Categories
20/21 General Transfers

Potential Arsenal Departures

Arsenal enjoyed a fairly good January transfer window. Though the club may not have made any money from transfer fees, they managed to shift a lot of proverbial dead wood from the squad and managed to take a huge chunk out of their wage budget at the same time, not least thanks to the sale of Mesut Özil, which cleared a cool £350,000-a-week from the bill and managed to find a temporary solution to their back-up goalkeeper woes with Maty Ryan and solve their creativity issues with the loan of Martin Ødegaard.

But with the summer window approaching, it’s fair to say that there is still plenty of work to be done. Though the most pressing cases such as Özil, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis have been dealt with, there is still a bit more fat to be trimmed.

Some players are out on loan, others out in the cold and others with a seemingly impossible route back into the side.

Chambers looks unlikely to start regularly under Mikel Arteta.

Name: Calum Chambers
Potential fee: £15m
Calum Chambers seems to have lived something of a charmed life since joining the club. Signed for £16m from Southampton in 2014, Chambers has played in a variety of positions, namely right-back and central defence, though a promising show at Fulham suggested the possibility of a move to central midfield as well.

Though Chambers has been unlucky with a long-term knee injury, it seems unlikely that the defender will be able to find an easy route back into the team.

Arsenal desperately need some form of cover or competition for Héctor Bellerín, however Chambers has never really suited the position all that well and his path towards starting regularly at centre back is blocked by others as well.

David Luiz and Rob Holding seem to be the preferred candidates on the right side of defence and once William Saliba returns from his loan at Nice, it seems likely that there will be yet another obstacle in Chambers’ way; meanwhile, the left-hand side of defence is usually occupied by summer signing Gabriel Magalhães or by Pablo Marí and Mikel Arteta seems unwilling to play a right-footed player in the position.

Chambers was subject to a £28m bid from Leicester a few seasons ago, but Arsenal resisted the impulse to sell the defender, they may now look to cash in however, unless Chambers is happy to have a back-up role in the squad.

Reiss Nelson has dropped further and further down the pecking order.

Name: Reiss Nelson
Potential fee: £16m
The fall of Reiss Nelson in recent months has been a somewhat pitying sight to behold. Once thought to be Arsenal’s homegrown answer to Riyad Mahrez, Nelson’s stock has fallen rather considerably in recent months.

A torrid time under Unai Emery was not aided by the appearance of Nicolas Pépé, who joined in a club-record £72m fee and the emergence of Bukayo Saka, who’s tactical and positional versatility seems to be more in the style of what Arsenal needs right now.

In recent months, Nelson has struggled with several injuries and has also been a victim of a very stacked pecking order. While Pépé’s form has greatly improved, the added complication Emile Smith Rowe being able to play out wide as well have further complicated matters for Nelson.

Though a brilliant and tricky player on his day, his yo-yoing form makes him a likely candidate for a trim in the upcoming summer cuts.

Eddie Nketiah’s small stature may prove an issue at a top six side.

Name: Eddie Nketiah
Potential fee: £20m
The astonishing thing about Eddie Nketiah, is that he could very easily do a job for a lot of teams in the Premier League, just not for Arsenal.

Nketiah’s main strengths are usually best seen in his ability to press high up the field and for his dogged attitude to chase loose passes, close players down and to scramble for every ball no matter how dead or lost it may look. In fact, this remarkably hardworking attitude has earned him a spot in Mikel Arteta’s good graces and it’s a surprise that he was not considered to be a more valuable asset to Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds when he was on loan there.

Nketiah’s poacher reputation is another key asset for the youngster, but for a team like Arsenal, that already has a potent poacher and goal-threat in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the idea of another is unfeasible.

Indeed, Nketiah’s rather small build and lack of overall body strength makes him an easy target for the burlier Premier League defenders and Nketiah is often buffeted from side-to-side by defenders that are quick to notice his strengths and weaknesses.

Many teams, like Sheffield United or Everton or Championship side Brentford, would do well to sign Nketiah up and Arsenal could likely command a higher fee than normal as he is both homegrown and an academy graduate.

Mikel Arteta seems unlikely to place his trust in Lucas Torreira.

Name: Lucas Torreira
Potential fee: £27m
The prince that was promised when he made the switch from Sampdoria to North London nearly three years ago. Signed by former Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat in a £26m deal, Lucas Torreira has endured a bit of a hit and miss time with the club.

Though Torreira is strong in the tackle, eager to do the dirty work and has a bit of a meaner shot on him than one might have thought, he has been undone on a number of occasions by mismanagement under Unai Emery, injuries and a passing ability that doesn’t quite inspire the confidence that fans might have had when watching a prime Santi Cazorla strut his stuff.

