Ranking Arsenal’s Summer Signings' Starts from Worst to Best
By Rob Worthington (Deputy Editor)
Much was made of Arsenal’s 2021 Summer dealings come the transfer window‘s closing in late August. Off the back of an underwhelming 20/21 Premier League season, many believed Arsenal hadn’t recruited sufficiently despite being the Premier League’s biggest Summer spenders.
A key reason for this was the player profiles Technical Director, Edu Gaspar, and first team Manager, Mikel Arteta, targeted over the Summer months. There was a clear emphasis on pursuing youth, with Arsenal’s oldest Summer signing being Ben White aged 24. In addition, homegrown options were prioritised in certain areas.
After a rocky start to the season, with the club sat at the foot of the Premier League table after gameweek 3, Arsenal’s new signings have helped Mikel Arteta impressively turn things around in recent weeks. The Gunners are currently sixth place in the Premier League, 3 points off the top four.
All of Arsenal’s Summer signings have impressed… But who out of the six has enjoyed the best start to life in north London?
6. Martin Ødegaard
The confirmation of Martin Ødegaard’s return to Arsenal in late August was met with a mixed reception from the Arsenal faithful. After numerous news outlets insinuated Arsenal were debating between re-signing the Norwegian or chasing a deal for Leicester’s James Maddison, many were disappointed when the club decided to stick with Ødegaard.
However, despite a somewhat substandard start to the season from the 22-year-old, the decision to bring him back to the club appears to have been accepted as the right one. Ødegaard hasn’t been especially bad as a new signing, rather his fellow new arrivals have been superb.
Ødegaard’s initial early season form looked strong, with the 22-year-old grabbing a decisive goal from a lovely free kick against Burnley in September before leading Arsenal’s press wonderfully against Spurs. Nonetheless, since then, his influence has dwindled to an extent and he has a fight on his hands to win his place back off of Alex Lacazette. As such, perhaps harshly, it has to be said Martin Ødegaard has been Arsenal’s worst Summer signing in terms of 21/22 performance so far.
5. Albert Sambi Lokonga
Again, this one feels harsh. Joining Arsenal from Anderlecht at just 21, Lokonga has acclimatised well to the Premier League. Granit Xhaka’s long-term injury sustained against Spurs has led to Lokonga being thrown in at the deep end at Arsenal, with the Belgian adopting a starting role alongside Thomas Partey in midfield.
Overall, he’s done a very good job considering the context. He’s had a few clumsy moments, such as his error leading to Odsonne Edouard’s goal for Crystal Palace at the Emirates a couple of weeks ago, but otherwise he’s held his weight in spite of his inexperience.
His standout assets have been his ball carrying and ability to break up play, averaging 7.02 progressive carries/90 and 2.5 interceptions. Yet, there is clear room for improvement regarding his passing, tackling, and aerial prowess. For what he’s been brought into do, to act as cover in the engine room, he’s done a good job.
4. Nuno Tavares
This is where it gets a little tougher. Arsenal’s remaining four Summer signings have all been excellent. All four appear perfectly suited to their roles, and it’d be pretty straightforward to make a case for at least three of the remaining four to be Arsenal’s best signing.
Nevertheless, a player who probably wouldn’t be able to enter that conversation just yet is Nuno Tavares. As a backup left-back to Kieran Tierney, he’s done a great job and it’s a credit to him that he sits above both Lokonga and Ødegaard despite starting just twice in the PL so far this campaign.
His ability to sufficiently cover for Tierney cannot be overlooked. When Tierney was injured last season, Mikel Arteta was left scratching his head, having to start makeshift options at left-back such as Cedric and Granit Xhaka. This season with Tavares, Kieran Tierney’s absences aren’t felt quite so profoundly. A brilliant addition to the squad.
3. Benjamin White
Eyebrows were raised when Arsenal decided to splash out £50 million on Benjamin White. The former Brighton man enjoyed a strong season with the Seagulls last time out, perhaps going under the radar somewhat, but it would be far-fetched to suggest he looked like a £50 million player.
That said, the premium placed on young English talent in the Premier League contributed to such a high fee, and it’d be fair to say he’s aptly replaced the outgoing David Luiz. Defensively, he’s been more than solid despite initial doubts about his physicality, and his ability on the ball as a defender is impossible to ignore.
White sits in third place due to his poor defending leading to Crystal Palace’s second goal at the Emirates in October, but otherwise he’s looked a very strong addition. The defender definitely deserved to be included in the England most recent England squad but was unfairly overlooked by Gareth Southgate
2. Takehiro Tomiyasu
Already something of a cult hero, Takehiro Tomiyasu has hit the ground running at Arsenal. Signing for the club on deadline day, Tomiyasu’s unique profile as a full-back intrigued many, and he’s ended up being a perfect fit within the right-back role in Mikel Arteta’s system.
Counter-balancing either one of Tierney or Tavares bombing forward on the left, Tomiyasu tucks in rather deep on Arsenal’s right hand-side, acting as an extra man in both midfield or defence. Tomiyasu has been a clear upgrade over the likes of Calum Chambers, Cedric and Hector Bellerin in this role.
The best thing about Tomiyasu is that you sometimes forget he’s even playing. He does the job he’s required to do and he can be trusted. He offers physicality, notable aerial ability as well as helpful ambidextrousness. The signing of Tomiyasu represents impressive profile identification from Arsenal.
1. Aaron Ramsdale
Who else? Aaron Ramsdale has proved each and every Arsenal fan who doubted him wrong and it’s been fantastic to watch. He’s been as good as anyone at Arsenal could’ve hoped for.
His standout moment thus far came in Arsenal’s most recent game against Leicester, with Ramsdale plucking the ball out of the top corner from what looked like a goal-bound James Maddison free kick. Arguably the most impressive and surprising takeaway from Ramsdale’s Arsenal’s tenure so far has however been his distribution.
Ramsdale’s ability to break the lines with his passing has added a new dimension to Arsenal’s build up play, an ability few, if any, knew he possessed. His character has also pleased the Gunners’ faithful, with the Englishman already a clear fan-favourite. Jordan Pickford should certainly be concerned about the security of his starting role for England.
The £25-30 million Arsenal paid for him looks like daylight robbery right now.