On the 30th of September, Arsenal clashed swords with Manchester United under unrelenting Mancunian skies, hoping to lay down its first significant marker of the Premier League season. However, they failed to do so as Unai Emery’s men crawled to a tame stalemate.
The Gunners, despite finding themselves 4th in the EPL Table through the nascent stage of the term, have been criticized for their inability to find cures to ailments that have long plagued them.
Consequently, several minds have been cast back to the North London outfit’s transfer activity over the off-season. Often lambasted for their frugal approach in the market, the club did loosen the purse in the summer when they splashed the cash on Nicolas Pepe, from Lille.
Apart from the Ivorian, Dani Ceballos, David Luiz, Gabrielle Martinelli, and Kieran Tierney were brought on board for the 2019-20 campaign with William Saliba being immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne.
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Moreover, Arsenal had done so despite reportedly possessing only 45m in their kitty, making the moves even more shrewd and leading many to label that particular window as one of the most productive on English shores.
Thus, on paper, the Gunners had seemed to intelligently add flair and muscle to their ranks. Yet, after an unconvincing start to the season, one remains undecided on whether those early squeals of optimism were a little too premature or a sign of better things to come.
In the aftermath of the game against United though, many would’ve been forgiven to tilt towards the former.
The likes of Ceballos, Luiz, and Pepe were involved but none was able to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. The Ivorian in particular, endured a torrid night as he gave the ball away 17 times and fluffed his lines whenever the opportunities presented themselves.
Unfortunately for the winger though, he hasn’t really lived up to his enormous billing in other games as well. Apart from bright patches against Aston Villa and Burnley, he has looked a pale shadow of a footballer who cost Arsenal an absolute fortune, albeit on installments.
Yet, there have been bits of promise in the Ivorian’s performances, namely his link-up play with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his ability to get into dangerous positions. And, while he has contrived to waste those chances so far, a player of his pedigree would (or rather should) make up for that, sooner rather than later.
As for Luiz, the Brazilian has certainly helped the Gunners implement their ‘passing out from the back’ philosophy better. Yet, he too has looked shaky, akin to several Arsenal central defenders throughout the decade.
Having said that though, Luiz has probably provided the club with a temporary fix, a remedy that might not have been the first choice but will act as one nonetheless.
There have been quite a few other silver linings among the supposed dark clouds for the North Londoners too.
Ceballos has adapted to the Premier League rather well and looks capable of providing the creative spark in midfield. Additionally, his attitude and propensity to take responsibility has endeared him to the Emirates faithful, despite a couple of patchy performances.
Martinelli, meanwhile, has also progressed much quicker than many would’ve envisaged. The Brazilian has looked lively whenever called upon, thereby signaling that sunshine exists on the horizon.
Though Tierney has been ravaged by injuries so far, in the Carabao Cup tie against Nottingham Forest, the Scottish international portrayed enough quality for fans and pundits to earmark him as an upgrade to Sead Kolasinac.
More impressively though, the Gunners, through the summer, managed to offload several players that didn’t quite fit the profile Unai Emery was looking for and recoup significant transfer fees.
Alex Iwobi was shipped to Everton for a reported 35m whereas Henrikh Mkhitaryan was shunted out on loan.
Nacho Monreal, too, after serving the Gunners manfully, left for one final hurrah in La Liga with Real Sociedad.
Subsequently, several Arsenal youngsters have gotten the platform to showcase their attributes and they’ve provided plenty of encouragement.
Bukayo Saka, Calum Chambers, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson have given good accounts of themselves whereas the returns of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding will be another shot in the arm for the Gunners.
Hence, while things might paint an unspectacular picture when looking at in isolation, they look much better when attaching perspective to it.
Though the temptation would be to expect instant results after a summer of spending (by Arsenal standards), it would’ve been extremely naïve to hope for a season where the Gunners are suddenly rid of all the chinks that exist in their Premier League armor.
After all, that would be what one terms a fairy tale but apart from Leicester City in recent years, football hasn’t paid much heed to that particular narrative.