Torreira has spent this season on loan at Atlético Madrid, who would have preferred to have partnered him with Thomas Partey, however, the latter’s departure in the summer seemingly halted plans. Since then, Torreira has been on the fringes of the side and seems unlikely to displace any of the current midfield.

Rumours swirled in January of offers from Monaco and the summer saw a vested interest in him from Italian side Torino, which would have seen him reunited with former Sampdoria manager Marco Giampaolo, however, since Giampaolo’s sacking, a move there seems unlikely.

Torreira and his agent have been quoted in the press speaking about homesickness and a dislike of the English weather, something that has proved an obstacle for a while now and it would not be surprising if the player were to look to move away in the summer.

Though the idea of him lining up alongside Partey seems like a mouth-watering concept in terms of defensive rigidity, it seems unlikely that Arsenal would opt for such a plan, especially given the current form of Granit Xhaka.

Torreria does not seem to be in Arteta’s plans for the time being and it seems as though Arsenal would rather cut their losses and look elsewhere.

Alexandre Lacazette could be heading for the exit.

Name: Alexandre Lacazette
Potential fee: £10m
It has long been known that Alexandre Lacazette was at the top of the Arsenal scouting list for nearly ten years before his purchase in 2017 for £46.5m (then a club record), however, Lacazette has never fully delivered the kind of stats he was averaging at his previous club, Lyon.

Though Lacazette has clearly been a victim of a rather underperforming Arsenal side that is totally shot of confidence, he has also been guilty of a fair amount of poor performances himself.

With Folarian Balogun’s contract the talk of the proverbial town at London Colney, it seems as though Arsenal would prefer to see the youngster remain at the club, but with Lacazette in his way, it may be that Balogun looks elsewhere, which would complicate things for Arsenal.

Though Arteta has spoken often about his willingness to keep Lacazette for a while longer, little to no movement from either side with regards to striking up a conversation about it.

Arsenal’s reported interest in strikers like Odsonne Edouard at Celtic would further complicate matters for Lacazette, who unless he is willing to stay at the club as a back-up striker, will find it tough to remain for much longer.

In a normal market, Arsenal would likely be able to command around £30m for Lacazette, however, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that Lacazette is entering the final year or so of his contract, Arsenal may struggle to get more than £10m.

A litany of on-field and off-field incidents have done little warm Arteta up to Mattéo Guendouzi.

Name: Mattéo Guendouzi
Potential fee: £25m
Another of Sven Mislintat’s Scoutpanel gems saw Arsenal fans draw a wry smile as it looked a match made in heaven. Mislintat’s penchant for discovering young and unearthed gems, coupled with Arsenal’s enviable history of turning youngsters into superstars, it seemed as though the sky was the limit for Mattéo Guendouzi.

However, it now looks as though Guendouzi’s time at the club is pretty much over. Though the Frenchman displays a remarkable talent, his attitude and behavioural issues both on and off the field have so far proved to be impossible to look past for Mikel Arteta.

Under Unai Emery, Guendouzi was given a huge amount of responsibility and seemed to thrive off the Spaniard’s trust, often partnering Granit Xhaka or Lucas Torreira in midfield. However, a litany of on-field incidents and a number of off-field excursions has seen Guendouzi become a figure many cannot wait to see the back of.

Mikel Arteta’s zero-tolerance policy has seen Guendouzi utterly frozen out and given Arteta’s stance of cutting his nose to spite his face, it came as no surprise to see that Guendouzi was hastily loaned out to Hertha Berlin.

The signs of Guendouzi on loan have been mixed, much like his time at Arsenal and though Mikel Arteta has spoken openly of wanting to welcome Guendouzi back into the fold, it would not be a surprise to see the French midfielder leave in the summer.

Europa League aside, Joe Willock hasn’t made much of an impact.

Name: Joe Willock
Potential fee: £18m
If you had suggested six months or so ago, the idea of Joe Willock departing the club, most would have called you mad, and indeed, who can argue with his output? In Arsenal’s Europa League campaign, Willock was on fire with three goals and three assists in the competition.

However, the youngster has failed to make much of an impact in the league. With Mohamed Elneny & Dani Ceballos’ yo-yoing form, Thomas Partey’s injury woes and Granit Xhaka’s disappointing earlier campaign form, it seemed as though it would only be a matter of time before Willock was given his chance to impress.

However, Willock has not since delivered in the league, where the competition is notably higher than in the Europa League. Willock has largely been reduced to substitute appearances and though it’s always special to see an academy graduate represent the club at senior level, there is something of a glum resignation that very little will happen when Willock is introduced, a feeling replicated with teammate Willian as well.

