Arsenal 21-22: Brexit FC

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Supporting Arsenal these days requires you to constantly hold two (or more) thoughts in your head at the same time.

It was a terrible, terrible season from a results standpoint and that simply needs to be centered in any discussion. But we were 2nd in the table from Matchweek 15 onward, averaging nearly 2 points per match (although helped by significantly outperforming XG in that period).

Mikel Arteta is a smart tactician with upside as a manager given his relative inexperience and the overall trajectory of the team’s performances. But he also made some absolutely disastrous choices while learning on the job – from tactics, to man management, to squad building – that really hurt us this past year. Usually we think of managers as fixed quantities but in this case the manager (and I’d lump Edu into this category as well) really does need to get better and learn from his mistakes.

We’ve finished 8th twice in a row and basically deserve the banter about being a midtable club in recent years. But, assuming this summer goes more or less as planned, during that period we’ll have turned over nearly the entire roster since the 18-19 season, with only three of the top 18 players in league minutes played from that season still around (Auba, Leno, Xhaka). We’ve basically dug out from under a series of calamitous decisions in the late Wenger/Emery transition years and we can see an emergent roster that makes sense and has a core of very young and very high upside talent.

Looking forward:

A season out of Europe may hurt us in the long run (in the form of a reduced UEFA club coefficient) but will undoubtedly be a boon in the short run, as it will allow for more rest and more time to train the team and prepare league matches. From a roster construction standpoint, however, it really increases the onus on Edu to move a high number of players out the door this summer, as we simply won’t need a first team squad of more than 22-23.

This is what I would like to see (ages as of 8/14 when the season starts).

Striker: Aubameyang (32), Balogun (20), Martinelli at times.

I don't see a reason to buy another striker given that we're not in Europe. Auba will start most matches and has an excellent career injury record. We need to find more ways to get Martinelli on the pitch and there are plenty of reasons to believe that Arteta may see him as a striker eventually, so I’d like to see Martinelli get some real minutes off the bench and starting matches where Auba isn’t fit or the tactics favor a striker who gets more involved in the buildup. Balogun can get his feet wet by playing in the two domestic cups and garbage time league minutes here and there.

Three Behind the Striker: Saka (19), Smith-Rowe (21), Pepe (26), Martinelli (20), new creative midfielder.

Its crystal clear that we need another creative player in the center that can be the link between midfield and attack. Odegaard in his best matches (IMO, West Ham and Brighton) has really elevated the overall fluidity of our play. Whether we bring him back or go for an option like Emi Buendia or (in a dream scenario) Jack Grealish, we need somebody in this role and it seems like Arteta and Edu are fully planning for this. Add that player and I think we have a nice mix of goal scoring wide forwards (Pepe, Martinelli), creators to link play (ESR, mystery addition), and a hybrid player with the potential to be really good at both (Saka).

Central midfield: Partey (28), new central midfielder, Xhaka (28), Elneny (29), Azeez (18).

Xhaka was actually one of our better players this season IMO and probably gets too much stick from the fanbase. But starting central midfield is both an area where we can upgrade and where we really need something a little different. None of Partey, Xhaka, or Elneny (or Ceballos for that matter) really offer anything in the final third and we essentially got no goal contribution from midfield this season. IMO, we need a more all action player who can legitimately do the work of a central midfielder in terms of running and passing but also pop up with 4-5 goals and 4-5 assists. I am as high on Miguel Azeez as you can possibly be on a youth player and think he could play this kind of role for us eventually but that is a few years away even if he develops well. I am ambivalent on keeping Elneny but lean toward doing so simply because he has almost no sale value, his wages are small, he’s a good squad player who won’t raise a stink if he never plays, and he provides a reliable fourth option while Azeez is basically a wild card at this stage in his career.

Fullbacks: Tierney (24), new right back, new backup left back, Chambers (26).

The big issue with our fullbacks is that Tierney is central to our attacking setup but also tragically injury prone. Arteta likes to set up in this way where in possession Tierney is essentially our left winger and then the “left wing” player is like a left-sided 10. Fine and good but we have absolutely nobody else who can do what Tierney does. So we either need a backup LB who can do a better Tierney impression or a RB who can do Tierney-like things on that side if necessary, so that the whole thing just flips. We have neither right now. I think the best solution in terms of options is a cheap backup LB who is actually left footed (Ryan Bertrand on a free has been rumored) and then a RB to rotate with Chambers who has a bit more of a technical quasi-winger skillset.

