Arsenal’s summer blockbuster

Good morning everyone, long time no post (by me) and just wanted to drop off a few thoughts about Arsenal’s summer transfer business.

As a long-suffering Arsenal supporter who grew up in the “team youth” Wenger era I am not at all used to Arsenal doing business early and often in the transfer market. For most of the Wenger era we would get one decent named transfer a season and few “prospecting” type deals where Wenger looked for value in the market. Toward the end that changed as the club wanted to spend to hopefully win things but by then Wenger’s tactics had stopped evolving and he was no longer able to compete at the top level.

But despite spending the money Arsenal were still notoriously slow to close deals and often didn’t bring in players until the last minute. It was frustrating to say the least. That did sort of change when Wenger left, though the first group were not really good at getting in the right players and spent money foolishly on some guys who will remain unnamed.

But the hallmark of the new modern Arsenal era is efficiency and focus. They know which players they want, they know that the players want to join them, and they simply get those deals done. And this summer in particular has been magnificent. I think it’s clear that Arteta and Edu wanted to upgrade the Arsenal midfield with players who were more dependable, just as good if not better technically, defensively solid, and probably more important: younger.

You shouldn’t underestimate how the age profile of Rice and Havertz is crucial to this project. Not only are they great technical replacements for Partey and Xhaka, but they are both 24 years old, meaning that they will be coming into their prime over the next three years. Partey is 30 and Xhaka is nearly 31. While these guys do have something left in the tank we know that statistically their performance levels are going to start dropping soon.

As for the specific players I’m incredibly excited to see Rice in the RDM role at Arsenal. I think he’s a superior defender to Partey and while there are some questions about his ability to receive the ball with back to pressure, Arsenal already have a ton of guys who can and do do that for the club. And I know that Arteta will be eager to improve all aspects of Declan’s game. I also think Dec brings a ton of leadership qualities, which Partey does not. I can guarantee you that Dec will not let de Bruyne simply walk past him and score like Partey did: he seems to have an almost preternatural defensive awareness and besides which, he also takes pride in his defending, having started out as a CB will do that to you. People seem to have outsized Partey’s contributions to this team but I remember a player who spent far too much time in the injury room, who shirked his defensive duties a lot, and who was exposed badly as a defensive liability when his cover, Saliba, went out injured. You will have none of those problems with Declan Rice. When Arsenal pen the opponents into their half, Dec is going to be the perfect midfielder to snaffle up any counter attacks, keep the opponents hemmed in, and restart the Arsenal attack.

Havertz also represents both an upgrade on Xhaka both technically in attack and defensively. Folks again, seem to have forgotten how little defending Xhaka did over the last two seasons. Yes, he tracked back occasionally but he was virtually forbidden (presumably by Arteta) from getting a foot in and making a tackle. That left side of Arsenal’s defense fell apart when Martinelli went down injured, because he was such a pressing monster. With Havertz I think you get a lot of that back again, but that’s pure speculation, because he’s been sort of lost in the desert that has been Chelsea these last few years. Havertz is probably the biggest gamble by this leadership team but I’m not overly concerned. I think he’s being brought in for his versatility: he can back up Odegaard, Martinelli, Saka, Jesus, and also play in the LCM role vacated by Xhaka.

Timber is another player who may have been a gamble. In listening to the Hot Shot Pod’s episode on him I learned that he’s an amazing dribbler but might not be as good at passing progression as we are used to seeing. He’s also an aggressive tackler and proactive defender – though I caution about that since that is almost always driven by what the manager wants the player to do. I think he’s been brought in as extra cover for the RB / RCB positions at Arsenal and I’m excited to see what he can do.

And the other amazing parts of this summer so far is that Arsenal got a new contract for Saka, Saliba, and Nelson! They also managed to pawn off Xhaka for 25+m which is incredible and they got their three main targets in BEFORE the trip to the USA. It’s so incredibly important for Dec, Kai, and Jurrien to get into the team and start bonding with their teammates. To learn Arteta’s demanding system of pressing and juego de posicion and the box midfield that Arsenal want to play. By all accounts that’s happening.

