to represent the same problem as with other recruitments; the seeming lack of a Plan B.

Edmond Tapsoba was of interest, briefly.

For White, names such as Edmond Tapsoba and Jules Koundé were mentioned in passing as viable options, but neither ever really seemed serious. The same too can be said for Aaron Ramsdale. The prices being quoted are eye-watering for the players being mentioned and yet, Arsenal seemed totally unwilling to fish in another pond; Newcastle’s Freddie Woodman was again fleetingly mentioned, but overall, Ramsdale always seemed the priority.

As for the other signings, Mikel Arteta is well within his rights to demand of Edu, why were they not signed earlier?

Arsenal came out the other end of their 2-0 humbling at the hands of Brentford, with only three new signings, one of which was only starting owing to an injury to another player.

Arsenal showed against Brentford that they were in dire need of reinforcements and yet, there were none available. Martin Ødegaard would have likely lightened the load on Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu would have been a more welcome sight at right-back than Calum Chambers.

The age profile of the players is however a comforting notion. All the players signed are either 23 or under and represent the club thinking long-term, as opposed to the usual here and now signings that the likes of Willian represented.

Arsenal decided against recruiting last year’s target Houssem Aouar.

The failure to not bring in a goalscoring midfielder or a striker will sting however. Lyon were practically begging to offload Rayan Cherki and Houssem Aouar, yet, Arsenal refused to take them on. As for strikers, Lautaro Martínez and Tammy Abraham were mentioned as viable options, but Arsenal never tabled a bid for either player.

There is also the bizarre dodging of Brighton’s Yves Bissouma. The Malian midfielder was calling Arsenal all summer and yet, Arsenal were uninterested in pursuing a deal.

There is always a frustration around Deadline Day deals. The same thing was true last season when the club unceremoniously snatched Thomas Partey from Atlético Madrid by activating his £45m (€50m) release clause. Why, if Tomiyasu was so high on the club’s agenda as their prime right-back target, did it take so long to sign him up?

The fee paid for the Japan international was not unaffordable and the club have need a new right-back since around October of last year, why was he only signed on the last day of August?

Takehiro Tomiyasu is a welcome addition to Arsenal’s growing back line.

Some may point to the fact that Arsenal needed to sell before they could buy, but this too seems to have a flaw. Tomiyasu will be Arsenal’s fifth right-back.

Though Héctor Bellerín has left on loan, he will be back next season and will need to have his future resolved, unlikely to be happy to play second fiddle after a season of presumably being first choice at Real Betis. Calum Chambers and Cédric Soares are also still at the club. Arsenal have the option to extend Chambers’ deal by a further year and Cédric’s deal does not run out for another three years.

Elsewhere, Ainsley Maitland-Niles will also be hungry for game time as he too has nowhere to play after the club blocked his Deadline Day move to Everton and no chance of a reconciliation with Mikel Arteta anytime soon following his ill-advised Instagram SOS call.

Which brings us onto the outgoings.

Outgoings
It is worth prefacing before focusing on Arsenal’s outgoings that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the finances on all teams not named Manchester City or Chelsea (or Arsenal, given the relative spending to those two), so shifting players was always going to be a task.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to be too harsh on Edu’s inability to find homes for certain players.

However, on the other hand, there have been several situations this summer that have been very poorly handled from the start.

William Saliba’s situation is perhaps the best place to start. Saliba returned from a six-month loan deal at Nice prepared to break into the Arsenal first team and with David Luiz’s departure, he looked ready to finally accept a place in Mikel Arteta’s side.

William Saliba was unnecessarily loaned out once more.

However, questions were raised over the Frenchman’s experience, having only played 12 out of the past 24 months owing to the early closure of Ligue 1 during his time with Saint-Étienne and Arsenal’s failure to secure a loan deal for him until January of last year.

Saliba, it was decided, needed to have more experience at senior level, with the club keen for him to receive more top-level experience in the Premier League with Newcastle. However, Saliba opted for a move back to France, where he joined Marseille.

This too seems a baffling choice. Saliba cannot be as far behind the likes of Rob Holding or Calum Chambers in terms of being prepared and why did the club no insist that he take a loan in England to acclimatise? Instead, Arsenal have loaned him back to the only league he’s ever played in which, doesn’t provide enough experience that he needs.

It is also arguable that Saliba’s loan out also created the need to sign Ben White, as Arsenal lacked depth.

Elsewhere, the Granit Xhaka situation also raises several eyebrows.

Xhaka had been of interest to Roma for a while, with Roma manager José Mourinho speaking highly of the player and reiterating his stance of signing him for the club.

The club decided to offer Granit Xhaka a new contract after his failed move to Roma.

The two clubs ultimately failed to agree on a fee. Arsenal, to their credit, stood firm on their £17.1m (€20m) price tag and Roma failed to even come close to matching it.

So it seemed that Xhaka was destined for at least one more year in North London, which few could really argue with given his performances last season.

However, the club took the increasingly bizarre move to extend the midfielder’s contract, ostensibly to “protect his value”.

This seemed an odd move. Not only was Xhaka’s contract two years off expiring, but the one-year extension the club have given him makes it harder to rid themselves of the player as his value continues to plummet.