Centerbacks: Gabriel (23), Saliba (20), Mari (27), Holding (25).

We look set at LCB for a while, with Gabriel being groomed as the starter and Mari capable enough as a backup. But RCB might be the weakest link in the entire squad right now. Rob Holding is a great backup option – decent all-around game, excellent teammate by every account, knows the system – but he just isn’t good enough to be the starter for a team with real ambitions of getting back into the top four. One of the biggest questions of the off-season is whether William Saliba is capable of being the player that pushes past Holding to take the starting job. Rightly or wrongly, I think Arteta is not sold on Saliba but is willing to give him a hard look this summer. I’m going to optimistically hope that Saliba impresses enough to be given a real chance this year but I also think its fairly likely that we end up buying another more polished RCB instead who can step in and play immediately. Where that would leave Saliba I don’t know. His handling is probably the number one criticism I have of Arteta and Edu from a squad management standpoint.

Keepers: Leno, new backup (likely Ryan).

This looks to me like the easiest position to handle. Leno had some wobbles this year but he still is excellent as a shot stopper and adept enough with his feet for us to play out from the back. Ryan has been reliable when called upon, seems like he really wants to return on a permanent basis, and I can’t imagine that we’d have to pay Brighton more than a couple million pounds to make it happen. This seems like a no-brainer solution for backup GK.

Outgoings:

One of the best things Arsenal has going for them right now is a lot of players to sell that should have real value even in a Covid-impacted market. Mainly, this is the result of having gone through such a tumultuous last couple years in which a lot of youth players got real looks and proved that they’re Premier League quality but don’t seem like good fits (Willock, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah) while other players bought by Emery ended up surplus to requirements but still are young, on fairly cheap wages, and have established track records in first team football (Guendouzi, Torreira). Throw in a couple more veteran players that will be harder to move but should still have some suitors (Lacazette because he scores goals, Bellerin is still only 26 and not on massive wages). And then there are a couple we’d be happy/lucky to give away for free and might even help partially subsidize a move away (Cedric, Willian).

Realistically, we’re not going to get rid of all nine of these players in one summer but I think moving on from 6-7 of them could happen if Edu takes care of business (which I do have some doubts about his ability to do). Maybe one or two ends up back in the squad (Willian and/or Cedric most likely) and one or two end up out on loan. There is also Reiss Nelson, who we really should be loaning to a PL or Championship team to see if he could grow and become a real option for the behind-the-striker group after this year when we are (hopefully) back in Europe and need to grow the squad a bit again. If we can actually move on 6-7 of these players, I think it will be very possible to fund the five incomings (two of which, backup LB and backup GK, are dirt cheap) discussed above.

Edit: Forgot about Kolasinac (likely in the "give away for free" category) and Mavropanos (the rumor is that Stuttgart want to loan him again while we'd prefer a sale for a nominal fee in the 6-8m range).

Overall prognosis:

I’m actually surprisingly bullish about the team going into next year. How much we improve will depend on the quality of our summer business, getting some continued growth from our young core, and Arteta actually learning and improving as a manager. But I think we’re finally seeing the emergence of a squad that has positional balance, some exciting young talent, and was built with a real plan in mind rather than a mishmash of players haphazardly thrown together by three different managers, power hungry rival executives, and shady agents. I’m not sure it’ll be enough to break into the top four given that City, United, Chelsea, and Liverpool all look pretty strong. But I’m very confident that we won’t be finishing 8th again. Arteta may or may not be the answer beyond next year, but no matter what he'll leave the squad in far better shape than the one he inherited.
 
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Nice summary. Thanks for taking the time.

Has anyone ever properly studied the effects over time of playing in Europe on Thursday on domestic performance thereafter? They must be deleterious, but like, how many points better off might Arsenal expect to be in the league next season, on average?
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Nice summary. Thanks for taking the time.

Has anyone ever properly studied the effects over time of playing in Europe on Thursday on domestic performance thereafter? They must be deleterious, but like, how many points better off might Arsenal expect to be in the league next season, on average?
I don’t actually know. It’s widely assumed to be bad and for pretty good reason. But I can’t think of a rigorous study.
 

teddykgb

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It’s also impossible to control as the variables change too much to measure. Teams who do t qualify for Europe change their squad as a result and if they requalify can usually invest again.

