The season is not yet over, but whatever happens between now and May 22nd we should not let it detract from the fact that is has been a positive season.
Arteta has got a lot right, certainly in the latter half of the campaign, but a lot of what has gone well is also down to the decisions and activity made in the summer. It is a long time since we have been able to say or write it has been a positive season, it seems just as long where we can say the same for a transfer window.
The two are obviously intrinsically linked, but keeping that positive slant on things, last summer’s window can tell us that Arteta – and the team around him – now have a clear vision of what they want the team to look like. Just as importantly they are capable of going out and getting the right players in to achieve that. To build and shape a team and a squad takes more than one window. It is an ongoing process with incremental changes in each position year on year, even month by month. Last summer was good, this season is (fingers crossed) very good, but all that can be derailed and would historically be labelled as a false dawn, if it isn’t repeated and built upon this summer.
Data the key
There is more data available than ever before when searching for and assessing potential transfer targets. As fans we may love, loathe or maybe not even understand such things as xG that are as ever present in today’s game as the pre rehearsed goal celebrations. That pales into insignificance however compared to the sheer quantity of data and stats that recruitment teams have to shift through in order to find the player with the correct statistical shape to fit in their team’s hole.
Whether that makes it easier or harder is open to debate, but the days of just watching a player from the stands and hoping he’ll fit in are long gone. It may have taken Arteta a while to get to grips with that, and of course he has a huge team behind him, but it looks like he is now very comfortable in that aspect of his role.
Attacking needs must be addressed
There are three areas that they need to address. The most pressing one is up front. The loss of Aubameyang did not have the negative impact many were predicting. In reality the team have played better and have posed more of a threat without the Frenchman. This summer Lacazette and Nketiah are both likely to see the exit as well, which will not only free up cash, but will also allow Arteta to really put his stamp on the team. It is not known what his transfer kitty will be, but talks of interest in Moussa Diaby, do seem at odds to the areas that need addressing. Diaby is undoubtedly a good player, but unless Arteta is looking at doing what Wenger managed with Henry, it would appear his efforts should be focussed on an out and out striker.
The other two areas are centre midfield and the centre of defence. Ben White’s transfer, especially his £50 million price tag raised some eyebrows, but time has proved it to be a very shrewd purchase. Along with the former Brighton player, Gabriel Magalhães has forged a very good partnership, but Arteta will be concerned about the lack of depth in that position. Likewise centre midfield. He has a lot of creative talent in the middle of the park, but with the ongoing question marks over Xhaka there is very little in the way of combative, ball winning players. What he does not want is to have to play people out of position or in roles that curtails their play and lessens their impact on the team.
The long-held view is that a team should be built around the spine. Though there is merit in that, the current Arsenal side has achieved what it has with for the most part that area being lacking. Far from a negative, that suggests that if those areas can be addressed this summer, then it really is looking good for the future.