Although its early days in the season at this point, he’s not done much to show why he should be offered such a deal. A red card in Arsenal’s 5-0 humiliation at the hands of Manchester City was yet another cameo of the kind of performances Arsenal fans have come to expect from Xhaka.

However, there is some good to come from this summer in terms of outgoings. Arsenal were able to turn a huge profit on Joe Willock as he secured his move to Newcastle United for a staggering £25m and Arsenal were able to save a reported £20m on Willian’s contract after he agreed to a mutual termination and moved back to Corinthians in Brazil.

Arsenal turned down £10m for Eddie Nketiah, who will likely now move next summer for free.

Then there’s Eddie Nketiah.

Crystal Palace allegedly issued a “take it or leave it” offer of £10m to Arsenal for the striker, which Arsenal turned down.

This seems to be the very apex of incompetence.

Not only is Arsenal’s valuation of the player entirely too high (the club reportedly wanted as much as £20m), but the fact that the club have turned down tangible money for a player that will walk for free next summer is baffling to the nth degree.

What value is there in keeping Nketiah? He is behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Folarian Balogun in the pecking order and even Gabriel Martinelli is starting more games than him as a striker, so why hold on to him? Surely it’s better to compromise on an offer to guarantee some funds than to stick with him for another year and lose him for nothing? In fact, his sale could have helped fund 62.5% of the fee for Tomiyasu and have resulted in a slightly better accounting sheet.

However, this is not even the worst situation this summer.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles came close to securing himself a move away last season. Wolverhampton Wanderers tabled a £20m bid for the young England youth player, and personal terms were agreed, however, a last minute intervention from Mikel Arteta saw Maitland-Niles ultimately stay put, having been given assurances of playtime.

Despite this, Maitland-Niles never really established himself int he team and was hastily loaned out to West Bromwich Albion in the January window.

The drama surrounding Ainsley Maitland-Niles was not a helpful distraction for Arsenal.

This summer, Everton put in an offer of a one year loan with a purchase option at the end of the deal. However, given Maitland-Niles’ contract situation (his deal runs out in two years) Arsenal rejected the offer, encouraging Everton to return (if at all) with a more enticing option, either with an obligation to buy or a straight bid.

However, Maitland-Niles did not react kindly to this new development and took to Instagram to vent his frustrations with the club and his situation.

No sooner had the post been made that Maitland-Niles held talks with Edu and Arteta to discuss his situation. The club made it clear, he would not be sold and his Instagram stunt had earned him a spell of training on his own.

Now Arsenal are encumbered with a player who doesn’t want to be at the club and someone who is very angry with the club’s treatment of him, again, why keep him?

Arsenal’s outgoing business has been shambolic, poorly thought through and incompetent to the point where the club were penny-pinching on assets they were perhaps likely to receive any money for whatsoever.

Now the attention turns to what Arsenal can muster on the field. The distraction of the transfer window will no longer loom large over the field of play, now is the time for Mikel Arteta and his players to turn around their dismal start to the season.

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21/22 First Team General New Contracts

Granit Xhaka Pens New Four-Year Deal

Granit Xhaka has signed a new long-term contract with the club. Xhaka, who had been expected to leave the club this summer amid interest from AS Roma, has put pen to paper on a new four-year contract, with manager Mikel Arteta thought to have been instrumental in convincing the Swiss international to remain with the club.

The move is a little strange, given how close Xhaka was to leaving for José Mourinho’s AS Roma, who personally asked for the player. Roma were very keen on Xhaka, but were unable to agree a fee close to Arsenal’s £17m fee. Rumours of a €12m + €3m in add-ons offer are the last known attempts of the Italians to prize away the Swiss captain.

Xhaka’s bridges looked burned after he left the field in a hailstorm of boos against Crystal Palace.

Though the move is considered strange by many, given his yo-yoing form, the move seems to be to protect the player’s value and to ensure that Arsenal do not run into situations that have seen players walk for lower fees or for free, like in the case with Alexis Sánchez.

Signed from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2016, Xhaka seemed to be a very smart buy from Arsenal under Arsène Wenger. Though Wenger initially saw Xhaka as a box-to-box midfielder (evidently watching a different player to everyone else), Xhaka was then moulded into a more deep-lying playmaker with a more defensive focus.

Xhaka seemed to understand his role more when Unai Emery came to the club, however, following his appalling reaction to being booed off the field against Crystal Palace, Xhaka was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and looked to have played his final game for Arsenal.

A move to Hertha Berlin was mooted in the January of 2020, however, newly appointed Mikel Arteta was able to convince Xhaka to remain with the club, where his form improved dramatically.

José Mourinho has always been a huge admirer of Xhaka’s.

Though he was still a yo-yoing form kind of player, the 2020/21 season, largely forgettable for the Arsenal side, was one of Xhaka’s best in recent memory. While he was asked to deputise at left-back in Kieran Tierney’s absence, his presence in midfield was extremely calming fro the team that needed a tuning fork, which Xhaka was.

The hope seems to be that Xhaka will provide some much needed experience for youngsters such as summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga and for academy graduate Miguel Azeez, who is expected to feature a lot this season.

Xhaka reportedly personally spoke to José Mourinho to inform him that he would be remaining at the club. With Xhaka’s deal announced, Arsenal will now focus on the final two weeks of the transfer window.

The move is unlikely to impress many Arsenal fans, especially given Arsenal’s opening day defeat to Brentford and Xhaka’s (un)popularity with the fans.