To me Arsenal need to move the deadwood and if they’re going to persist with Arteta then they need to get him 2 8s and get Partey going. The industrious workhorse is not a fit in that Pep system and the midfielders carry so much burden. Bissouma has been linked, Aouar previously….probably 2 or 3 true ball playing creative midfielders who will put in representative defensive performances would be the name of the game. No more Aubameyang out wide or any of that nonsense. Get your best goal scorer central and surround him with two tricky wingers and the creative engine behind.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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To me Arsenal need to move the deadwood and if they’re going to persist with Arteta then they need to get him 2 8s and get Partey going. The industrious workhorse is not a fit in that Pep system and the midfielders carry so much burden. Bissouma has been linked, Aouar previously….probably 2 or 3 true ball playing creative midfielders who will put in representative defensive performances would be the name of the game. No more Aubameyang out wide or any of that nonsense. Get your best goal scorer central and surround him with two tricky wingers and the creative engine behind.
Arteta generally has not had enough confidence in his defense to flip the midfield triangle and play with a single pivot, although that changed a bit in the last month or so, first when Tierney got injured so he had to play a more stay-at-home fullback on the left and in the last few games, even with Tierney back, he has played a system where the midfield shape would morph in game from a two man midfield and one ahead to a single pivot and two ahead. IMO, we really need a better player alongside Partey who can do the sort of Gundogan type role of flipping from being a partner in a two man midfield to a more advanced midfielder who operates between the lines and can make late runs into the box.

Auba out wide has been a mess under three different managers and is mainly the legacy of Wenger's bizarre decision to buy two center forwards within six months who both demanded inclusion from a talent perspective but couldn't actually play together. We should finally get out from under that this summer and I would expect Auba to start at CF going forward, even though he isn't really what Arteta seems to want from a striker. Squad management for this club was a calamity from about 2016-2019.
 

lars10

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Arteta generally has not had enough confidence in his defense to flip the midfield triangle and play with a single pivot, although that changed a bit in the last month or so, first when Tierney got injured so he had to play a more stay-at-home fullback on the left and in the last few games, even with Tierney back, he has played a system where the midfield shape would morph in game from a two man midfield and one ahead to a single pivot and two ahead. IMO, we really need a better player alongside Partey who can do the sort of Gundogan type role of flipping from being a partner in a two man midfield to a more advanced midfielder who operates between the lines and can make late runs into the box.

Auba out wide has been a mess under three different managers and is mainly the legacy of Wenger's bizarre decision to buy two center forwards within six months who both demanded inclusion from a talent perspective but couldn't actually play together. We should finally get out from under that this summer and I would expect Auba to start at CF going forward, even though he isn't really what Arteta seems to want from a striker. Squad management for this club was a calamity from about 2016-2019.
I feel like what has been especially odd is that Laca seems to insist on playing in the middle.. which has forced the more talented player to play in a position that he’s clearly not as good as. It’s also eaten up a lot of space in the middle where Auba could usually run into.

I feel like Wenger should’ve handed over the reigns at least three years earlier.. a lot of his moves near the end seemed to try and keep his job rather than in the best interest of the club. Those decisions have basically led us to where we are imo.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Emery seemed to like to play Aubameyang centrally most frequently. Emery also experimented with a 4-4-2 at times.

When Arteta took over in December 2019, he immediately moved him to LW primarily for the rest of the season. This season has been a bit more of a mix, starting out wide more frequently at the beginning, and ending the year with him playing centrally most often.

For what it's worth, he has scored at a similar rate at LW and CF while at Arsenal. Premier League numbers since 2018-19 (his first full season at Arsenal) below:

41425

Those are just the quick and dirty numbers compiled by using Transfermarkt and they are not minutes adjusted, but it gives a rough idea.
 

Tuff Ghost

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It's silly season as far as transfer rumors, but one that I have seen a few times and I have found interesting is Tapsoba, the 22 year-old centre-back from Leverkusen. Everything that I have read on Saliba during his latest loan spell at Nice has been positive, so I had been thinking he would be competing with Holding for the job next season, but looking into Tapsoba a little bit has intrigued me.