Willock is currently on loan at Newcastle United, where he had an instant impact, scoring on his debut, however, it looks unlikely that Willock will make the mark at Arsenal. Talented though he clearly is, it is clear that he, like Nketiah, lacks the physicality required to make it at a top Premier League club and with Arsenal keen to strengthen their creative outlets in the summer, Willock could be a casuality.

The accident-prone Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson may be in need of a loan.

Name: Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
Potential fee: Loan or £5m
It is unlikely that Arsenal are prepared to cut their losses entirely on Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, who joined the club from Dijon in the summer.

Rúnarsson was always seen as a third-choice goalkeeper as the club chased Brentford’s David Raya, however, after their pursuit of Raya failed, Rúnarsson was the only keeper brought in in the wake of Emiliano Martínez’s departure to Aston Villa.

Some rather forgettable performances have been enough to outshine the one or two promising games he has had along the way and it is clear that Rúnarsson needs more game time if he is to improve.

It is more likely that Arsenal would look to secure a loan deal for Rúnarsson in the summer rather than to outright sell him, however, if an offer of around £5m were to come in, Arsenal could be sorely tempted, especially if their pursuit of David Raya comes off in the summer.

Kostas Mavropanos has failed to make much of an impact since Arsène Wenger’s departure.

Name: Konstantinos Mavropanos
Potential fee: £6m
Konstantinos Mavropanos was the first signing the club made with Sven Mislintat at the helm. Signed from Greek side PAS PAS Giannina, Mavropanos managed to break into Arsène Wenger’s first-team plans fairly quickly, however, since then, it seems as though Mavropanos has been reduced to an afterthought by the club.

With William Saliba returning from loan at Nice in the summer and the standout performances of Rob Holding, it’s difficult to see where, if at all, Mavropanos would fit in.

Arsenal are keen to add another central defender to their ranks in the summer, which would further complicate matters for Mavropanos, who has not set the world on fire on his disrupted loans in Germany.

Mikel Arteta has had very little to say about Mavropanos in his time at Arsenal, it seems as though Arsenal may be tempted to cut their losses and bring a more experienced central defender in instead.

There will likely be other players that will be in the club’s thoughts when the summer window rolls around, but these seem to be the most likely candidates to leave should the opportunity arise in the summer.

With the merciless ways that Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Özil, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have all left the club, it would be a foolish person who would think that trimming the fat at a potential loss is above Arsenal, especially with Technical Director Edu, under increasing pressure to deliver quality reinforcements for Mikel Arteta for next season.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Arsenal’s Summer Shopping List

While Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff will be focusing all their efforts on the forthcoming tie with Benfica and trying to manage their rather turbulent run of fixtures, behind the scenes, Technical Director Edu will be looking to the recruitment side of things.

While Arsenal have managed to shift an impressive £700,000-a-week off their wage bill, there will still likely be departures from the senior squad to accommodate some new blood.

But what exactly do Arsenal need in the upcoming summer window?

Brentford’s David Raya has been on Arsenal’s radar for a while now.

Back-up goalkeeper
Arsenal spent most of the 2020 summer transfer window chasing Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, however, Brentford’s unwillingness to sell forced Arsenal to look elsewhere.

Following the recommendation of goalkeeping coach Iñaki Caña Pavón, Arsenal instead opted for FC Dijon’s Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, who was signed for £1.8m.

The Iceland international’s time at Arsenal has not been the calamity that many on social media have professed it to be, however, it has not been a roaring success either. Some decent showings in the Europa League have been usurped by a calamitous performance at home to Manchester City in the League Cup, in which the goalkeeper looked increasingly frail with each shot on target the visitors had.

It seems as though Rúnarsson was always preferred as a third-choice goalkeeper, specifically to take over the mantle from Matt Macey, who looks unlikely to remain at Arsenal much longer.

It seems as though Raya will continue to be Arsenal’s long-term target (another recommendation from Pavón), however, Brentford are unlikely to entertain offers before the summer, especially given their promotion push.

It is unlikely that Raya is Arsenal’s only target, however, other targets have not been mentioned in the press, though this seems to be a position fairly low down on Arsenal’s priority list.

It is possible that Arsenal will look to make Maty Ryan’s loan move from Brighton a permanent deal, but it depends on the Australian’s cost and his performances for the club before the end of the season.

Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey is firmly on Arsenal’s radar.

Right-back cover
Héctor Bellerín seems undroppable under Arteta thus far, regardless of his form and though the recent resurgence in form of Cédric Soares has given Arteta something of a selection headache, it seems unlikely that Cédric is seen as the ideal right-back cover for the long-term, despite his whopping four-year deal.

Arsenal do have the exciting Jordi Osei-Tutu (currently on loan at Cardiff City) to consider for the position, however, given that he has yet to make a single appearance for the senior side, it seems Arsenal may look elsewhere.

