Home SPORTS Poor start to season masks decent transfer window

Poor start to season masks decent transfer window

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90min

There’s a reason that folk wiser than us insist the Premier League table means nothing before Christmas, and that the rankings shouldn’t be shown until the season has been up and running for a few weeks, like the good old days.

That’s because we can so often read way too much into the opening matches of the season – especially when we’re forced to sit and stew on those performances for the entirety of an international break.

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Arsenal supporters must long for the days when the table was ignored for the first month or so, purely to avoid the reality of their disastrous start to the new campaign. After three games, the Gunners sit bottom of the Premier League table, zero goals scored and nine conceded.

The displays have been so bad, that even the Derby side of 2007/08, which ended the season with a record-low 11 points, have outperformed Mikel Arteta’s side in a number of on-field optics.

It is literally as bad as you can get.

That negativity on the field has seeped into the club from all angles, and after only three matches, Arteta and technical director Edu are already having to fend off questions about the security of their roles at the club.

The poisonous atmosphere has engulfed all things Arsenal, including their transfer business over the summer. Prior to the Premier League’s curtain raiser between Brentford and Arsenal, Gooners were pretty pleased with what was happening off the field.

Just over three weeks later, the duo are the worst thing to happen to the club, and they need to start packing their bags. Okay. Let’s just take a second to break everything down and try to make sense of a three-week period which has overshadowed an entire summer of work.

First, let’s tackle the ‘on the pitch’ issues. Yes, it has been dreadful. The lack of fight shown over the 270 minutes is disturbing, and it doesn’t speak of a group of players all pulling in the same direction.

However, when taking each of those games in isolation, rather than condensed into three consecutive nightmares, at least two of those defeats wouldn’t have come as a great shock to supporters. In fact, they’d probably expect to lose to the reigning Premier League and European champions.

The loss to newly-promoted Brentford stung, but in the context of facing a decent side in front of a packed-out home crowd for the first time in 18 months after a global pandemic with the entire world watching?

These things can happen – especially to Arsenal – and especially when they’re making an Amazon ‘All or Nothing’ documentary based on the events that unfold this season. That is very ‘on-brand.’

In a footballing sense, it’s been bad, yes, but it’s not the end of the world. Arsenal will win a game of football this season, they won’t get relegated and they’ll probably win more than they’ll lose, I’d bet.

So, let’s all just calm down and put those three matches to the back of our minds, shall we? In fact, let’s try to imagine that the trio of defeats never happened, and the season is kicking off next week.

Now, think about the business Arsenal have pulled off. The Gunners managed to convince Willian to walk away from a £20m contract, and moved on the likes of outcasts Hector Bellerin, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.

They earned a whopping £25m for Joe Willock, who, talented as he may be, seemingly had no place in the Gunners’ plans for the future, while they also didn’t allow themselves to be bullied into selling Granit Xhaka for below market value.

The decision to hand the AS Roma target a contract extension was peculiar, but once again, it felt less mental prior to his straight red card for a two-footed scissor challenge against Manchester City.

So, no matter what happens, they’ve cut some bloat and fat off the wage bill. On top of that, Arsenal have managed to persuade youth academy duo Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe to commit their long-term futures to the club, demonstrating that the future is bright, even if the present is a bit grim.

That philosophy was evident in their summer signings, too. Their six big summer buys boasted a combined age of 22, making a very-pointed nod towards a sensible project. Starlets such as Aaron Ramsdale, Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi-Lokonga may begin their north London careers as squad players, but the intention is to build them up into strong first-team figures over the coming years.

Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu are the building blocks of their new backline, with the hope that they will grow together and become a solid, organised and cohesive unit – the basis of Arsenal’s success in the past.

Then, there is the star quality of Martin Odegaard, who automatically improves the team with his introduction, and possesses that swagger and ability that comes with playing for Real Madrid.

Admittedly, the fees were excessive, and comparisons between White’s transfer sum and that of Raphael Varane will keep Twitter in business for decades. But honestly, those fees could be meaningless in a year’s time, much like the £75m Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk, which was initially ridiculed, and then lauded as genius one Champions League and one Premier League trophy later.

Martin Odegaard, Mikel Arteta

The future is bright, with or without Arteta / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

The point is, Arsenal were broken well before this transfer window opened, and they remain broken after it shut. But the summer 2021 window was a successful one for the Gunners, and it may be looked back upon as the first step towards a new era at the Emirates.

Hope and patience are hard to come by in north London, but dig deep for both, Gooners – there are the makings of a good team in there.

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