Tapsoba is a good distributor, capable of passing and dribbling, so with an Arteta team intent on playing out of the back, he could be a valuable resource with the loss of Luiz. Saliba also rates pretty highly as a distributor; however, Tapsoba seems like he could be more well-rounded, rating highly in all of the defensive metrics (unlike a Luiz). I was surprised to see how poorly Saliba has rated in some metrics (Fbref numbers below) and on SmarterScout.
41494

By comparison, Holding's numbers are pretty mediocre overall, while Luiz was a good passer and less than ideal defender:
41495

Saliba's pressures, tackles, blocks, and clearances are somewhat reminiscent of Luiz, which surprised me. He does get a lot of interceptions, so maybe he is preventing offensive actions with speed, positioning, and good reading of the ball. (I have not watched any of his Ligue 1 time, besides highlights, so I don't know.)

SmarterScout's numbers on Saliba's defensive contributions are so low that they almost seem off:
- Defending Quality: 3rd percentile
- Defending Quantity: 12th percentile

Arteta also obviously judged Saliba not ready for the first-team squad last season, so he may be more flawed of a player than Arsenal supporters had hoped. He's still young, so I am not giving up on him, but I am realizing that a player like Tapsoba actually could be a big difference maker to the quality of the squad. Centre-back had not been a top priority in my mind, but it definitely seems like it could be a potential area of improvement. A stronger centre-back like Tapsoba could also free up the midfield to get more adventurous. I'm intrigued, but not expecting anything to happen. It sounds like Tapsoba would be in the range of £50 million, so he would not be a cheap investment either.

41498
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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A lot of those defensive metrics have to be taken with a shaker full of salt, as they are very highly dependent on tactics, team play, and maybe even the peculiarities of the scoring system itself. For example, across his two half-seasons at St. Etienne, Saliba averaged 2.55 tackles per 90, higher than Tapsoba and assumedly somewhere in the 90s from a percentile perspective. Now he is averaging .69, in the 4th percentile. It seems unlikely that Saliba has gone from being one of the most prolific tacklers in the world to one of the worst, its much more likely that he is just playing in a different system asking him to do different things.

However, I do think that Saliba is probably not actually ready to start full time for a club like Arsenal and therefore presents a real conundrum. You just can't find many 20-year-old CBs starting in the Premier League, especially for big clubs, and for good reason. Its a position where experience matters a huge amount and one mistake, physical or mental, can lose you the match. People point to Wesley Fofana, particularly given that they were teammates at St. Etienne, but his case is really exceptional. Not many players can do that. He also played a lot of the season as part of a back 3, which I think is probably easier from a responsibility standpoint than playing in a back four. I think there is a question of both whether Saliba is ready in general but also whether that Saliba-Gabriel partnership would work given that the latter is still fairly young himself and still learning to play in the Premier League.

The ideal solution IMO would be to buy a player like Tapsoba to start at RCB, or a cheaper/older placeholder, and sell Holding, giving Saliba rotational minutes in the league and starting all the cup matches. But Arteta seems to like Holding and value him as a squad player and squad member. So I have no idea what they will do. I don't think Holding is good enough to be the starting RCB for a club with ambitions to break back into the top four.
 
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teddykgb

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MMS you have the wrong Turk but I agree in general that system matters a lot in defender stats.

I’m also not sure how strong the Bundesliga is right now which matters a lot when a lot of the expensive options are coming out of the BL. Bayern are Bayern but most of the Bundesliga teams went out of Europe in the CL and ELin early knock outs. Hoffenheim and Leverkeusen went out to Young Boys and Molde. Dortmund lost to City and Bayern to PSG and those are more explainable but it is at least possible that the middle tier of the Bundesliga is softer than the league’s reputation. Of course these are two legged knockouts in the middle of a grueling season — they may be simple aberrations but I think the level of the PL has continued to rise in the manner people were worried about a few years ago. Even players like Werner and Havertz more or less tore apart the Bundesliga and have struggled to adapt. Teams may need to increasingly expect that adaptation period which fans always talk about anyway but may be even more of a factor moving forward
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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MMS you have the wrong Turk but I agree in general that system matters a lot in defender stats.

