THE day on which an Arsenal victory can take them sixth in the table will, for most fans, begin with a mental assessment of how the club performed in the January transfer window.
On 2 February 2021 are we better equipped to build on the positive momentum that the team’s form since Christmas has created? Here is my summary with the positives and negatives.
The club have managed, by a combination of sale, loan or tearing up of contracts to move on players that Arteta did not see in his plans, namely Ozil, Sokrtais, Mustafi and Kolasinac.
Whilst on a playing front and I suspect squad morale front this has to be seen as hugely positive, there does need to be a post-mortem on the huge financial losses made on these players, who came with large fees and are leaving for nothing.
Despite the financial write-off, these four players alone will probably reduce the wage bill by £650,000 a week.
This will place the club in a far stronger position for the summer window.
The addition of Matt Ryan on loan is shrewd business, after the hasty purchase of Runarsson in the summer.
Ryan is a far safer pair of hands as cover for the magnificent Leno and will allow the German rest weeks when the Europa recommences.
Sending Saliba out on loan again is a strange one. Arteta, for reasons many fans cannot fathom, does not feel the young French defender is ready for the rigours of the Premier League.
On the plus side he will play men’s football, but on the downside, it is not in England, and one worries whether the player’s relationship with the club might not be damaged. We won’t know until the summer.
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An area identified and not rectified in the summer, having decided against utilising Ozil, was in the creative central area.
Having reverted to 4231 and tried Willian, Willock and Lacazette in the hole, Arteta has finally found joy with Smith-Rowe.
However, the young Englishman is inexperienced and has been injury prone, so the addition of Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid appears excellent business.
The Norwegian has far more top league experience and without huge financial outlay can share the creative load until the end of the season, when a more long-term decision can be made.
An under the radar positive after yesterday is that the young striker, so many supporters are pinning high hopes on, Folarin Balogun, who was free to sign a pre-contract agreement with another club during the window, has not done so. This gives Arteta and the club five months to convince the talented lad that his future lies in North London.
Of course, whilst there were many younger players being loaned or extending loans, there had been much speculation that younger first team squad members might also leave on loan.
Ultimately Nelson stayed but Maitland-Niles and Willock have both departed until the end of the season to WBA and Newcastle respectively.
Both have been promised regular first team action in their preferred positions and we hope they come back stronger to challenge or increase their value by performing.
Either way, on balance, if they were not going to play at Arsenal, these moves are positive.
The one negative to sending AMN on loan is that Arteta is depriving himself of a strong utility player, able to cover both fullback positions.
Arteta has stated at the beginning of the window that he wanted to bring in a proper left back cover for Tierney.
Bertrand and van Arnholt were talked of but nothing transpired. Cedric has covered admirably for the Scot on the left, but he is also pushing Bellerin to be first choice right-back.
If both Tierney and Bellerin were simultaneously injured Arteta could be left with a right footed left-back and Calum Chambers at right-back.
This is a concern and might be why Joel Lopez, only recently promoted to the Under 23s, trained with the first team yesterday.
With all the exits or loans, I think I am correct in saying that, with the exception of the aforementioned Balogun, none of the Arsenal first team squad who will feature between now and May have contract expiring this June.
This is true a positive and should make the summer slightly more straight-forward.
The January window has been about re-moulding the squad further into one that fits Arteta’s vision and plans.
The club is backing their man and in Edu he has a hard-working ally, growing into his technical director role and Arsenal will be in a far better negotiating position come the summer.
That position will be strengthened by European football and that challenge begins tonight again at Molineux.
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