Even in this era of wall to wall, 24/7 coverage, transfers seem to dominate football news and the fans’ imagination. I include myself in this. When the rumor of Nicholas Pepe signing for Arsenal first surfaced from a credible source, I found myself getting excited for the season ahead. Not only was it a big money signing, but an attacking one, offering the promise of many goals and beautiful football.
Of course, the primary purpose of transfers is to improve the team. Arsenal’s transfers this season, both confirmed and rumored, certainly do that.
Pepe – A modern wide forward providing a goal threat and dribble penetration, something we sorely lacked at times last season. He seems like he’s got good technical ability, and speed. His presence should widen the field and help provide overloads when on the offense.
Ceballos – A technically gifted midfielder who can help us retain possession, and add some creativity and quick vertical play. After the loss of Ramsey, he addresses a real need. A bit of a shame it is only on loan, but if he helps us get CL football it would be well worth it. Also gives time for someone like Willock to grow into the role.
Martinelli – Quick, young, technical Brazilian forward. I get the feeling he will make a contribution this season. Worst case, it’s a low cost risk on potential. That he was acquired despite young attacking talent not being an area of urgent need, might signal how much we believe in his ability.
Saliba – Almost as excited by this as Pepe. Unreasonably so. But it’s a good feeling to sign a tall, young defender, who has broken into the 1st team in France and done well. He looks confident. Won’t be here this season, but I’m guessing many of us will be watching some Ligue 1 games to assess and track his progress.
Tierney – He is merely a rumor but he would be a good, young, addition at LB.
If we pull off a decent Center Back as well, it would have been a fantastic window.
Of course, transfers only provide the tools. It is all about how they are used. In this regard and that is a worry with Emery from last season.
Too much tinkering – Half time substitutions and constantly changing formations and lineups were a feature of last season. It was his first season at the club though, so hopefully it was just him trying to get a better grasp of the team. Rotation will be important, but some consistency will help.
Poor personnel management – Seemed like he was struggling to manage some individuals in the squad, which ended up compromising Arsenal’s results. However, he seems to have buried the hatchet with Ozil, and pre season has seen us play more through the middle than most of last season. The issue with Koscielny seems more to do with the club than with him as coach so we can’t hold it against him. But managing a squad with new faces and young players pushing for game time might prove a challenge again. Hopefully adding Freddie to the coaching team will help communication between him and the players.
Not playing to team’s strength – This is the biggest worry. Can Emery get out of his own way and play to the team’s strengths? We should have too much firepower for most teams, so hopefully Emery will not repeat some of the errors of last season where his conservative set up or changes ended up putting more pressure on Arsenal’s defense. Of course, structural issues with Arsenal’s defense remain and pre-season doesn’t provide evidence of it having been addressed. A question mark remains over his ability to do this.
CL qualification is the minimum
This time around, Arsenal via Josh Kroenke has explicitly stated that they expect to achieve CL qualification. Last season’s results were not good enough and performances poor. Issues such as low shot creation, low possession and increased chances for our opponents plagued our season. These failings were often masked the superior finishing of our forwards. If Emery can improve our performances, normally results should follow from that.
Safe to say, a repeat of last season will not fill the board or the fans with confidence he is the man to take the club forward, especially after the investment being made in the squad, and with newly appointed Technical Director, Edu, highlighting the importance of an identity and style of play.
Hopefully the time for using the previous manager as a shield has passed. The current regime now ought to exist on their own merit. Perform or perish. This transfer window has given me hope that it will be the former. Over to you Señor Emery.