I’m also not sure how strong the Bundesliga is right now which matters a lot when a lot of the expensive options are coming out of the BL. Bayern are Bayern but most of the Bundesliga teams went out of Europe in the CL and ELin early knock outs. Hoffenheim and Leverkeusen went out to Young Boys and Molde. Dortmund lost to City and Bayern to PSG and those are more explainable but it is at least possible that the middle tier of the Bundesliga is softer than the league’s reputation. Of course these are two legged knockouts in the middle of a grueling season — they may be simple aberrations but I think the level of the PL has continued to rise in the manner people were worried about a few years ago. Even players like Werner and Havertz more or less tore apart the Bundesliga and have struggled to adapt. Teams may need to increasingly expect that adaptation period which fans always talk about anyway but may be even more of a factor moving forward
Good point about the Bundesliga. Also quite relevant for thinking about how much Jadon Sancho is really worth IMO.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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As usual, there are lots of transfer rumors floating around, with little way to know what is real and what is not.

The two exceptions from what I can tell are Xhaka going to Roma, which seems very likely to happen for somewhere around £18-22m, and the club seemingly very likely to bring in Ajax keeper Andre Onana for a nominal fee in the £5m range.

Onana has a strange situation as he received a year-long doping ban in early February for ingesting (he claims accidentally) a banned substance. The CAS just ruled on his ban appeal and reduced it to 9 months, making him eligible to play November 3rd and to start training September 3rd. The kicker is that Onana's contract also runs out next summer so he is kind of useless to Ajax, thus explaining the very small fee. But he is a 25-year-old keeper with really top shelf talent who also is good with his feet and Arsenal may, for once, be doing something smart by taking advantage of the situation, bringing him in as a backup to Leno and then letting him either inherit the job next year or win the job from Leno by the spring.

View: https://twitter.com/harveydownes92/status/1400038658590269440
 

Zososoxfan

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As usual, there are lots of transfer rumors floating around, with little way to know what is real and what is not.

The two exceptions from what I can tell are Xhaka going to Roma, which seems very likely to happen for somewhere around £18-22m, and the club seemingly very likely to bring in Ajax keeper Andre Onana for a nominal fee in the £5m range.

Onana has a strange situation as he received a year-long doping ban in early February for ingesting (he claims accidentally) a banned substance. The CAS just ruled on his ban appeal and reduced it to 9 months, making him eligible to play November 3rd and to start training September 3rd. The kicker is that Onana's contract also runs out next summer so he is kind of useless to Ajax, thus explaining the very small fee. But he is a 25-year-old keeper with really top shelf talent who also is good with his feet and Arsenal may, for once, be doing something smart by taking advantage of the situation, bringing him in as a backup to Leno and then letting him either inherit the job next year or win the job from Leno by the spring.

View: https://twitter.com/harveydownes92/status/1400038658590269440
I think this is excellent business. Onana is a top notch keeper and getting him for that fee is smart.
 

teddykgb

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I understand why Arsenal would do it but why Onana? Couldn’t he find a near guaranteed starting job for when he is allowed to return?
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I understand why Arsenal would do it but why Onana? Couldn’t he find a near guaranteed starting job for when he is allowed to return?
Maybe at a smaller club. But I think its tricky for a bigger club as Onana isn't eligible until November and might need to be worked in pretty slowly after that (he hasn't been allowed to train with Ajax since early February so he'll go like 7 months without training and 9 months minimum without playing). He will also play in AFCON in January so you might be talking February before he is really capable of being a team's regular #1. No bigger club is going to want to go until then without a decent keeper so Onana is inevitably going to have to fight that keeper for the job when he returns. So the best case scenario for him is probably a club planning to move on from the other keeper after 2021-22, which is assumedly what Arsenal would do with Leno (who is heavily rumored to be going this year or next). Other clubs (Spurs?) might fit that situation as well so I don't think its a sure thing at all. But Arsenal might be one of the best fits for him.
 
I'm so glad the Euros are taking place this summer, and that nearly all of my football-related energy will be directed towards actual matches and not transfer gossip. (I look forward to seeing who Arsenal buys and sells, but I have no interest in getting my hopes raised or lowered by every half-baked transfer rumor someone reports or makes up out of whole cloth.)
 

Mighty Joe Young

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I'm so glad the Euros are taking place this summer, and that nearly all of my football-related energy will be directed towards actual matches and not transfer gossip. (I look forward to seeing who Arsenal buys and sells, but I have no interest in getting my hopes raised or lowered by every half-baked transfer rumor someone reports or makes up out of whole cloth.)
This is is true for every fan base in soccer. Although there’s a certain technique when separating the wheat from the chaff of rumours.