Moves for Héctor Bellerín, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira and Sead Kolašinac are still yet to be sorted, however, the club’s interest in Martin Ødegaard could see them end the summer with a bang.

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21/22 Backroom Staff First Team General New Contracts Transfers Youth

Much Edu About Nothing

As we enter the final fortnight of the transfer window, Arsenal fans, perhaps more than most, have the right to ask, just what is the hold up?

On the eve of Arsenal’s maiden Premier League kick off, the team enters the game with only three signings made. One is straight into the first team, one will likely start owing to an unfortunate injury crisis and the other is back-up to a pre-established player.

And yet, still, Arsenal have not still not addressed those areas that need attention. No back-up goalkeeper signed, no trustworthy right-back, a total lack of a goalscoring midfielder, no competition or depth for a creative midfielder and no new strikers, just what have Arsenal been doing all this time?


For Arsenal transfers, there are two men at the helm; Richard Garlick, Head of Football Operations and Edu, Technical Director. Given that this is Garlick’s first season with the club and he is barely a matter of months into the position, it seems unfair to be too critical of his role in the window so far, especially since fans have no clue as to what extent, if at all, he is involved, however, for Edu, questions begin to arise.

When Edu was appointed to the club’s first ever Technical Director role, fans began to question just how such a role would dovetail with then-Director of Football, Raul Sanhlleí. What was the difference between the two? Did the two work in tandem? Was Edu’s job similar to Sanllehí’s? What part does a ‘Technical Director’ play in scouting and recruitment?

As with Garlick, Edu’s first season is a little hard to be too critical of. By and large, the majority of Arsenal’s scouting and analytics was done months before Edu joined the club and Sanllehí had already begun groundwork on the signings to be made in the summer.

Richard Garlick, Edu’s new right-hand man.

However, at the end of Edu’s first season, which ended with one sacked managed, a global pandemic and the club’s record-extending 14th FA Cup, it was Sanllehí who parted ways with the club.

Though Arsenal fans were perhaps a little reticent to give praise to the man who brought about Arsenal’s sudden copacetic relationship with so-called “super agents”, Arsenal fans knew that the departure of Sanllehí was a big blow to potential transfer negotiations. For all his faults, the Spaniard’s earthy and charming personality was often a hit with bosses of other clubs and was often paramount to concluding business swiftly and as close to efficiently as Arsenal can manage.

With Sanllehí gone, the burden of strengthening the team fell largely onto Edu’s shoulders. Sanllehí’s somewhat brief redundancy meant that any deals the former-Barcelona man had been working on, would need to be re-negotiated. This meant that deals for Lille’s Gabriel Magalhães and for the re-loaning of Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid would have to start again from scratch.

These delays were not Edu’s fault and his ability to conclude both deals is to be commended. Gabriel, though he frustratingly dropped repeated hints that his decision was merely a week away, was signed up for a very attractive price, a price that is looking like a bargain so far.

Raul Sanllehí left the club amidst a cloud of controversy.

Elsewhere, however, Edu’s fingerprints were unmistakbly all over the deal to bring Willian from Chelsea. Though Willian was announced before Sanllehí’s subsequent departure, the rhetoric surrounding the deal suggests that Edu was its biggest advocate.

Sharing an agent with the Brazilian winger and having a pre-established relationship from their time in the Brazilian national team, the deal felt very much like Edu’s first real foray into recruitment.

The deal proved to be a total disaster for the club and though even the most pessimistic of Arsenal fans could not have predicted how badly it could have gone, it seems Arsenal, and by extension Edu, were blinded by the potential to sign a player from a local rival for free.

Of course, Willian’s disappointing Arsenal career is not the Technical Director’s fault, far from it. It’s not Edu who picks the team or the formation; it’s not Edu who hands out the tactical briefing before a game; Edu doesn’t pull the Arsenal shirt on and play the game for Willian, nor does he take the decision to persevere with the player when his poor form continues.

However, Willian’s presence at the club feels like a deal badly though through. On the obvious plus sides, Willian is a Premier League proven player, who has won just about everything there is to win in his career and has proven to be a useful player for Chelsea over the years. His penchant for deadball situations cannot be overstated either.

However, the positives were vastly outweighed by the negatives.

Arsenal fans may have many faults, but their ability to smell a rat is fairly mind-boggling. The deal had the air of a player wanting to chase one last big contract in London before retirement; his performances in recent seasons hadn’t exactly been stellar and his connection to Edu by proxy, had fans worried from the start.

The baffling thing for Arsenal fans, was how they, the man on the street, were able to spot a declining player, and yet a team of highly-trained and expensive scouts as well as a top-level football executive with a lifetime spent in the game, could not.

Willian has failed to make the mark under Mikel Arteta.

Another strange decision was the signing of Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, from FC Dijon. The signing was suggested to the recruitment team by goalkeeping coach Iñaki Caña Pavón. Perhaps it’s fan’s naivety that led to questions being asked as to why the goalkeeping coach is able to make suggestions for transfers and then push them through, but the sentiment was still there, where was the recruitment team?

All hindsight is 20/20 and no one has it, but seeing Rúnarsson play last season, especially in his memorable disasterclass in the League Cup against Manchester City, fans began to question if the club had even bothered to do it’s homework before signing the player.

