So… after links to Boateng, Lemar (deja vu??) and rumours of Auba leaving, we finally ended up with Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari as loaned defenders.
Soares has PL experience with Southampton and won the Euros with Portugal and the GOAT (Ronaldo) in 2016.
Pablo Mari was in the recent CWC final with Liverpool, which he lost to Klopp, Firmino, Salah, Mane and company.
Both have a pedigree of sorts, and it’s intriguing to see how they will feature with us.
But was our window a good one?
I say it was.
Signings must incorporate into a strategy. Signing players for the sake of having them never works – nor should it be championed.
Fit isn’t just actual need – but in terms of the playing style and club ethos also.
I believe both of these players fit.
We need a centre-back. I like Sokratis but then he is erratic and given he’s over 30 is not a long-term option. Luiz has, in fairness, done well since Arteta came in. But then he is error-prone and rash, and has been such at Chelsea and PSG. At 32, he is not a long-term option either.
Holding, in my view, won’t make it to the top level. Chambers is more versatile and he can be a deputy full-back but both he and Holding at 24 and 25 should be making headway in their careers by now.
Mavropanos isn’t at the required level either and Mustafi…well. His chant and good performance at Bournemouth were touching. But then he is way too calamitous to be a prime CB for Arsenal.
Pablo Mari then can provide a good balance here, and is also (from what I’ve read and heard) good at playing from the back.
Cedric Soares has divided opinion. It’s not that he’s from So’ton. The club has been a near feeder club for bigger sides in recent years – Liverpool can attest to this.
However, we do need another full-back. If only as cover for Bellerin.
Maitland-Niles has done well in recent games, but then I feel his placement as full-back was a trick by Wenger to develop him as much as to fix an urgent need.
I’m not disparaging Wenger at all. But Maitland-Niles for me doesn’t hold the concentration to play this position long-term.
And we are THE Arsenal.
Why should we use midfielders as makeshift full-backs? Maitland-Niles has played in this role under Wenger, Emery, and Arteta. And under Ljungberg, if including caretaker amongst official managers.
This shouldn’t be – and it’s time that we got specialists in all positions, whether as mainstay or secondary options.
Not big names?
Neither signings are world-beaters, or world-class. Does it matter though?
I say no.
Liverpool is the benchmark right now – and rightly so.
But only Allison and van Dijk were prime players before they joined.
Salah was known but only for his potential at Chelsea and Roma. Mane was known at Soton but he wasn’t world-class like he is now. Firmino to boot wasn’t either.
We know all about Ox – I rated him whilst he was at Arsenal but for me, he wasn’t world-class or top-level. I also wouldn’t put Henderson, Keita, Fabinho, Winaljdum, Matip, Lovren, or Alexander-Arnold as world-class either, prior to joining Liverpool.
Big names then aren’t anything. Liverpool’s current success is a mixture of coaching, management, tactical planning, desire, and making their players fit into a system and style. Klopp is arguably the prime manager now in world football – especially since Pep/City aren’t at their full powers. We all can see Klopp’s energy on the touchline, and his effervescence in interviews and the like. He has forged a very capable and outstanding “Mannschaft”, in his own language.
We were not going to get an Upamecano nor Koulibaly in this window. Leipzig and Napoli would be fools to sell them, unless either player was adamant to leave. Clubs are seldom in the business of selling their top stars, unless they are unsettled or they are financially hindered.
We got Aubameyang due to this – he had fallen out with the BVB hierarchy after all. Eriksen was a case of this in January just gone, but we didn’t need a forward/wide player and I doubt Levy would sell to us if we did.
So all in all, we did – perhaps – all that we could in this window.
I’d grade this transfer window 6/10.
It may seem high in the eyes of some. However we addressed key weaknesses – and thus secured fit as mentioned.
We also knew that the market couldn’t afford us big names. United did get Fernandes, but we didn’t need him. He would play roughly in Ozil’s position (even though he’s not a no. 10 per se) and Willock and Ceballos can provide similar roles in the team.
The fact that these signings are underwhelming doesn’t bother me.
Neither does the fact our good friends signed Bergwijn for nearly £40m. Let them do as they please – they can keep their bigger ground. A bigger trophy cabinet is all that matters.
Moreover, we didn’t need a wide man. And their defence is becoming increasingly as bad as ours – Lloris and Aurier are as error-prone and gaffe-ridden as Mustafi or Luiz. So it’s surprising they didn’t sign defenders as we did.
If ranking the best to worst windows amongst the ‘top six’, I’d say:
We may have “won” the 2019 summer window, but I feel we’re in mid-table this time around.
Still, I’m excited to see what Mari and Soares have to offer us.
We can, theoretically, still get top four.
And there are the FA Cup and Europa League to play for.
So we’ll need our new boys and existing players to be primed for the season’s remainder.