Rating Arsenal's Signings from the 2019/20 Season
By Alex Trad
With yet another season drawing to a close, I considered it a suitable time to take a look back at Arsenal’s signings throughout the past year- and distinguish those who exceeded expectations from those who did so to a lesser extent, if at all. Starting with last Summer’s arrivals, who has enjoyed greater success throughout the current campaign? William Saliba
As fans, we can not judge Saliba’s impact thus far, seeing as he spent the past year on loan at St. Etienne and is yet to don the famous Red and White in action. Noise from the French press, though, would suggest that the 19-year old has registered yet another terrific season in Ligue 1, adding to his breakthrough campaign the year before. More recently, a rift between AFC and St Etienne representatives culminated in Saliba becoming ineligible to compete in his side’s showpiece Coupe de France final against PSG- which they then went on to lose by slim margins, 1-0. As such, his omission has fueled his desire to break into Arteta’s first team immediately upon arrival. The encouraging signs are there, but he's yet to prove himself where and when it matters most.
For Ceballos, life in North London has had its many highs and many lows. After a faultless home debut against Burnley in August, the Spaniard’s fortune then lessened, in large part due to Unai Emery’s misuse of his attributes. A barren spell in October/November eventually ended in his sustaining of a hamstring injury on a rainy Europa League night in Guimaraes, one which kept him out of training until January.
After initially being left out by our new head coach, under Arteta’s command, however, the former-Betis man has enjoyed sizeable success at the Emirates- heralding much praise for the 23-year old and the gaffer alike, after he "trained like an animal". From his superb passing displays since the restart to his winning strike against Sheffield United which booked our place in the FA Cup semi-finals, Ceballos has in effect endeared himself to the fanbase, with many urging those above to swap his expiring loan deal for a long-term permanent one. According to numerous Spanish outlets, the reported asking price demanded by Real Madrid lies in the region of £20-40 million. If Arteta’s outlook on Ceballos is matched by our chief executives, we could well see his contract extended beyond this season.
If I’m being entirely honest, the main source of inspiration for this piece originates in Pepe’s mixed debut season at Arsenal. Simply put, the Ivorian hasn't quite met the high expectations first set by our supporters last Summer to date. But taking a deeper look into his 19/20 performance demonstrates the respectable impact he's brought in his short stint at the Emirates. In fact, 17 goal involvements in all competitions is generally viewed as a productive return for a Premier League winger, not least one having just made the promotion from French football- by nature, a whole different culture and quality of division compared to the English top-flight.
Naturally, when rival supporters label new signings of ours overvalued, flops, dead rubber and all the like, I enjoy comparing said player’s individual statistics with their supposed most-able squad members. For instance, Heung-Min Son, a player whose name resonates far and wide not only in the UK but in various parts of the world as well, registered just 8 goals and 5 assists in all competitions in his first season in North London. If anything, this last further cements the premise that most to all arrivals from abroad struggle in a physically-demanding Premier League at first, before finding their feet soon after- barring a select number of selections, of course.
Indeed, the fee we paid was far from modest. But in this day and age, footballers of Pepe’s ability rarely come at little cost. The 25-year old has all the hallmarks of a future star, be it his ambitious mentality, the willingness to impress and, most importantly, the quality required in any side challenging for silverware. Patience is a virtue, Gooners.
In what came as an outright shock to all Arsenal supporters when he put pen to paper on a short-term deal on deadline day last August, David Luiz’s controversial crosstown switch to Arsenal has thus far proved unavailing, at least in the bigger picture. Whilst his performances have indeed improved tenfold under Mikel Arteta compared to the dark days of Emery’s tenure, the error-prone Brazilian has largely stuck to his nature throughout.
Following his foul inside the box on former Gunner Danny Welbeck on Sunday, Luiz has now conceded 5 penalties this season, setting a new Premier League record in doing so. On his day, the 33-year old can produce quality displays and deliver commanding defensive performances. Problem is, these days arrive sporadically nowadays and have done so since the peak years of his Chelsea career. That said, he sets a great example to Arsenal’s youth and reportedly holds a marked presence in the dressing room- justifying to a certain extent our decision to trigger a one-year extension in his contract just one week after his individual disasterclass versus Manchester City. A complex yet bizarre first year at the Emirates.
Arguably the most sensible piece of business Arsenal completed twelve months ago. After seeking his services all throughout the Summer, an agreement was struck with regards to the Scotsman’s price tag mere hours before the window closed, at which point the 23-year old yet carried a mild hip injury from his time at Celtic. Whilst he registered several decent displays in the weeks leading up to Unai Emery’s dismissal, Tierney’s Emirates career suffered its first setback in early-December as he sustained a nasty shoulder injury, keeping him out until Project Restart.
Since the season’s resumption few squad members have produced better displays on a consistent basis, if any at all. All throughout, the Scotland international started forging a strong connection with the fanbase, essentially earning him cult hero amongst the supporters. We've seen exactly how well KT can perform at the highest level- namely, adapting to a new league, different competition and certainly a higher-quality division. And all signs would suggest this trend will continue into the next season and those that follow.
More than one year ago, Francis Cagigao, among his team of scouts, exercised the cost-effective option of recruiting a virtual unknown from Sao Paulo. More specifically, a young man by the name of Gabriel Martinelli, who had been playing for his local club Ituano in the fourth tier at the time. Fast-forward twelve months, and the 19-year old has managed 14 goal contributions in all competitions- all before he unfortunately sustained a knee injury in training during the early weeks of Project Restart.
The early prognosis from Arsenal’s medical staff has ruled him out of training until early 2021. Certainly not a dream ending to what’s proved an unforgettable debut season in North London, but in retrospect our decision to spend £6 million on an unproven winger has proved largely availing. Bargain signing for a generational (yes, you heard me correctly) talent.
Rating: 8/10 As for our Winter recruitments, it’s safe to say neither have panned out the way the club would have hoped for, and for near-identical reasons.
Having spent five weeks without training during the Brazilian off-season, Mari arrived at the Emirates in February lacking match fitness, requiring him to build up strength for a number of weeks. At last, the Spaniard completed a full and a Premier League debut against Portsmouth and West Ham, respectively, just before the season was brought to a standstill. Immediately after the Restart, though, Mari’s loan spell at Arsenal saw its momentum fade within a mere half hour against Manchester City- the 26-year old sustained an ankle ligament sprain, one which has ruled him out until the beginning of next season.
And last but not least, we have Cedric, who despite signing on January 31st, only enjoyed his first minutes of football at the beginning of this month, in a 4-0 rout of Norwich City. Remarkably, the Portuguese placed his name on the scoresheet just four minutes after being brought on- a perfect way to start his career in Red and White. Still though, the sample size of Soares’ time at Arsenal is far too small to judge, and therefore we rank his impact accordingly.
Ranking: N/A There it is, a comprehensive outlook on Arsenal’s transfer business over the past 12 months. Whilst three of these last are yet to truly start their respective careers in North London, the immediate imprints of the other five vary from one to the next. There’s little evidence that we’ll spend anywhere near as much as we did last Summer, especially in the context of a worldwide financial crisis. But what remains certain is that we started planning for the future one year ago in the recruitments of Martinelli, Tierney and Saliba. And with Mikel Arteta’s squad overhaul set to take its fullest form next season, many changes will occur at the Emirates in the weeks to come. The onus, as always, is on KSE to exercise our transfer potential to great effect, which begs a simple question: will they at last defy their unambitious nature and back our gaffer?