The only outstanding piece of business is possibly selling Partey. I’m all for it, frankly. The on-field failures along with the off field problems are more than enough for me to want to call time on his Arsenal career. I don’t really care that he was really good at progressing the ball and that he was good at carrying the ball. He was far too often injured and was incredibly lax defensively. Those two things are non-negotiables for me for a player in that role. It’s telling that he lost his position to a 30 year old former Chelsea player who is about the size of a string bean split in two. Jorginho is widely known as a pretty terrible defender who basically just fouls players to stop play, but at least he does stop counters.

Rumors are spreading that Arsenal are after Romeo Lavia (from Southampton, not Lucas Lavia lol) as a replacement for Partey and if so, that could actually trump the Rice signing in my mind. He’s 19, he’s defensively amazing, and he’s also one of the most technically gifted young players in the league. Please make this happen Edu!

Anyway, even if we keep Partey and don’t sign Lavia this summer has been an absolute blockbuster for Arsenal. I’m very excited for next season.



  1. 9 on 10 window so far. Swapping out Partey for Lavia would make it a 10 for me. While Partey is better than Lavia right now, the potential is there for Lavia to get there and beyond. We just cannot trust Partey to be there for us in the big games, too many big injuries at the worst possible times.

  2. Long time no read (by me). Some argue that losing 2 of our midfield 3 is going to have a negative effect and I kinda agree with that. I won’t complain if Partey left but I can understand why some won’t want Partey sold this summer.

    1. I think it will have a hugely positive effect, especially in the long run. In two years this will be the summer that reshaped Arsenal.

      1. Actually, it started two years ago.
        Almost as if someone predicted it would.

        When a ‘narrative’ becomes reality?

    2. I think we’re going to win
      ugly in the beginning and take a couple of months to kick into gear (while remaining near the top of the table).

      If we win *and* look good from day one, extra credit to all involved.

  3. I think beyond Partey, we are probably selling Tierney, Tavares, Pepe, Cedric, Patino and Balogun. Adding to the 21m for Xhaka, that’s probably going to earn north of 100m if done right and offsets half of what’s been spent this summer so far.

    Timber is Caicedo-lite and in my mind paves the way for Tierney to leave; a natural defensive midfielder based on skill set and physical attributes, adept at playing CB and RB, but Arteta will teach him to invert from the RB position when either Zinchenko is hurt or he needs to spell Saliba or White. When Zinchenko is out, Arteta will play Tomiyasu (or Kiwior) on the left side of the back three and then Timber in for White (or White in for Saliba), so Timber can invert next to Rice/Jorginho. Timber is actually a very nice passer and not dissimilar to Zinchenko.

    I do see Edu going for Romeo Lavia, but it will be late – Elneny is sticking around for another season and Arteta trusts him, there’s no need to splash 35-40m on a good young player but one that will only play League Cup and early round FA Cup. And then there’s rumor about the 24 year old Brazilian midfielder from Gremio.

    This is the year. On paper, this Arsenal team is City’s main challenger and if they lose Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez to Saudi Arabia, it’s going to be on.

  4. Evening, yea, in the banter years, we had cazorla as nr 10 and then bought Ozil. Why, we could have bought a defensive cmf and then a year later Cesc would come back. But yeah, its water under the bridge.

    I dont like your hounding of Partey. British law is, innocent until proven guilty. Do you know better. Have better insight then court of law. Are you God?

    1. American law is also that. But there’s differences in publicly naming suspects. In the US, he’d likely have been suspended until cleared or tried. In the UK, it’s a tougher call, since he’s not named. If they suspend him, they might be at risk for a suit. But like Tim, I’m not hugely comfortable with someone even accused of that playing for Arsenal. We’re supposed to be a club with high standards.
      All of that has little to do with the fact the he’s been frequently unavailable due to injury and has had a number of bad matches at critical times.

    2. I don’t care for hiding behind “innocent until proven guilty”. After all Mason Greenwood is technically innocent but his club have done the exact right thing and suspended his ass. How about Bill Cosby? Another one who is “innocent”. And look at that – wealthy and powerful men get away with tons of terrible things and aren’t found guilty in a court of law. I absolutely do not have to support people I do not like and will speak out to the fullest extent of the law as I am allowed.