In terms of internal solutions, both Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers look unlikely to survive the prophesied harrying of the Arsenal squad this summer. Chambers has yet to make an appearance for the club since returning from his most recent injury and Maitland-Niles seems to see his future in the middle of the park, rather than in defence, something that proved to be a point of contention with both Arsène Wenger and Unai Emery as well.

Again, potential targets have been scarce, but there are plenty of youngsters in and around Europe who are likely to catch the eye of the Arsenal recruitment team.

Emerson at Real Betis has impressed so far this season, as has Celtic’s Jeremie Frimpong, while Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest is also likely to have a number of suitors, especially given the Spanish club’s precarious financial position. Another option could present itself in the form of Tariq Lamptey at Brighton & Hove Albion, who seem resigned to lose the talented youngster, amid interest from abroad and domestically and Lamptey seemingly keen on a potential move.

It has also been noted of Arsenal’s interest in Achraf Hakimi, at Inter Milan, with Arsenal seemingly interested in a potential £40m deal for the defender in the summer, however, the payment structure caused significant issues with Arsenal’s COVID-affected budget and the player moved to Inter; despite this, Arsenal still hold him in high regard.

Aaron Hickey has impressed in his first season in Serie A.

Left-back cover
The recent performances of Kieran Tierney have certainly paid credence to the idea that Arsenal have arguably one of, if not the best left-back in the Premier League, however, despite the Scotland international’s spectacular form, Arsenal are in dire need of cover.

Even without taking the former Celtic man’s appalling injury-record into account, Arsenal do seem to lack a decent left-back in general. With Sead Kolašinac currently on loan at Schalke until the end of the season and Maitland-Niles on loan at West Brom, the onus of left-back cover has fallen largely on the shoulders of Cédric Soares. Though Cédric seems to be coping fairly well int he position, it is clear that he cannot be considered a long-term solution or indeed cover for Tierney during his annual injury crisis.

Targets for the position will likely be high-priority in the summer, with Arsenal keen to rectify the issue in the January window, though no moves materialised. Though Crystal Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt and Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand were discussed as temporary solutions in the aforementioned January window, neither were ever under serious consideration.

Several other names have been mentioned in the press since the January window closed, with Hibernian’s Josh Doig and Genoa’s Luca Pellegrini both reportedly of interest to the scouting team. Other potential targets include Bologna’s Aaron Hickey, who has impressed most of Europe and Norwich’s Max Aarons, who was very close to joining Liverpool in the summer.

Emiliano Buendía is much admired by the Arsenal scouting team.

Creative midfielder
A creative midfielder has been on the agenda at Arsenal for a while, with the summer window seeing Arsenal come within a hair’s breadth of signing Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, however, Lyon were unwilling to play ball and Arsenal were unwilling to match the French club’s £60m price tag.

Since then, a number of names have been mentioned in the press, such as Julian Brandt, Emiliano Buendía, Dominik Szoboszlai and Christian Eriksen, though it seems as though Arsenal are scouting other targets besides these.

With the Dante-esque exile of Mesut Özil, followed by his subsequent departure to Fenerbahçe and the hapless performances of summer signing Willian, Arsenal struggled a lot in terms of creativity throughout much of the early season.

Following the introduction of Emile Smith Rowe into the starting eleven in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Chelsea, it seems as though Arsenal do have a ready-made creative midfielder to come in and inject some much needed creativity. He along with Bukayo Saka, have not only introduced some much needed flair and creativity but also served as a testament to the amazing work that Per Mertesacker is currently doing with the Hale End academy.

In January, Arsenal brought in Real Madrid midfielder Martin Ødegaard, who, like his Real Madrid teammate Dani Ceballos, serves as a temporary solution, though if his situation pleases both parties, then there is no reason that Arsenal cannot make the change permanent in the summer.

Ødegaard’s potential mesmeric form notwithstanding, Arsenal will likely still look to add a creative midfielder to their ranks in the summer window alongside him. It seems that Arsenal have cooled their interest in Aouar and a move for Brandt seems unlikely, though a move Buendía could be in the offing, with Arsenal long-term admirers of the Argentinian’s profile.

Arsenal have tracked Odsonne Edouard for a long time.

Striker
The future of Alexandre Lacazette remains uncertain. While Mikel Arteta has intermitted that he would like to keep the Frenchman at the club in the long-run, it seems that many behind the scenes are not as convinced that Lacazette cannot fulfil the role that Arteta has ear-marked for him.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has struggled for form this season, but given Aubameyang’s history and excellent returns, not to mention his captain status, make it unlikely that Arsenal will look to replace him anytime soon.

