Much has been made of the supposed fact that Arsenal only had £40m to spend in this summer’s transfer window; if that is the case, then manager, Unai Emery, has been nothing short of a miracle-worker at the Emirates. The former PSG and Sevilla manager has been able to stretch this season’s budget to its absolute limit and in doing so, has managed to add some key names to both the midfield and attacking departments.
With the arrival of Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos from Lille and Real Madrid, these two new faces will undoubtedly lift the spirits of fans who are having to make do with another round of Thursday night European football this season.
However, there is something of a caveat attached to these captures – mostly to do with the fact that Ceballos is only a short-term fix. With no option to buy the Spanish midfielder on a permanent basis, it does beg the question as to what the long-term benefit will be.
Another point of contention is the way the deal for the 24-year-old Pepe has been set up and with such a huge outlay coming in instalments, it’s almost as if the club’s future is being banked on returning to the Champions League.
In addition to this, the arrival of the Ivorian highlights that Unai Emery has perhaps gone for a glamour signing, rather than one he actually needs. Although attacking your way out of defence is a noble idea, it very rarely works in the modern game.
It was arguably this approach that cost the Gunners a top-four finish last time around and although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette proved to be more than a handful in attack, their hard work was undone by such a porous defence.
Because of the team’s recent history, should these defensive issues rear their ugly head once again – and this is something that many pundits expect to be the case – then their chances of challenging for the title are looking unrealistic at this point in the season.
A look at the current Premier League betting reinforces this statement, as Arsenal are priced at the unlikely odds of 66/1 by bet365 for them to win a first title since 2004. Although the pursuit of outright may be out of reach, a top four finish is not.
The Gunners can owe that to both Manchester United and Chelsea being in a state of flux, possibly presenting the team’s best possible chance for the club to end their Champions League exile and return to Europe’s premier club competition in 2020/21.
According to the bookmakers at the time of writing, they believe it to be a two-horse race between Manchester United and Arsenal for the fourth and final Champions League berth, with the North Londoners as the relative outsiders at 6/4.
However, if United cannot get their house in order and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fails to wake the Red Devils out of the slumber they fell into at the tail-end of the previous campaign, then Arsenal will be poised to take full advantage in this next instalment of the club’s post-Wenger era.