On Thursday at 5pm, the Premier League transfer deadline passed, and so did any lingering hopes of adding to Arsenal’s current squad, but how is that squad looking going into the new season?
Let’s start with how the squad has changed over the summer. Arsenal added Stephan Lichtsteiner (free), Bernd Leno (£19.2m), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (£17.7m), Lucas Torreira (£26.5m) and Matteo Guendouzi (£8m) during the transfer window.
Without a doubt the biggest signing was Torreira, who represents an immediate upgrade to the starting eleven, and should be well worth the investment. Guendouzi looks a steal at £8m, though he’s only 19 years old, so we should avoid putting too much expectation on him.
Lichtsteiner is a great back up option at right-back, perhaps even challenging Hector Bellerin for starts, depending on how things go.
Leno and Sokratis are the wildcards, and we’ll have to wait and see how they do when the competitive games start. There were some doubts about the Greek defender in pre-season, but it’s early days yet. Leno simply wasn’t tested enough to give us any idea of his quality.
Meanwhile, Arsenal moved on Jeff Reine-Adelaide (£4m), Matt Macey (loan), Chuba Akpom (£900k), Calum Chambers (loan) and Lucas Perez (£5m). Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere were the most notable departures on free transfers, along with club captain turned Academy Manager, Per Mertesacker.
It’s worth also mentioning the winter additions of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as well as the departures of Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez. January brought a lot of changes, and hopefully those players who joined will have had a chance to settle in now.
What’s still missing?
Right now, Arsenal are light on top quality centre-backs. Laurent Koscielny is still out with injury, Chambers decided a loan move was better for him this season, so that leaves Mustafi and Sokratis as the only real options in terms of experienced central defenders. Rob Holding and Mavropanos don’t look likely to challenge for starts just yet.
The other area of concern is left-wing/forward. Mkhitaryan and Özil are better on the right, so Aubameyang will probably end up playing the position. If Emery wants Aubameyang down the middle, the Gunners will have to draw on youth. Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah are capable, but inexperienced.
Can Arsenal manage without those additions?
The centre-back problem is the most concerning, and we’ll probably know by next Sunday just how much of an issue it is. Arsenal couldn’t ask for a better defensive test than playing Manchester City and Chelsea in quick succession. If it all goes wrong, we may really have to manage our expectations for this season.
In attack, Arsenal shouldn’t have any problems, with Aubameyang and Lacazette coming off the back of strong pre-seasons, and Özil looking to impress after his departure from the world of international football.
The midfield is looking strong too, with Aaron Ramsey sticking around to be joined by Torreira, who should make a good partner for Granit Xhaka. Guendouzi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mohamed Elneny are a strong set of back up options.
In goal, Čech already looks to be improving as a result of new competition and coaching, but we’ll see how he does. Hopefully Leno can challenge him for the number one spot.
Overall, the squad has the potential for a top-four finish and a trophy, but only if they take Emery’s coaching and advice on board and perform to their best. Let’s hope they do, and get behind them fully on Sunday!