As for Eddie Nketiah, its a struggle to see just where the England striker fits in at the club at the moment. Neither Lacazette or Aubameyang seem to be squandering the chances that they are given by Arteta at the moment and the youngster seems to lack the physicality needed for the Premier League.

The future of Folarian Balogun is still a very touchy subject around London Colney, with the youngster still yet to put pen to paper on a brand new deal, but the youngster could find first-team opportunities easier to come by next season, if his long-term future is tied down.

As for potential incomings, it has long been rumoured that Arsenal hold a vested interest in Celtic forward Odsonne Édouard, as well as Lille striker Jonathan David, both of which seem to fit the bill of a pressing forward and would likely be available for a reasonable sum.

Top quality strikers maybe difficult for Arsenal to come across in the long-run, especially since most of Europe’s most coveted strikers are tied down to long-term deals. Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Håland has a release clause in his contract that will activate soon, but more attractive clubs are circling the in-form striker. Meanwhile, Rodrygo at Real Madrid and Francisco Trincão at Barcelona could prove to be useful back-ups.

It remains to be seen as to what Arsenal’s summer business will look like. Since the departure of Arsène Wenger, the issue of attracting top players has seemed like something of a non-issue, especially since the club have managed to convince Nicolas Pépé, Gabriel Magalhães, Willian, Gabriel Martinelli and Thomas Partey to join the club despite better offers from elsewhere.

Whether it is a marquee signing or a more financially-efficient solution also remains to be seen, but whomever Arsenal pick, needs to pick Arteta’s dream of a fluid 4-3-3 and must be used to a high pressing game, given how far up the field Arsenal like to press.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Newcastle United Loan Joe Willock

Joe Willock has joined Premier League side Newcastle United on loan until the end of the season.

First-team opportunities have been thin on the ground at the Emirates Stadium this season and Arsenal feel that the talented youngster could benefit from some additional game-time, with the added caveat that Newcastle require a ball-carrier, something Willock excels at.

So far, Willock has been a mainstay of the Arsenal Europa League squad, registering three goals in five games this season. Despite this rather remarkable feat, the 21-year-old has failed to break into Mikel Arteta’s thoughts for the league this season given the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe and the subsequent loan-in of Martin Ødegaard.

Willock battles hard against Everton.

Willock was handed his first-team debut by Arsène Wenger and was heavily trusted by Unai Emery before his subsequent dismissal. Arteta has also trusted the youngster in a number of matches, however, the current competition for places has meant that Willock has had to follow in the footsteps of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who also left Arsenal on loan until the end of the season as well.

Arsenal will be hoping that Willock picks up some valuable first-team experience and is able to improve his overall game ready for the start of next season to properly compete for a starting position.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Arsenal Terminate Shkodran Mustafi’s Deal

Arsenal have announced the German defender Shkodran Mustafi will be joining Schalke following the cancellation of his contract, bringing an end to five-year spell with the club.

Mustafi joined Arsenal from Valencia for reported fee of £35m. Mustafi’s time at Arsenal has been largely unsatisfactory from a performance standpoint. Though the German World Cup winner has been part of two FA Cup winning squads (unfortunately unable to play either final against Chelsea owing to injuries), his performances have been something of a disappointment for Arsenal fans, given the German international’s hefty fee.

Mustafi was the club’s main back-up option to AS Roma’s Kostas Manolas. Though Arsenal negotiated for much of the summer for the Greek international defender, Roma ultimately chose not to budge, which led to Arsenal refusing Roma the chance to sign Jack Wilshere on loan.

Mustafi started his career fairly well with the club, however, following an injury problem, Mustafi was unable to recapture his previous form, culminating in a disastrous performance away to Bournemouth, which led to a 3-3 draw.

Mustafi celebrates his goal in the North London derby.

Over the intervening years, Mustafi’s form was erratic to say the least, marked mostly by costly errors that were often dubbed by Arsenal fans as “brain-farts”.

That’s not to say that Mustafi was unable to contribute to the club in any meaningful way, he was often seen as one of the main reasons that Arsenal reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League in Arsène Wenger’s last season and was a crucial part of a mesmeric North London Derby day victory over Tottenham Hotspur in that same year.

The main draw for managers Arsène Wenger, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta has mainly been down to Mustafi’s innate ability to pass out from the back. As Arsenal began to push a more continental attacking model, Mustafi was seen as an essential cog in the machine.

Despite his blowing hot and cold, Mikel Arteta had been keen to extend Mustafi’s deal further, however, Mustafi was unreceptive to the idea and he is now seen as a means of trimming the proverbial fat from the squad, especially with homegrown spots in the team running thin on the ground.

Mustafi joins teammate Sead Kolašinac on loan at the club and follows in the footsteps of Mesut Özil leaving with six months remaining on his deal. The decision to terminate Mustafi’s deal is similar to the decision made to terminate Sokratis’ contract a few weeks ago too.