Then there was the signing of Thomas Partey from Atlético Madrid. Though the player was and still is a hugely impressive signing for a midtable team to make, concerns were raised as to why it took until deadline day to complete. Arsenal had known about Partey’s release clause for sometime, in fact, it had proven an obstacle the season before when Unai Emery expressed admiration for the player.

Yet, Edu, after weeks and weeks of trying and ultimately failing to get Atlético to agree to an instalment plan or any other price for the player, decided to activate the player’s release clause on deadline day. Since Partey was a priority transfer and would no doubt need time to settle into the club, amidst the celebrations, queries were again raised; if Arsenal were always going to just pay the release clause, why hadn’t they done it weeks ago?

The summer ended with a failed attempt to lure Lyon’s Houssem Aouar away from his boyhood club too. Though reports are sketchy as to why Arsenal were unable to sign the Frenchman, the fact remains that Arsenal failed to sign an important target, one the manager practically begged for and one who’s absence cost Arsenal dearly.

Arsenal failed to sign Houssem Aouar last summer, though could strike a deal this window.

Given Edu’s (albeit tenuous) connection to Lyon sporting director, Juninho Pernambucano, negotiations seemed but a formality. However, Edu either failed to make the connection count or the connection was, alas, meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Jean-Michel Aulas, the club’s CEO is a hard man to negotiate with at the best of times, and any prior relationship with his colleagues made little to no difference on the outcome at all. Arsenal left empty-handed.

From there, Arsenal’s on-field performance took precedent and people did not like what they saw. The decision not to register Mesut Özil for the forthcoming season amid his ongoing feud with the club, looked an inspired one at first, however, as Willian failed to have an impact in the middle and as there were no active creative midfielders in the squad, Arsenal nosedived and crashed before Christmas.

Though form eventually picked up and Hale End graduate Emile Smith Rowe stepped up to the plate, there was a feeling of desperation for creativity. Martin Ødegaard joined in January to fill the void and Özil was bundled through the fire exit with a blanket over his head, while the club quietly continued to pay his mammoth wages during his first 6 months with Fenerbahçe.

Marin Ødegaard was brought in as a much needed creative re-enforcement.

In fairness to Edu, his ability, along with Mikel Arteta, to persuade players staring longly at the departure’s lounge to renew their deals has been incredible. New deals for Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe, as well as persuading Folarian Balogun to extend his stay with the club have been very welcome news.

Many may dismiss the work done to retain academy products keen to extend their stay with their boyhood clubs as easy work, however, as Chelsea have discovered to their cost, childhood affection doesn’t always swing the deal your way.

Callum Hudson-Odoi’s salary is an albatross around the neck of Chelsea and the club likely look back with hindsight that they should have sold the player to Bayern Munich, when the club tabled a £30m offer for him.

Edu and co. have not had to break the bank to retain the stars of tomorrow and the players seem all too happy to be where they are.


During the run up to the summer, Mikel Arteta and Edu spoke of their tireless work to have their recruitments for the summer ready. Groundwork was laid, scouting was done and negotiations had, informally begun.

However, now, on the eve of their inaugural Premier League game, Arsenal look woefully ill-prepared.

A failed move for Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendía was certainly an ego bruising Edu could have done without, but the weeks and weeks of negotiations with Brighton & Hove Albion, with no fewer than 5 bids being lodged for Ben White, only to then crumble and pay what was initially demanded is not a good look.

Arsenal were pipped to Emiliano Buendía by Aston Villa.

Deals have either taken too long to confirm, seem to have been badly negotiated on the fee side or have failed ot come to fruition.

Weeks of tracking Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale have, so far, reached an impasse. The Blades are totally unwilling to budge from their £30m valuation of the player and Arsenal have so far yet to reach even half of that in their offers.

Elsewhere, creativity is still a huge issue. While the renewal of Emile Smith Rowe is to be commended, Arsenal still gave no cover available for the notoriously injury-prone youngster.

Martin Ødegaard continues to um and ah over his future with Real Madrid and a move for Leicester City’s James Maddison seems even more unlikely by the day.

Players who would vastly improve the team, who have openly flirted with the club, are still not under serious consideration. Ajax’s André Onana seems to be totally dead in the water and Yves Bissouma, though the club like him a lot, hasn’t even been spoken to.

Re-ignited interest in Houssem Aouar is welcome, but seems to be more as a back-up interest if moves elsewhere fall through.

Ben White, Arsenal’s third signing of the summer.

Two weeks until the end of the season and Arsenal are hardly any further forward than they were when they started. Edu’s harrying of the scouting team last summer, which saw the controversial decision to sack the extremely successful scout Francis Cagigao, seems woefully ill-advised as Arsenal have seemingly no real improvements selected for the team.

The signing of Ben White, Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga are all, in their own ways, welcome additions to the team, however, White seems an unnecessary expense.

White is certainly the player Arsenal have been crying out for for a while now. Composed on the ball, quick, tactically and positional versatile and with a good eye for a pass, White ticks all the boxes the club has to replace the hastily forgotten days of Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz, but his price tag and need is somewhat overstated.

Despite his natural abilities, £50m or a central defender seems excessive, especially since Arsenal have often spoken about “outsmarting the market” and being sensible with their cash reserves.