Only pay attention to trusted sources.
The accuracy of rumours is inversely proportional to the attached hype.
Only pay attention to trusted sources.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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21-22 fixtures are out.

-Brutal start (@Brentford, Chelsea, @Man City, then the NLD a few weeks later).

-Manageable festive period other than City on Jan 1.

-Only two league fixtures (@Spurs, Burnley) coinciding with AFCON when we'll be missing a bunch of players.

-Very soft run in (only one "top six" side in the last 11 fixtures).

All in all not too bad. Arguably the best time to play the very best teams is right at the start of the season following a summer with an international tournament. Arteta could find himself under a lot of pressure very quickly, however, if we really struggle in that opening stretch.
 

mikeford

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All in all not too bad. Arguably the best time to play the very best teams is right at the start of the season following a summer with an international tournament. Arteta could find himself under a lot of pressure very quickly, however, if we really struggle in that opening stretch.
That might be true if we had an actual consistent roster but we don't so we will ALSO be a mess to start the season more than likely.
 

mikeford

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Looks increasingly likely we're gonna drop 50m on BEN WHITE

We spent 28m 2 years ago on a CB that has played exactly 0 minutes for Arsenal FC but okay I guess. I feel like an actual #8 is a lot more pressing of a need, I don't know about anyone else.
 

Tuff Ghost

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When I first heard the Ben White rumors, I was a little surprised. I had not anticipated Arsenal spending big on a CB this summer, but I've slowly come around to the idea.

A quick rundown on what I like:
  • He's an excellent dribbler and ball-carrier. He is very cool under pressure and can get the ball out of the back.
  • He's a pretty good passer and can switch play, somewhat similar to Luiz in this aspect. He also can pass the ball with both feet. While he is right-footed, he is comfortable enough with his left to make a long pass and switch play with it.
  • He intercepts balls at a pretty high rate due to his pace and anticipation. He is also the kind of guy who can run down a forward, so playing with a high line with him is less terrifying than some of Arsenal's slower defenders.
  • He contributes on the attacking half of the pitch, not afraid to take on defenders
  • He is very versatile: he played several games as a holding midfielder, plus some at right-back and right-wingback.
  • And obviously, he is young (23) and counts towards the homegrown allotment
Things I don't like:
  • Not great on aerial duels
  • The price is clearly not a bargain. I wonder how much money they have to actually spend this window (hopefully a lot of outgoing sales help)
With his versatility, I actually wonder if Arteta sees him contributing some as a right-back and midfielder, and places extra value on that. If someone gets hurt, it's nice to have versatility; Saka and White alone could really help cover for multiple positions.

If they are able to make a sufficient amount of money on sales to end-up with a summer incoming of White (seems very likely), Lokonga (seems likely), and Maddison (I don't think they spend the money, but the rumors are fun while they last), then that is a very exciting team. If they only end up with White and Lokonga (plus someone to backup Tierney at left-back), then it is still a pretty interesting team. Plus, I still hope they go for Onana as the goalkeeper of the future, but there has been less talk of that recently.

A 4-3-3, something like the below is not bad, maybe even mixing up the midfield 3 with Willock, Partey, & Smith-Rowe to get a box-to-box ball-carrier type (Willock), a holding midfielder (Partey), and a creative attacking midfielder (Smith-Rowe) all together.

Leno
Chambers - White - Gabriel - Tierney
Partey - Lokonga - Smith-Rowe
Saka - Aubameyang - Pepe

There are a lot of variables left in play, but I am intrigued by what White could do for the club. Arteta valued Luiz's passing (and leadership), and I think White can certainly help offset what they are losing in regards to Luiz's ball advancement.

Saliba is a mystery to me. I honestly don't know if Arteta likes him, but thinks he is too young still, or if he really does not like him. Regardless, his situation is what it is at this point. If he is not deemed ready, then it's something that they have to deal with as a sunk cost for now. Saliba spending the summer playing for France in the Olympics will not help clarify his role either. It would have been nice for him to spend the pre-season with the club, but I guess the value of playing in the Olympics could help in the long-term, even if it sets him behind on working with Arteta in the short-term.
 

