In the summer of 2021, Arsenal took a gamble in the transfer market by bringing in a wildly young crop of players.
Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Ødegaard looked like a project for years down the road. However, that Arsenal gamble in the summer transfer window is paying off. The four aforementioned players are mainstays in an Arsenal side fighting for the Champions League.
In January, Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu rolled the dice again. The North London side did not bring in any new players in the winter transfer window. Despite not signing new reinforcements during the winter transfer window, the duo shifted five senior players off of the books in the last few weeks.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all departed the club. Maitland-Niles moved to Roma on a loan until the end of the season, while the others are permanent deals.
These moves did not surprise most fans and pundits following the Gunners in recent months. After all, none of the quintet played a single Premier League minute since December 7. Clearly, Arteta and Edu prioritized moving these weekly wages off the books.
Nevertheless, the Gunners could be shorthanded if injuries/COVID cases start to pile up. Arsenal already dealt with COVID-19 issues, leading to some games being postponed.
The young players will continue to garner invaluable experience in the Premier League. Yet, there are now question marks over depth.
Arsenal transfer market gamble leaves gaps
On one hand, the Gunners have just 17 total matches left between now and the end of May. The reason comes from the fact that Liverpool and Nottingham Forest knocked Arsenal out of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, respectively. Arteta and company likely felt a little more comfortable moving players with the lightened load of games. Similarly, it made Arsenal less desperate to bring in more options.
READ MORE: Arsenal’s youth project continues to produce results.
Even then, 17 games with the uncertainty of COVID and injuries is no slight task. Essentially, there are two positions There are essentially two positions in which Arsenal could potentially be light at over the next few months.
As things stand, Arsenal has just three center backs on the current senior roster.
Gabriel and Ben White dominate the playing time at the back of Mikel Arteta’s side. The third is Rob Holding, who has 75 appearances for the club since arriving in 2016. Holding fills in the gaps if there is any injury or suspension from White and Gabriel.
After that, Takehiro Tomiyasu can play in central defense. However, that leaves Cedric Soares starting important matches at right back for the club. Kieran Tierney and Granit Xhaka could also make emergency appearances at center back if needed.
Speaking of Xhaka, central midfield is an area in which fans have expressed the need for reinforcements in January. This is not so much about depth, more so talent in an integral part of the pitch. Xhaka and Thomas Partey are practically guaranteed starters in midfield. Moreover, Arsenal have solid backup options in Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny and Martin Odegaard. The aforementioned White can also take up a role in the middle if required.
The center forward position, however, is a much more delicate situation right now for Arsenal. Since Aubameyang’s dropping from the team, Alexandre Lacazette mans the number nine slot for the Gunners. The Frenchman is obviously a good player in the team’s build up play. Still, he lacks the scoring touch, at least in recent games. In fact, Lacazette has just two goals in his last 13 Premier League matches.
READ MORE: How Arsenal actually improve without Aubameyang.
Arteta likely plans to utilize Eddie Nketiah as a backup to Lacazette at the position until the end of the current campaign. Nketiah shows talent for a 22-year-old, bagging five goals in 42 Premier League fixtures.
Arsenal missed out on the Dusan Vlahovic sweepstakes. The Serbian international opted to stay in Italy, joining Juventus for almost $90 million. Several reports claimed Arsenal offered around $80 million for the Fiorentina striker. Essentially, the North London club had the money to spend. Rather, Arsenal opted for the gamble in the January transfer window. A striker likely tops the list of needs for the club in the summer.
Moving forward in the current campaign
With Aubameyang off to Barcelona and Lacazette and Nketiah likely departing this summer, the Gunners will have to make at least one major signing at the center forward position. Much like how Arsenal gambled during the 2021 summer transfer market, they have also taken a chance on the rest of the current campaign. Not only are Arteta and company gambling on the fitness of the team, but they also are hoping to finally get their center forward target in the summer.
If the Gunners can hold it together and finish strong this season, the club’s brass will have plenty of money and available roster spots to make moves this summer. The gamble during the last summer transfer window seems to be paying off and Gooners will be hoping that Arteta still has aces up his sleeves for 2022.
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