There is also the underlying feeling that White would not need to have been signed had the club not loaned out William Saliba for the third time-in-a-row.

Saliba ended last season’s Ligue 1 campaign strongly, yet, despite his performances, the defender was immediately loaned out to French side Marseille, thus prompting a need for Arsenal to sign a new central defender.

The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively placed most clubs in dire straits. The ability to shift players (something Arsenal are often mocked for) is a valuable one as teams face more and more financial restraints which prevent them from shifting deadwood.

On borrowed time? Edu and Mikel Arteta need a quick start to the new season.

It is therefore difficult to blame Edu for not being able to shift the likes of Sead Kolašinac, Héctor Bellerín, Alexandre Lacazette, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Lucas Torreira, however, the lack of shifted players is a worrying concern.

So far this summer, only Mattéo Guendouzi (who Arsenal will not receive a fee for until next summer) and Joe Willock (who will be joining Newcastle in a £25m deal) look to be leaving.

It seems as though Edu is taking on too much work for one man. With a new sub-goalkeeper, right-back, box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder and striker to sign as well as nearly eight players who all need to be moved on, the worries continue to grow.

As Mikel Arteta’s men gear themselves up for their first game of the Premier League season away to Brentford, work behind the scenes continues. Edu and his team will not be dogged by Arsenal fans for the next few weeks, ready to pounce on any potential slip-up or success, the question is, is Edu the man for the job?

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21/22 General New Contracts Youth

Kido Taylor-Hart Signs Three-Year Deal

Arsenal have announced that youngster, Kido Taylor-Hart has signed a new three-year contract with the club. The renewal was proposed by Head of Youth Development, Per Mertesacker and was carried out by Technical Director, Edu.

Taylor-Hart is another Hale End graduate tipped for a big future in the game, along with Arthur Okonkwo (who recently signed a new contract of his own), Joel López, Charlie Patino and Miguel Azeez.

Taylor-Hart is, by trade, a left-winger, a position that Arsenal are already well stacked in for the senior team, however, with Reiss Nelson’s future still in the air, Willian set to leave and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s contract running out in two years time, Taylor-Hart could be an internal solution.

Taylor-Hart is one of Arsenal’s biggest young talents.

Last season, Taylor-Hart became something of a youthful polymath, as he played across two separate age groups. Initially, Taylor-Hart started off in the U18’s Premier Leagye, where he registered 6 goals and 4 assists in 11 games, a run of form so impressive that he was promoted to Steve Bould’s U23 side, contributing 4 goals in 13 Premier League 2 games.

Taylor-Hart has been with Arsenal since the age of 7 and though his contract was due to expire this summer, along with Okonkwo, he was happy to extend his stay with the team he has been a lifelong fan of even amid interest from England, France and Belgium, keen on prising the Gunners’ youngster away from North London.

This is yet another exciting move from the Arsenal executive team to tie down their talented youngsters to new long-term deals. In recent seasons, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Folarian Balogun, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe have all signed new long-term deals with the club.

The club have managed to fend of interest in Taylor-Hart from Belgium and France.

It seems fairly unlikely that Taylor-Hart will play an extended role in the team to begin with, as he will likely be phased in slowly, but with no European football, Arsenal will be able to focus on the league and also on the earlier stages of the League Cup, a competition known for big teams to utilise their younger players.

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21/22 First Team General New Contracts

Emile Smith Rowe Signs A New Contract

Arsenal have announced that highly-rated youngster Emile Smith Rowe has signed a new long-term contract, believed to be a five-year deal. Smith Rowe will now wear the legendary number 10 shirt, vacated by Mesut Özil.

Smith Rowe is the latest in a line of talented youngsters who have committed their futures to the club. Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli were the first last season, while Folarian Balogun recently renewed his own contract at the tail-end of the current campaign.

Arsenal’s new number ten.

Smith Rowe’s rise has been an astonishing sight to behold. First introduced into the first team setup under Unai Emery, Smith Rowe announced himself with a brilliant goal in Arsenal’s pre-season game against Paris Saint-Germain.

Following a challenging campaign, Smith Rowe was loaned out to German outfit RB Leipzig, but not before notching three goals in six matches for Arsenal.

Injury cut his time in Germany short, so he was loaned out to Huddersfield Town for the majority of last season, with Huddersfield’s manager, Danny Cowley, speaking very highly of the youngster.

“We have to be very protective of him which none of us like. I actually boo myself when I take him off, because it’s not something I want to do!”

Danny Cowley, Smith Rowe’s temporary manager during his loan spell at Huddersfield.

Following a stagnant few games in which Arsenal failed to create as many chances as necessary and with Mesut Özil’s continued exile from the team, Mikel Arteta turned to Smith Rowe for inspiration in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Chelsea in December, which turned out to be a masterstroke.

Since then, Smith Rowe has been a mainstay in the team and his first goal for the club, coming against West Bromwich Albion in a 3-1 home win, was followed by an admittedly lucky goal against Chelsea in the return fixture.

Smith Rowe has formed a deadly partnership with Bukayo Saka.

Though the temporary loan of Martin Ødegaard provided Smith Rowe with a lot of competition and caused him to be pushed out wide, Smith Rowe has proved himself to be exceptional and has acquitted himself masterfully in Mikel Arteta’s new-look team.