67YAZ

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Disappointed that Liverpool didn’t snap him up last year. Bielsa loved him, so you know White is tough as nails, hard working, and smart. Plus he has a very good top EPL season already under his belt. He’s a known commodity with plenty of growth still to come.

Gutted for Brighton, though. I hope a big chunk of the few is upfront so they can reinvest immediately. And keep Potter, too.
 

shaggydog2000

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Saliba is a mystery to me. I honestly don't know if Arteta likes him, but thinks he is too young still, or if he really does not like him. Regardless, his situation is what it is at this point. If he is not deemed ready, then it's something that they have to deal with as a sunk cost for now. Saliba spending the summer playing for France in the Olympics will not help clarify his role either. It would have been nice for him to spend the pre-season with the club, but I guess the value of playing in the Olympics could help in the long-term, even if it sets him behind on working with Arteta in the short-term.
Arteta may like Saliba enough but just not want to risk starting a 20 year old every week when the only backup for him would be Rob Holding, who doesn't add the passing skills he wants out of the defense. If they didn't pick up another right center back and Saliba turns out not to be ready, Arsenal would be in a pretty crap position.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I like the White move in the abstract - exciting young player who fills a legitimate need given the low probability of a 20-year-old Saliba being able to start 30+ matches and play at a high level. Saliba is at the point in his career where he should be starting 10 matches for us and playing the cups or going on loan elsewhere in the Premier League. He's not at the point where he should be trusted to start every week, so rolling the dice on Saliba really means seeing a lot of Holding next year. Challenging for top four, or even more broadly just taking some real steps forward in terms of playing on the front foot and dominating matches more frequently, and seeing Rob Holding regularly simply don't seem all that compatible.

But I'm also choosing to believe the hype a bit about our summer ambitions because while a better RCB is a legitimate need, I cannot see it being as important as buying another attacking midfielder or replacing Xhaka (who seems almost certain to leave). We just spent an entire season learning over and over again that the team really needs to have two attacking midfielders capable of playing in the center, because ESR's introduction transformed the side but ESR is so obviously not capable of starting every week. So failing to bring in somebody to replace what Odegaard gave us in the spring just should not be an option. Similarly, if Xhaka goes we simply need to buy a central midfielder that can step into the team and be relied upon to start most matches alongside Partety. I cannot see that being Lokonga, a 21-year-old coming from the Belgian league and a player also seemingly kind of similar to Partey in style so perhaps not the best complement. I hope to hell its not Elneny. In the end, Lokonga should probably be seen as the replacement for Dani Ceballos, a rotational CM not a starting one, with the Xhaka replacement still to occur.
 

mikeford

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Allowing Saliba to play in the Olympics says to me that he's completely not in the plans and they plan to shift him on if they can.

Pretty shitty situation but no one who's at the club right now had a hand in bringing the kid in so maybe they just don't see it.
 

mikeford

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So Ben White was allegedly done and dusted and now it looks like Chelsea is gonna swoop and take him. Seems like our backup plan is Bayer Leverkeusen man Edmond Tapsoba.

Also of note: Saliba not going to the Olympics after all. Going on loan to OM for the year with (according to Ornstein) no option to buy. Guenboozy is also going on loan to OM but they have I think an 8 or 12M option to buy.
 

mikeford

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Oh speaking of Guenboozy, apparently he quit Arsenal today via instagram and then deleted the post.

22 year olds gonna 22 year old, I guess.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I strongly suspect that White is done and dusted but they are waiting until after the Euros to do a medical and some bullshit social media announcement video.

Even if Arteta's relationship with him is frosty, I don't think they would push the Saliba loan move forward if White wasn't effectively locked up.
 

shaggydog2000

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The Guendouzi deal is supposed to be an obligation to buy from what I've read. So they're just paying us next year for a player today. Still, they're making a profit on it.
 

mikeford

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yeah, White in a vacuum is a perfectly fine player and fits the squads needs nicely but the pricetag has got to be impeding on us doing other business and we DESPERATELY need a #8 midfielder.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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We're clearly paying the English tax + PL tax on the White transfer. But you're not just paying for nothing when you pay those taxes, you're paying for somebody whose performance will be more predictable without a league adjustment, who counts as homegrown, who is less likely than a non-English player to agitate for a move abroad, etc. When big six clubs buy PL defenders, they pay through the nose (Chilwell, Ake, AWB, Maguire, Walker, Stones, etc) and this fee isn't really out of line with those ones.