Though his time was marred mainly by poor performances and controversy, fans will not soon forget the passion that Mustafi exhibited on a regular basis or the fact that he played a huge part in the club’s two FA Cup victories.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Ainsley Maitland-Niles Joins West Bromwich Albion on Loan

Arsenal have loaned midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Bromwich Albion until the end of the season.

Maitland-Niles has struggled for game-time so far this season, with opportunities for first-team football thin on the ground at the moment.

Though Maitland-Niles is considered by the club to be a utility player, the player believes his future to be in the midfield, specifically in central midfield, a progression that manager Mikel Arteta does not seem to agree with.

Maitland-Niles had the opportunity to join Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer for a reported deal between £15m – £20m, however, Arteta deemed the player too crucial to his squad plans to sell in the summer.

Maitland-Niles has struggled for game-time this season.

This January, Maitland-Niles was a target for Leicester City, West Brom and Southampton. Though Leicester City were Maitland-Niles’ preference with an option to buy later, however, the idea of strengthening a rival did not sit well with Arsenal nor did the idea of an option rather than an obligation.

The other issues surrounding the loan have been where Maitland-Niles will actually be deployed. Though the player wishes to be deployed in midfield, Arsenal prefer for him to be played at full-back, where they see his long-term development, something the player is reportedly not too keen on.

It is fair to say that Maitland-Niles would not be short of game-time at West Brom, given that the team has so far conceding a whopping fifty goals in the Premier League this season, fourteen more than their closes competitors and manager Sam Allardyce’s preference for defensive solidity.

Whether or not Maitland-Niles is able to fulfil his chances of playing in midfield at Arsenal or on loan remain to be seen, however, it is essential that the player receive more minutes than he currently is.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Arsenal Sign Martin Ødegaard on Loan

Arsenal have signed Martin Ødegaard from Real Madrid on a six-month loan deal and will wear the number 11. 

It was thought that Ødegaard would be joining Real Sociedad initially, however, following the offer from Arsenal, Mikel Arteta’s personal chat with the player and Real Madrid’s apparent unwillingness to loan the talented Norwegian attacker to a league rival, saw Ødegaard make the switch to North London instead, where his Real Madrid colleague Dani Ceballos is also on loan until the end of the season.

Ødegaard made worldwide headlines in 2014, when aged just 15-years and 118 days, he made his first ever senior appearance and scored his first ever professional goal just eleven days later!

Following his highly talked about debut, Ødegaard was offered to a plethora of clubs, including Arsenal, however, Ødegaard had eyes only for Real Madrid, joining the Spanish outfit for a handsome fee, thought to be in the region of around €8.5m. 

Martin Ødegaard in Arsenal colours.

Given his age, Ødegaard mainly played his trade for Real Madrid Castilla, the Real Madrid reserve side and was subsequently loaned out on several occasions, namely to SC Heerenveen & SBV Vitesse, both in Holland and to Real Sociedad.

Ødegaard has struggled for game-time this season, appearing for Zinedine Zidane’s side only nine times this season, seven of which have been in the league. A lot of this is down to Zidane’s own personal selection criteria and down to Ødegaard’s unfortunate pedigree for injuries, something that has blighted his time in the Spanish capital. 

Going into the January window, Arsenal knew that they needed to make some big changes. Mesut Özil left on Sunday afternoon to join Turkish side Fenerbahçe, leaving Arsenal with only youngster Emile Smith Rowe, who has been something of a revelation and at the heart of Arsenal’s recent resurgence in form. 

Smith Rowe himself has a penchant for picking up injuries, so finding cover for the Hale End graduate was an essential part of the puzzle this January, which has already seen Maty Ryan of Brighton & Hove Albion come in on loan until the end of the season

Ødegaard playing for Real Madrid.

The January market is a notoriously tricky market to manoeuvre, even for the best of clubs, and though there is the occasional Theo Walcott, Andrey Arshavin or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to come and light the window up, January’s are usually fairly quiet affairs for Arsenal, and with finances short, Arsenal have had to focus mainly on bringing players in on loan. 

During the summer, Arenal were linked with a move for Lyon’s Houssem Aouar and speculation has been mounting in recent weeks of a potential transfer of Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt, however, both deals were far too expensive in January and concerns have been raised on both players from Arsenal’s revamped scouting team. 

Ødegaard represents something of a coup for Arsenal, as they are able to bring in a talented youngster to cover an area they need covered for a small fee (it is thought that Ødegaard will cost Arsenal somewhere in the region of £2.5m plus his wages) and, should the player impress, are able to discuss the possibility of a permanent transfer with Real Madrid, despite the absence of a purchase clause being inserted into the deal. 