It remains to be seen if Arsenal will add another creative player to the side, having failed in their attempts to bring in Emiliano Buendía from Norwich, although a permenant move for Ødegaard remains on the table. Though a new player is likely to come in to provide competition for Smith Rowe, it should not be overstated just how hard it will be displace the youngster, especially in his current form.

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21/22 General New Contracts Youth

Arthur Okonkwo Signs New Contract

Arsenal have confirmed that goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo has signed a new long-term contract with the club. Though Okonkwo’s contract with the club officially expired in June, the youngster has since re-committed himself to the club, with a reported length of three years. Okonkwo joins the Arsenal senior squad this term and will take the number 33, previously worn by the departing Maty Ryan.

Okonkwo joins a list of talented youngsters who have since put pen to paper under the tutelage of Mikel Arteta, with Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Folarian Balogun, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe all signing long-term contracts with the club, with Kido Taylor-Hart’s renewal thought to be very close too.

Though the signing of Okonkwo is unlikely to receive the fanfare that Saka, Balogun and Smith Rowe received when they signed new long-term deals with the club, it is nevertheless an extremely important signing for the club.

Okonkwo signing his initial professional terms with Head of Academy, Per Mertesacker.

In fact, Mikel Arteta is said to be so enamoured with Okonkwo, that he is considering making him third-choice back-up goalkeeper for the forthcoming season, although the possibility of a loan has also been mooted.

Another interesting point is that it’s not only Arsenal who have wanted to tie the youngster down to a new contract. A number of teams across Europe reportedly registering their admiration of the player and asking his agents to kept abreast of developments.

With goalkeeper Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson likely to be heading out on loan and a second-choice goalkeeper still yet to be signed, it’s not unrealistic to think that Okonkwo may be given his chance this season in the League Cup.

Arthur Okonkwo

Okonkwo is not the only young goalkeeper that Arsenal have tried to retain, with Estonian goalkeeper Karl Jakob Hein also hugely admired at London Colney.

Despite finally committing Okonkwo to a new contract, Arsenal still remain in the market for a new goalkeeper, with Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale thought to be of interest, as the club look to boost their homegrown quota.

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21/22 Backroom Staff European Super League FA Cup First Team Friendlies General League Cup Match Reports New Contracts Premier League Transfers Youth

All or Nothing: Amazon Documentary to Look at Arsenal

Arsenal will be the focus of the famous Amazon documentary series All or Nothing. The documentary will cover the inner workings of the club across the 2020/21 season, giving fans an insight into the work behind the scenes and also and the kind of preparation required for senior football.

Previous All or Nothing documentaries have focused on Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, the Brazilian national team and Tottenham Hotspur, with Mikel Arteta contributing greatly to the former during his tenure as Manchester City coach.

The documentary series grants a rare, unprecedented level of insight into the inner-workings of the club. Though fans will be treated to seeing how the players and manager prepare for games and an exclusive look at half-time teamtalks, the documentary will also show the work of other important figures at the club, such as Josh Kroenke, Vinai Venkatesham, Edu Gaspar and Per Mertesacker.

The failure of last season was thankfully not broadcast.

The documentary will be filmed across the course of the season and will likely be shown in its entirety at the end of the season in May, exclusively on the Amazon Prime video subscription service.

All or Nothing: Arsenal will be produced by 72 Films, executive produced by Mark Raphael, Clare Cameron and three-time BAFTA winner John Douglas.

Dan Grabiner, Head of UK Originals at Amazon Studios said: “Arsenal is a historic club going through a fascinating period, and we can’t wait to take viewers behind-the-scenes on the journey of this crucial season. All or Nothing is about intimate access to the passion and commitment behind elite sport, and in Arsenal we have the perfect subject for the next chapter. We are looking forward to Prime members around the world experiencing another Premier League season with a new club, through All or Nothing’s signature quality storytelling and access.”

While such unprecedented access to the club is certainly an enticing thought for fans, it is nevertheless a cause for concern. Documentaries of this nature are almost always a “tell-all” kind of scenario that usually leaves no stone unturned and in the case of a disappointing season, often becomes a central hub for memes and unnecessary insight into the way the team works.

All or Northing: Arsenal will arrive on Amazon Prime in 2022.

There is also something sacred about the dressing room atmosphere. Mikel Arteta’s half-time team talks being broadcast for everyone to see, while fascinating, also provides people with insights into how the team works and what sort of tactics the team are likely to use, which is usually best kept behind the curtain.

Much like a magician revealing how he did his trick, some things are perhaps left behind the scenes.

We are looking forward to giving our fans around the world a unique insight into how we work day to day. We have one of the biggest global followings in the game and one consistent thing we hear from fans is their desire to see more about what happens behind closed doors at the club, All or Nothing will give our fans and sport lovers an opportunity to learn more about what makes Arsenal such a special club, our trophy laden history and our ambitions for future success.”

Mark Gonnella – Arsenal’s Media and Communications Director

However, one fascinating question remains, who will narrate the series? Manchester City’s documentary had Ben Kinglsey, where Tottenham had Tom Hardy, so who will narrate Arsenal’s?

Arsenal are not short on celebrity fans, with JAY-Z, Piers Morgan, Dido, Idris Elba, Roger Daltry, Prince Harry, Roger Waters, Mick Jagger and the Queen are all Arsenal fans, though any royal inclusion seems unlikely, if not impossible.

