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How Bad Are Things At Arsenal Really?

by Neal Thurman
Updated On: July 17, 2019, 10:31 am ET

The powers that be at Facebook and Google have apparently picked out that I am an Arsenal supporter and consume quite a bit of Premier League-related content on a daily (hourly?) basis.  As a result, I've been bombarded with articles from sources that I typically don't spend a great deal on as the big digital platforms push content that they think I might enjoy.  A steady diet of headlines from The Mirror, The Sun, etc. about the state of things at Arsenal along with the drumbeat of ESPNFC commentators (looking at you Mariner and Burley) who seem to think that Arsenal can do no right has had me rather depressed about the state of things at Arsenal.  Oh, and those constant reminders that Arsenal have no money to spend get recycled in almost every article and Tweet no matter how otherwise positive or negative the rest of the article might be. It is rare that I end up going more than a few hours without seeing something predicting or at least implying a coming Arsenal apocalypse. 

Not wanting to get to next week when the Gunners visit the Washington, DC metro area as depressed as the media seems to be telling me I should be, I decided maybe it is time to pull my head up from the Premier League echo chamber of recycled thoughts and actually take a look at the summer so far and what the weeks leading up to the transfer window are likely to hold: 

  1. Gabrielle Martinelli Arrives - If Sven Mislintat were still on staff then I suspect that everyone would be more excited about this move because Mislintat has the reputation of buying ahead on young talent.  There is also a question of immediate positional need which is reasonable but this isn't a purchase for right now but one for the day when Aubameyang and Lacazette are fading. 
  2. Edu Joins As Technical Director - I suspect that this was in the works before Martinelli was signed and that Edu had something to do with it.  The former Invincible doesn't have the reputation of some of the bigger names that Arsenal was linked with for the TD post but I'd imagine he has strong connections in his native Brazil where Arsenal seem to be concentrating significant efforts this summer. 
  3. Everton Appears to be Next - Speaking of Arsenal's new Brazilian connection, Copa America star Everton seems to on track to snub, err, Everton and some others to sign with the Gunners. I don't suspect that he'll be ready to contribute immediately but he'll join Martinelli, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Tyreece John-Jules, et al as a potential next wave of attackers being groomed behind Alex Iwobi because the Gunners aren't likely to break the bank for Wilfried Zaha who may or may not actually be available. 
  4. Dani Ceballos Loan? - Whether it is Ceballos or someone else, one thing seems clear, the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid are looking to do some big business this summer that will leave some very talented players out in the cold when it comes to playing.  In some cases, those players will be sold off for more money that the Gunners are likely to pony up.  In the case of someone like Ceballos, there is a real value to Real Madrid to have him come to Arsenal for a season or two on loan to get playing time at high volume and either prove that he's ready to break through to the starting line-up at Real or put himself in the shop window for a big money move elsewhere.  Real finds out what it has in Ceballos while Arsenal get a potential Aaron Ramsey replacement without having to pay a huge transfer fee.  
  5. Kieran Tierney is Coming - Well, it took this long before we've gotten to a likely permanent move for a first team player. Before everyone gets worked up about the process and how frustrating it has been to pry him away from Celtic, let's be realistic.  How often do Scottish players end up in Italy? He's not going to Napoli.  He's coming to Arsenal and should represent a step up from the aging Nacho Monreal and the only-really-fit-to-be-a-wingback Sead Kolasinac.  This is a good thing. 
  6. William Saliba Uncertainty - The story hasn't been terribly flattering to the Gunners but let's be realistic, he's not coming this season anyway.  It would be great to have yet another "one for the future" at a position of need but whether he comes or not, Arsenal's immediate term success will have to come from elsewhere. 
  7. Rob Holding and Héctor Bellerín Returning - Yes, the "like a new signing" phrase is hackneyed but it doesn't change the fact that Arsenal were far better with Holding playing last season than they were after he went down injured. If they get both players back at full strength relatively early in the season they actually get three benefits.  They get an upgrade at center back, an upgrade at right back, and an upgrade at utility player as a now-blooded Ainsley Maitland-Niles becomes available to pitch in at a variety of spots.  I'm not suggesting that this is the equivalent of bringing in Virgil Van Dijk and Andrew Robertson but when compared with the alternatives the boosts in productivity is substantial. 
  8. Money for a CB Remains - Given all of the above and the rumors that much of the Saliba payment would be pushed into the future along with his arrival there should still be some money for a credible new center back coming in.  That player would still have to be identified and a deal reached but the possibility still exists that Arsenal can upgrade two CB spots over the summer. 

So, summing it all up, it isn't unreasonable for Arsenal to end up the summer by bringing in 2-3 future contributors, a new left back, and an Aaron Ramsey replacement on a shoestring budget in addition to having above average players returning from injury at center back and right back.  No, Wilf Zaha and Ryan Fraser might not be walking through that door which would certainly be sexier. Still, the goal is to improve and reach the Champions League for next season.  The results of the summer that seem very reasonable certainly seem to make it plausible that Arsenal could stay ahead of the disaster that Manchester United appears to be and move ahead of a Hazard-less Chelsea who can't buy over the summer or in January. 


If your bar for Arsenal is the one that was established in the early-2000s and you're expecting them to compete for a title, well, I don't know what to tell you.  Maybe time to update your reality.  If you would like to see a step forward then this seems like a solid, if not spectacular, move forward for a club that actually has to operate with a budget.  If you want to get upset about something then maybe direct your ire back at the previous regime that, like the final days of the Sir Alex Ferguson regime, left the cupboard pretty well bare.  At Manchester United, the resources exist to fix such issues with a coherent plan.  The ire pointed at Manchester United's replacements in the executive and management positions is justified because they've squandered those resources.  Arsenal don't have the same resources so it is reasonable to be patient and applaud a summer that still has the very real potential to be a solid move in the right direction.   



Neal Thurman
Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.