Be excited Josh Kroenke said. Just words I thought, because Arsenal have had so many underwhelming transfer windows, that average is almost expected. Weeks of overdosing on every social media site, Sky Sports update, latest podcast and sports page, just to keep up with who was being touted in the long list of high profile names.
Of course, they eventually turn out to be drastically wide of the mark and are normally followed up with the acquisition of a fresh faced youngster, with wide eyes and buckets of ambition.
Either that or Arsenal fans are left sweating as the clock runs down and are left somewhat puzzled by a purchase that no one saw coming. A last minute gamble, when the dying embers of transfer activity are almost extinguished by a deadline.
Arsenal’s local rivals splashed out €62m on Tanguy Ndombélé after completing their billion pound stadium and immediately, the deal cast a shadow across north London, indicating that the red part was slowly losing ground and would struggle to remain in contention.
Then, Arsenal began to look as if they had purpose, even if the funds were in short supply. Josh Kroenke was about to light the fuse that would illuminate Arsenal’s transfer window.
Who would have thought it, Josh, a Kroenke being upfront and appearing to be transparent. Yes, Josh Kroenke was actually telling the truth in response to a fans open letter and when asked about Arsenal’s upcoming business.
“Be excited” was the advice and that for me meant two, possibly three average purchases or youngsters who were brimming with the “P” word (potential).
How I’ve grown to hate that word and how many potentially brilliant players have come to Arsenal and left without fulfilling any of it. So many in fact, that it’s almost a chore to recall them all, but poor old Abou Diaby is a prime example along with Theo Walcott.
Gabriel Martinelli was signed for the sum of Antoine Griezmann’s head and shoulder endorsement. A young lad, no surprise there but in all honesty, Edu could have unearthed one of the next best things.
Palace striker Wilfred Zaha, surfaced as a potential target, but not for Arsenal’s initial offer of £40m. Zaha professed his boyhood love for the club and Palace promptly upped the price, leaving Arsenal to fish elsewhere. The story would pop up again when news was scarce and it lingered throughout the transfer window.
Then William Saliba signed, although the deal was less exciting upon learning he would spend another season at Saint Etienne.
Kieran Tierney was mentioned again and again, along with a mixture of old and new names which included Nicolas Pepe. Like everyone else, I thought that although Pepe was every inch an Arsenal type player, the coffers simply wouldn’t permit a bid.
The loan deal with Dani Ceballos added work rate and quality and although it was in loan, it would challenge Mesut Ozil to put a shift in.
Then, just as it seemed to go quiet… bang ! They pulled it off. Pepe on a 5 year deal and suddenly, after a slow start, everyone sat up in their chairs and approached the whole shebang with a tad more optimism. Arsenal, so often the butt of transfer window jokes, had pulled off a massive coup with a large amount of secrecy and stealth.
Arsenal still appeared to be untroubled by their defensive frailties but at this point, just the thought of Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette in the same side, was enough to calm the nerves of even the biggest worry wart. Arsenal fans had a spring in their step again and took to social media in their thousands to gloat and promote the arrival of the young Frenchman.
The Tierney deal plodded along with Celtic holding firm on their price, but the unexpected sale of Krystian Bielik for £10m went some way to lubricating a deal. Tierney was the deal that wouldn’t go away and was probably the one highest on Emery’s wish list, higher even than Pepe.
There was talk of a deal for Daniele Rugani, which was said to have been agreed by all parties, but that was three days before the deadline and like a room full of steam – it disappeared on closer inspection through the open window.
To be fair, even Emery must have thought that both deals seemed unlikely at various points of the negotiations, but it never seemed as if Arsenal were going to give up, it just needed the right structure.
According to some sources, Tierney had agreed the deal a week ago and Celtic were just working with Arsenal on the finer details, so it was never really in doubt.
On the eve of transfer deadline day, a story broke claiming that Chelsea’s David Luiz was to join Arsenal.
What? Where did that come from?
If the Pepe deal was a surprise, the suggestion of Luiz heading to the Emirates was an Uber surprise, full of bells and whistles.
Everyone seemed very sure and a fee of £8m had apparently been agreed. In the meantime, Tierney had signed and appeared in the number three shirt for his photo shoot, but Luiz was still a piece of paper in someone’s tray. The time was 19.00hrs.
Exactly one hour and one minute later the announcement was made by both clubs simultaneously. The Brazilian was secured in a two year deal to the relief of Unai Emery. Luiz brings bags of experience at every conceivable level and will add steel, craft and solidity. He will also bring a vocal quality at the back and a degree of leadership that has been missing for years. Some think he’s past it, but some think it’s the deal of the transfer window.
There was one last surprise to be had. Everton made a last minute bid to snap up Alex Iwobi for an undisclosed fee and a five year deal. Iwobi was less likely to be included in the first team with the new arrivals and the smart money was on a sale.
This Arsenal is a ruthless and sneaky beast. One which will doesn’t mind getting its hands dirty and that will try every trick in the book to land its targets. At last!
So what of the near misses ?
Well, the most notable was Zaha but Arsenal will return, probably in January and now that Everton have pulled out, it virtually leaves them a clear run.
Sami Khedira would have been another quality addition along with Philippe Coutinho, but I think that perhaps a number of fans may have suffered heart failure if there had been anymore arrivals.
Everton Soares set pulses racing, but the deal couldn’t be made and the same was true of Daniele Rugani, with the player refusing a loan deal.
So, is this really the best Arsenal transfer window ever? I think so.
It was probably the story of the transfer window, with City dipping in occasionally, United failing miserably, Liverpool sitting pretty with a low key presence and Spurs replacing jaded stock in the hope of finally winning a trophy that isn’t named after a car.
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No Arsenal fan could have predicted six incoming players with a war chest of £45m.
As the board sit down to sip a well deserved glass of champagne, they will no doubt reflect on the con of the century, when they had money to spend but gave the impression they didn’t. Who really knows anymore.
The deals they have done are audacious to say the least, this is how to manipulate a transfer window and come next summer, Arsenal will be viewed with a degree of caution. What promised little, delivered much. Arsenal monopolised the transfer window and rejuvenated a team on credit.
We can now look forward to a season that hopefully will offer as many surprises as the summer break.
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