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21/22 First Team General New Contracts

Kieran Tierney Signs Five-Year Deal

Scottish Left-back Kieran Tierney, has officially signed a new five-year contract with Arsenal. Tierney joined Arsenal from Celtic in 2019 and is considered by many to be the best left-back the club has had since Ashley Cole.

Tierney joined Arsenal from Celtic in the summer of 2019 for a reported fee of £25m, a Scottish transfer record and has quickly established himself as both a fan-favourite and as one of the very first names on the teamsheet.

Injuries have proven to be something of an issue for the left-back throughout his career, however, this has not stopped him having an immediate impact on the team whenever he plays.

Tierney seems to be one of manager Mikel Arteta’s many firm favourites. Though Tierney was unavailable for selection when Arteta initially took charge, the Scotsman thoroughly impressed Arteta in a mid-season training camp in Dubai and has since become one of Arteta’s most trusted lieutenants.

Tierney’s new contract is seen by many not just as a tremendous amount of faith, as his wage rises to nearly £110,000-a-week, but also as the fact that it is likely that Tierney will inherit the captain’s armband from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, when the striker moves on at the end of his deal.

Signing Tierney up to a brand new contract is the latest in a long line of impressive and important contract renewals that the club has completed in the past eighteen months or so, with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Rob Holding and Folarian Balogun all committing their long-term futures to the club and Emile Smith Rowe looking likely to join them soon too.

While the focus for many is likely on the transfer window, Tierney’s new contract will likely give fans a huge boost ahead of what is set to be a busy summer for the club.

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20/21 First Team General New Contracts Youth

Folarian Balogun Signs New Contract

Arsenal have ended months of scrutiny by finally tying down talented youngster Folarian Balogun onto a new four-year contract.

While the main talk this week has been around Arsenal’s controversial place in the supposed European Super League, the New York born forward’s contract has been something of an albatross around the Gunners’ necks this season, with increasing pressure being exerted on Mikel Arteta and Edu to get the talented teen signed up to a new deal, with as many as 15 clubs reported to have offered contracts to the player, with Arsenal’s not even being the highest.

We have been extremely impressed with Flo this season. He has continually shown his natural ability in many training sessions with us and we have been equally impressed with his early integration into the first-team squad on matchdays. He has given us glimpses with the performances and of course with his two goals already for the first team. The hard work starts here for Flo and we are all looking forward to supporting and working with him in the years to come.”

Mikel Arteta on Balogun’s new contract.

Balogun was subject to a bid from Sheffield United in the summer, however, Arsenal were reportedly holding out for no lower than £15m, a fee that United were unwilling to pay.

The decision for Balogun to renew his contract with Arsenal is a welcome yet surprising one. Not only are Arsenal currently sat in 10th place in the league table, but Balogun has also found first-team opportunities thin on the ground.

Despite having seemed to hit the ground running with two goals in Arsenal’s group-stage Europa League matches away at both Dundalk and Molde, the striker has yet to feature in the Premier League and has struggled to force his way into the side.

The lack of game time that Balogun has been receiving was initially thought to be a major stumbling block for Balogun and his agents, however, his path to first-team action next season seems a lot clearer with Mikel Arteta providing the forward with further game time guarantees and with Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette likely to be leaving in the summer.

Balogun’s contract status had meant that a number of clubs, both domestically and abroad had been keeping tabs on Balogun and had made several attempts to sign the player. Domestically, Crystal Palace, Everton and Manchester City were all reported to have made contact with the player, while RB Leipzig were keeping close tabs on the player.

However, Bayer Leverkusen looked the most likely to snap Balogun up, with a formal pre-contract offer being tabled by the club.

It has always been Balogun’s intentions to remain at Arsenal, the club he has been at since he was eight-years old and no doubt the continued faith shown in youngsters like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe by manager Mikel Arteta has played a part in Balogun’s decision.

For Arteta’s part, the Spaniard has always been clear in his desire for Balogun to remain at the club and has always been outwardly confident of keeping the player.

While many have pointed to Arteta’s seeming unwillingness to play Balogun in the league, it is not entirely crazy to see why Arteta has not handed Balogun much in the way of game time.

Arsenal’s precarious league position, yo-yoing form and a tendency to switch off in the latter stages of a match has produced an environment in which the manager is unlikely to want to throw a young player into.

There is also the issue that Balogun had not yet signed a new contract either, which further complicated issues. Arteta was unwilling to hand game-time to a player who had not committed his future to the club long-term.

It seems more likely that Balogun will see a larger role in the Arsenal squad next season, but Arsenal and Arsenal fans will be relieved to know that the issue is now dealt with and there is no chance of a repeat of the same situation that saw Serge Gnabry leave for Werder Bremen amidst a shroud of controversy.

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20/21 First Team General New Contracts

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Signs a New Contract

Arsenal announced today that captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has signed a new three-year contract with the club. The deal is reportedly worth in excess of £250,000-a-week.

Aubameyang’s signing comes in the wake of Arsenal’s 0-3 win over Fulham Athletic on Saturday.

Aubameyang joined Arsenal on Deadline Day in 2018 and was the final player to be signed by Arsène Wenger before he stepped down a few months later and was the club’s record signing before Nicolas Pépé.

Aubameyang finally puts pen-to-paper with Mikel Arteta’s side.