Another important element to the transfer is the fact that Ødegaard is exempt from an isolation period in England, owing to his elite sportsman exemption, meaning that Ødegaard will possibly be fit for Saturday’s visit of Manchester United. 

Though Arsenal fans would likely prefer to see a permanent move, a loan move for Ødegaard is still a major coup for the club and an impressive transfer that adds both depth and competition for a place in the starting lineup, as well as tactical and positional versatility. 

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Mesut Özil Joins Fenerbahçe.

Mesut Özil has left the club to join Turkish side Fenerbahçe, following the club’s decision to waiver any transfer fee. 

This is a significant move from both Arsenal and Özil, with Özil looking distinctly unlikely to leave the club before his contract ran out in the summer. 

While the club have agreed to terminate his contract (something they also did with Henrikh Mkhitaryan), the main obstacle to overcome was the loyalty bonus that Özil was due, thought to be around £7m with the club, Özil and his agent agreeing to forgo the loyalty bonus and allow him to leave.

This season has been a frustrating affair for both club and player. Özil was not registered in either the Premier League squad or the Europa League squad, leaving the German playmaker to essentially just train with the first-team while the season rumbled on.

Though no reason has ever been revealed as to why Özil was so unceremoniously dropped from the team by Mikel Arteta, it is thought that the World Cup winner’s refusal to take a 12.5% payout in line with the rest of the squad during the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is a contributing factor, with Özil unwilling to forgo any of his reported £350,000-a-week wages without any guarantees from the club.

Özil’s seven-and-a-half year journey at Arsenal comes to an end.

Özil signed his latest Arsenal contract under the eyes of Arsène Wenger in January 2018, singing a three-and-a-half year deal. The wages proved to be a sticking point for Arsenal fans, who though they wished to see Özil remain at the club, especially after losing Alexis Sánchez, felt that Özil’s overall contribution was not high enough to merit such a high wage packet.

When Wenger left the club, Özil struggled to establish himself under Unai Emery, with Emery and Özil frequently clashing over his playtime. Özil was often dropped from the team and was very rarely picked in away games, especially against top six opposition. 

When Emery was sacked last in November of 2019, it seemed as though a fully restored Özil would be exactly what the doctor ordered, however, he clashed once more with interim head-coach Freddie Ljungberg, who was forced to remind Özil of his responsibilities when he reacted badly to being substituted against Manchester City. 

Arsenal have been looking to ease the strain on their already bloated wage bill and have been looking to shift out some players as part of a much needed rebuild for a while now and Özil has been at the very top of the list of players that the club have wanted to be shot of for a while now. 

Özil joins Turkish side Fenerbahçe, a team he has deep held respect for and who have been interested in taking the player for a while now, with Özil previously stating that he would like to play for the club at some point. 

Though Özil leaves under a shroud of controversy and with a very bad taste int he mouth for both club and player, few will ever forget the moments of brilliance he produced when on the field, the fact that he was omnipresent for Arsenal’s resurgence in the FA Cup or that thousands of fans nearly trampled a Sky Sports News reporter when his £42.5m transfer from Real Madrid was announced. 

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Mathew Ryan Joins on Loan

Arsenal have announced that Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Mathew Ryan has joined the club on loan until the end of the season.

Following Matt Macey’s departure to Hibernian and the ill-form of Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, Ryan is seen as a short-term solution as Arsenal look to bring in a back-up goalkeeper to compete with Bernd Leno.

As is Arsenal’s usual preference, the January window seems to have been reserved entirely for loan deals rather than signing players outright.

Ryan in his Arsenal kit.

Ryan is the number one for Australia and previously plaued at Club Brugge, Valencia and Genk before making the switch to Brighton & Hove Albion, keeping ten clean sheets in his first season in the Premier League.

Ryan, a boyhood Arsenal fan, represents the first move to bring players in this window, with the club expected to chase a left-back and a central attacking midfielder, with Real Madrid’s Martin Ødegaard edging ever close to a move.

Ryan will wear the number 33 shirt.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

Arsenal Terminate Sokratis’ Contract

Arsenal have confirmed that they have terminated the deal of Sokratis  Papastathopoulos.

The Greek defender has found playing time difficult to come by under Mikel Arteta, with defenders Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Rob Holding and, more recently, Gabriel Magalhães being preferred to the 32-year-old with the former Borussia Dortmund defender not even being registered for the first team this season.

It was thought that Sokratis would join Napoli in the summer, however, Napoli made it known that Sokratis would only be considered if they sold Kalidou Koulibaly, who was thought to be joining Manchester City, however, no such move materialised.

Sokratis following his mistake at Vicarage Road last season.