  5. Looking back on some of the late Wenger years it seems like transfers are just worlds apart. There was always some kind of drama and it must have been so distracting for the entire club! Arteta doesn’t put up with any $hit. No drawn out sagas with players who are disillusioned. Can you imagine the Ozil or Sanchez resigning sagas happening now? They would’ve been training alone, or shipped off in a second. I know it feels like Arteta’s a rigid hardass, but a club has to require commitment and professionalism and we had stopped doing that in the late Wenger years. Feels like we’re a tightly-run ship and the culture has truly changed for the better. Artedu had a learning curve about doing late deals, and as you say, doing things early in the window has a huge impact. So much optimism for this year.

  6. Very happy to see the main business done so early. And yes, I’d be fine with Partey going. As you say, not just for the off-field stuff, but the fact that he’s very rarely been at the top of his game. He’s either out or not playing well. So to me it doesn’t matter that he’s great if that’s only in 10% of our games. I’d frankly rather have someone 10% less good, who’s playing most of the time.
    Be interesting to see what ends up happening with Holding, Tierney and Balogun. Seems like we will take offers for all of them, if the offers are good enough.

  7. The most exciting summer in my 18 years of following the Arsenal. At the risk of being scoffed at, let’s give some credit to the Kroenke’s (at least those that have screamed and hollered ‘Kroenke Out’ over the years should give a hat tip) for funding the current vision here. Tough to keep up with the oil money but we’re hanging in there.

    1. Hey, I will hold my hand up and say that I was sort of wrong about the Kroenke’s: I thought that they couldn’t change but what we’ve seen is actually across the board investment in all of their sporting ventures over the last 5 years or so. Let’s hope it lasts and isn’t just a temporary bump to get everyone onboard before they start acting like regular ole American owners again.

  8. I am not entirely convinced that Kai is the replacement for Xhaka. Maybe Zinchenko would be moved to that role? His tackling and one on one defensive play looks atrocious.

    1. From what I have heard, Havertz is really good at pressing.
      And while we saw Xhaka tracking back and making some useful tackles in defence last season, for the most part he was a given a free role.
      I actually think that his return of 15-16 G/A was lesser than what he should have gotten given the absolute free role he had in attack and almost no defensive responsibility.
      I think Havertz put in the exact same role this season should easily contribute much more in attack and also surpass Xhaka’s tally.
      As for defence, yes he won’t be as good at tracking back, but imagine Havertz and Martinelli pressing and Zinchenko behind them to clean up, and Gabriel behind him to prevent the long balls. and this is is not even considering Rice as the primary defensive midfielder. should be more than good enough.

  9. Havertz a pressing machine,a making runs machine, defensively not as good as xhaka but will give the other team he’ll with his pressing and runs behind.he needs confidence.whatabout kudus,if he comes in its Arsenal’s to lose

  10. Maybe not a popular opinion on here but I think we need to keep Partey one more year.

    All this ‘he’s not fit’ or ‘he’s poor at tracking’ talk is IMO a big exaggeration. He didn’t actually miss that many games last season and he was part of a midfield that helped the second best defensive record in the league up until April.

    As for his off-field drama, if you look at the accuser and her story intricately, along with her revengeful motive, it’s almost as cynical as some of the scheming, conniving people that accused Mendy of his alleged crimes and clearly were trying to set him up. (I’m not saying Mendy is innocent of all accusations btw)

    I pray that anyone that condemns Partey at this moment never has to be wrongly accused of a crime like this; the most disgusting part of it is that with accusations lite this, it sticks, the wrongful accusers rarely get punished and real victims of these crimes have even more doubt cast on them.

    1. 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault or rape. That’s roughly 950,00,000 women who have been sexually assaulted. 1 in 100 men accused of rape/sexual assault are ever even charged and far far fewer than that are convicted. That means that the odds that there are “false” accusations are incredibly small.

      It’s absolutely backwards to say that these charges stick and that the “wrongful” accusers never get punished or that they should be punished.

      I will not allow this type of comment on my blog. This blog is no place for rape apologists or misinformation about rape and sexual assault.

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