Aubameyang’s original contract, that he signed when joining Arsenal, came with an option for the club to extend his deal by an extra year, but it’s thought that neither Aubameyang or Arsenal were interested in activating that clause as it represented a large financial outlay for the club and did not provide Aubameyang with the kind of security that he was looking for.

The signing of a new contract represents a major coup for Arsenal and for head-coach Mikel Arteta, who played a significant part in persuading the striker to sign. Arteta knows how important Aubameyang is to his project with Arsenal and how vital it is that the Gabon hitman has committed his future to the club; it is therefore no surprise that the Spaniard personally got involved in convincing Aubameyang to sign his new deal.

Aubameyang’s career has seen him play in several countries across Europe, starting his career with Italian side AC Milan, which was followed by four hit or miss loan deals at Dijon FCO, AS Monaco and AS Saint-Étienne, joining the latter on a permanent basis in 2011.

Aubameyang during his time with Saint-Étienne.

Aubameyang’s time at Saint-Étienne was his big breakout, scoring an impressive 41 goals in 97 matches in all competitions. 

From there, Aubameyang caught the eye of then Borussia Dortmund scout (and later Arsenal Head of Recruitment) Sven Mislintat. Mislintat had to convince Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp about Aubameyang’s abilities, highlighting his tactical versatility of being able to play through the middle and out wide as the main rationale for signing him for a reported fee of €15m. 

Klopp was initially unconvinced on Aubameyang, who came with a reputation of being something of an enigma off the field. Aubameyang’s penchant for flashy, fast cars and even wearing a pair of Swarovski crystal encrusted boots, led the German to believe that Aubameyang would be too difficult to manage.

Aubameyang was Borussia Dortmund’s sixth-highest goalscorer.

Aubameyang’s time at Dortmund was hugely successful, winning the DFB-Pokal and two DFL-Supercups with the club and also scored 141 goals in 213 games, which placed him as Dortmund’s sixth all-time goalscorer and was only 34 goals off of breaking the all-time record, something he was on course to do.

Aubameyang’s time at Dortmund was not without controversy, he was disciplined by the club multiple times and the forward grew tired with the club’s reassurances that they would sell him if the right offer came in, however, after selling Ousmane Dembélé to Barcelona (a transfer that Dortmund had assured Aubameyang would not happen) Dortmund were unable to lose Aubameyang as well and he remained put, which led to further controversies. 

In January of 2018, Arsène Wenger found the culture of the club changing around him, the aforementioned Sanllehí and Mislintat now held important positions at the club and before long, Wenger found himself in need of goals, with Alexis Sánchez swapped with Manchester United’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Aubameyang’s former teammate at Dortmund) and Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin sold, Arsenal smashed their transfer record (which they had broken only six months prior with Alexandre Lacazette) to sign Aubameyang.

Aubameyang scores on his debut for Arsenal against Everton.

Like Klopp before him, Wenger had needed convincing of Aubameyang’s profile. Though Arsenal had always held a vested interest in the player, his antics off the field proved to be the same issue for Wenger as it had for Klopp and Mislintat once again proved to be the catalyst to move the forward to Arsenal for a then club record of £56m.

Aubameyang hit the ground running and ended Wenger’s final few months with an eye watering 10 goals in 14 matches. After Unai Emery was appointed, Aubameyang carried on as he had under Wenger and was an integral part in Arsenal’s journey to the UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea in Azerbaijan and was the joint winner of the Premier League Golden Boot award alongside Liverpool’s Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah.

Though Emery’s tenure ended in disaster, he proved under Mikel Arteta his worth and after Granit Xhaka’s public stripping of the captaincy, Aubameyang has since been the unchanged leader of the team, a role the forward relishes. 

Aubameyang has taken over from Granit Xhaka as Arsenal’s club captain.

Aubameyang was key in Arsenal’s most recent victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final as the club equalled their impressive record in the competition to fourteen wins. He ended the season on 22 goals in the league and was only one shy of defending his Golden Boot from the previous season, losing out to Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy. 

Arteta has spoken about the importance of the club capturing Aubameyang’s signature ever since he took charge in December and has been publicly confident that the forward would sign. There are thoughts around the club that Arteta’s presence has helped the club secure the deal and there are thoughts that Aubameyang would likely not have extended if Arteta’s former long-term predecessor were in charge. 

Aubameyang’s signing also breaks a long-dormant Arsenal habit of allowing their best players to leave as a direct result of their contracts running out, which has meant the club has been forced to either hastily sell below market price or to let them walk free at the end of their deals, a fate which has befallen, to different extents, Bacary Sagna, Robin van Persie, Alexis Sánchez, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey. 

Mikel Arteta played a huge part in convincing Aubameyang to remain at the club.

Aubameyang reportedly loves playing under Arteta and is happy to help the team in any way he can, even if it means having to play in his lesser favoured wide position, as opposed to the central role he so delights in.

The deal represents a major win for Arsenal and is testament to the impressive work that Arteta has done since joining the club and gives the club more to build-on after tying down Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli down to new long-term contracts earlier in the season.

With Aubameyang’s contract all tied-up, Arsenal’s attention now turns to their transfer window, which stands to be their most important in recent memory, with Arteta reportedly targeting a central midfielder with Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey thought to be high on Arteta’s agenda.