We definitely still need to bring in both an attacking midfielder, whether that's a pure ten or a 8/10 type guy like Aouar, and a central midfielder. But the links are pretty strong and persistent for both of those roles so I'm still going to assume that it is the plan. Arteta and Edu have made it extremely clear that they believed they needed another attacking midfielder to provide creativity and rotate with ESR. And I just don't see them letting Xhaka walk so easily without bringing in a CM who can step in and replace him. Lokonga doesn't seem like that as a 21-year-old from the Belgian league, he's more a rotational player and one for the future.
 

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Tavares looked pretty good in his half of play today. Scored a great goal that probably gets overturned in a real match for a handball but whatever, the grown man muscle and the finish are whats really important there.

Nketiah's goal was brilliant individual play. I hope we sell him somewhere that he can actually play.
 

Tuff Ghost

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I am happy with Arsenal targeting young players to act, essentially, as understudies with their acquisitions of Tavares and Lokonga (Albert Sambi Lokonga deal is official).

Tavares has some similarity to Tierney, and Lokonga definitely seems like a Partey-style mid-fielder. Scott Willis at Arseblog pointed out:
This also feels like a signing where Arteta and Edu said to the data people, “Go find me a Partey type who is under 23.” The similarity between the two’s stats is obvious when they are next to each other.
He included this image:
42776

Obviously these two will have significant league-adjustments and they are still young, but this seems like the type of business Arsenal need to be doing right now. If this was two years ago, I think they would have brought in an older full-back like Bertrand instead of Tavares and done something similar in the mid-field. They seem to at least understand that they need to build back up and that they are not yet in a window where adding aging veterans is worthwhile business.
 

mikeford

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Yeah, its good business to identify these guys now so you can either have a guy who grows into his role at the club or a guy you can hopefully flip for 60 million in 3 years.
 

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Arsenal pre-season tour to the US cancelled due to a small number of positive Covid cases discovered "in the traveling party." Unclear whether that means players, staff, or both.

Inter have reportedly also pulled out so I guess that leaves Everton and Milionarios to fight it out for the coveted Florida Cup.
 

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It was nice to get confirmation yesterday that Smith Rowe is sticking around for a while. He signed a 5-year extension and also will now wear number 10. It's a fun time if you like dreaming on potential with two talented Hale End graduates wearing the 7 (Saka) and 10 shirts.

I just got around to watching the Tifo video on Albert Sambi Lokonga. I am prone to getting overhyped on the shiny new players, but the video made me excited to get a chance to see what he can become. It was interesting to see the video exploring a possible 4-3-3 with Lokonga as the 6, Partey to the left, and either Smith Rowe or Willock as the final part of the midfield 3. I have been thinking a bit of him as a Partey understudy, but maybe that is not a perfect analogy. The video seemed to think that Lokonga has the ability to make progressive passes that can break the lines and get Arsenal out of the horseshoe/donut shaped passing rounds that go nowhere.

Quick thoughts on some of the other rumors out there in silly season:
  • James Maddison rumors continually pop-up, but I think this is more than a long-shot. Ornstein also said that he does not see how Arsenal could afford him. I like Maddison, but I think he probably proves to be out of their price range
  • Ramsdale is interesting. If they are actually spending this much money on another keeper, then you have to think he'll be challenging Leno for the job and not just your typical backup.
  • Tammy Abraham rumors were somewhat surprising to me. This is another one that seems like a long-shot. Arsenal have proven adept at bringing in retirement age Chelsea players in recent windows, but buying a young player (even if he is completely out of Tuchel's plans) from them seems more complicated. You'd have to make sure to sell Lacazette and/or Nketiah to make something like this happen. It's interesting, but I am not expecting it.
  • Aouar seems unlikely, even though his price has gone down. The Athletic had a somewhat negative line on him recently: "Houssem Aouar was a serious prospect during the last summer window. Interest has subsequently cooled after some on and off-the-pitch reports in the first half of last season. There are those within the club who believe Aouar represents an affordable option because Ligue 1 teams are under increased financial pressure, but there is no longer a consensus on him. So far, Arsenal have not gone back to Lyon with a bid."