Sokratis initially joined Arsenal in 2018, for a reported fee of £17.6m from Borussia Dortmund. The defender was signed by former Head of Recruitment, Sven Mislintat, who identified Sokratis, a player he signed previously for Borussia Dortmund, as the right player to join up with Unai Emery’s team, given the Greek international’s penchant for passing out from the back and strength. Sokratis joined up with former Borussia Dortmund teammates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Sokratis’ time at the club was somewhat marred by injuries, especially in the early stages of his time with the club, with he and Laurent Koscielny regular casualties in a defence that was beginning to look more and more porous under Unai Emery. The Greek international also started in Arsenal’s 4-1 loss to Chelsea in the Europa League final.

Despite the main reason for his recruitment being down to his abilities to pass out from the back, it seemed as though those abilities had somewhat regressed, especially in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford last season, in which the defender played the ball straight to Tom Cleverley, who subsequently scored.

Sokratis scored a stunning volley in Arsenal’s FA Cup 6th round tie against Portsmouth.

Since then, he was reduced to more sporadic appearances, mainly in the Europa League and the League Cup. However, following Mikel Arteta’s arrival in the wake of Unai Emery’s unceremonious sacking, Sokratis was barely used at all. Despite his limited game time, Arsenal have been quick to point out their admiration for Sokratis’ work ethic and his commitment in training even when not being picked.

Sokratis’ professionalism during his exile has not gone unnoticed either. The defender has played for the U23s and has been known to speak to the younger players about their playtime and to give them pointers over how to improve their game.

It’s a shame that Arsenal have had to lose such an experienced central defender, but with time running short on his deal and the need for more creative midfielders, Arsenal need to trim their bloated squad, with Mesut Özil expected to follow him.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Transfers

William Saliba Joins Nice On Loan

Arsenal have loaned out French defender William Saliba on a six-month loan deal to French side OGC Nice. There is no buy option included in the deal, with Nice covering 100% of Saliba’s wages.

It was thought that Saliba, who was signed from Saint-Étienne in a £27m deal last season, was thought to be rejoining his former side in the summer for a season-long loan deal, however, the two clubs were unable to complete their paperwork in time for the transfer deadline. 

Saliba has endured something of a confusing and torrid time since his move from Saint-Étienne in 2019. Part of the purchase option Arsenal took up initially meant that the young French defender was required to stay at Saint-Étienne for the remainder of the 19/20 season. 

Saliba playing in an empty Emirates Stadium.

However, Saliba’s season was hampered by injuries and then, just as the youngster was beginning to find both form and consistent game-time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Saliba was required to sit out the remainder of the campaign as the French FA halted Ligue 1’s progress. 

Saliba was then dealt a further blow by the fact that he was unable to take part in Saint-Étienne’s Coup de France final against PSG, as Arsenal and Saint-Étienne were unable to come to a financial agreement that would allow the player to play. 

Issues off the field has also plagued Saliba, with family bereavement also likely to have played a part in Saliba’s continued exile. 

Upon returning to Arsenal, he took part in Arsenal’s 1-4 pre-season friendly over MK Dons, were he showed impressive technique, however, it was known that Arsenal planned to loan the Frenchman out once again.

As Arsenal failed to secure a loan either domestically or abroad (Brentford had been rumoured to be interested in the player), Saliba saw his game-time drop significantly, with Arsenal failing to register the defender in their UEFA Europa League squad, which meant that he was unable to play. Though Saliba is registered as part of Arsenal’s Premier League squad, this is to meet homegrown criteria and for youth availability, rather than because Mikel Arteta sees the Frenchman as part of his plans moving forward. 

Saliba has found first-team opportunities scarce.

The treatment of Saliba has seemed a little bit unfair from Arteta. While Saliba’s lack of game-time since March is largely out of his hands and the failure to place the Frenchman in his European squad is largely down to Edu and former chief-negotiator Huss Fahmy being unable to secure a loan for the erstwhile defender, there have been plenty of opportunities to include him in Premier League matches. 

Though Arsenal’s form would likely have done Saliba any favours and would have likely been seen as something of a Baptism of Fire, the defender would likely have faired better than David Luiz or Shkodran Mustafi, the two of which Saliba is expected to be a replacement for, given that both are free to negotiate with clubs abroad as of the January window opening.

Saliba joins Sead Kolašinac, who re-joined Schalke 04 on loan earlier this week. Rumours are also persistent that Sokratis, Mesut Özil and David Luiz may be moved on in January as well. The club have worked hard to try and trim the proverbial fat from the squad, but long-term solutions are unlikely this January.

Though names such as Isco have been touted as potential a January incoming, Arsenal’s main target to solve their creative problems are Julian Brandt, Houssem Aouar, Christopher Nkunku and Emiliano Buendia, all of which seem unlikely in January.