Monday, December 11, 2023

New signings demonstrate a clear plan: Arteta has to deliver

Arsenal took their summer spending to around £130m yesterday, announcing permanent deals for Martin Odegaard (£30m) and Aaron Ramsdale (£24m).

The Norwegian was first, an early morning transfer drop always puts people in a good Friday mood, and the manager sounded delighted with this piece of news, saying:

He makes us better, we needed more options, alternatives, creativity and players that can be morals for this football club. He is still a really young man but he has huge experience in different clubs already.

He has a unique talent based on the way we want to play so I’m delighted that the club has made an effort and we have Martin on a permanent deal here.

You already know what I think about this. He’s a really good player with a lot of potential, and someone who arrives with something to prove. Real Madrid to Arsenal – especially this current Arsenal – is a step down, but those who view this as a player taking the easy option are wide of the mark. He joins Arsenal at 22 ready to take on a lot of responsibility. This a team which must improve, it has to become competitive again, and Odegaard will have to shoulder some of that burden.

In terms of the fee, I think it’s great value, and it the club are criticised for getting things wrong, we have to acknowledge when they get something right, and for me this is an exceptional piece of business. The only slight downside, and it is very temporary, is that in the post-Brexit world, he requires a visa and unfortunately that hasn’t come through in time for him to be eligible for Sunday’s game against Chelsea. However, he has signed a five year deal with an option for one more, so it’s all ahead of him.

Later, in the early evening, Aaron Ramsdale’s move from Sheffield United was made official. The 23 year old arrives with plenty to prove, but Arteta sounds confident that he’s got what it takes and that fans will enjoy what he does as a player:

Aaron is a really, really talented young goalkeeper with already huge experience and an international for England, and he’s going to bring competition, which is what we want.

I think they’re going to love his personality, his character, the quality that he has as a goalkeeper and what he’s going to offer. I think he’s a young goalkeeper, but he’s got huge, huge potential.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, this signing in particular is one that Arteta himself has really pushed for. Ramsdale is his choice, and the club have given him their trust and backing. 23 is still really young in the life of a keeper, and while he’s had his ups and downs, I guess they are looking at all the experienced he’s got at a relatively young age, and banking on him maturing and developing quite quickly in his 20s.

I watched his interview on and he comes across as a really nice lad, excited about the opportunity he’s got at a club like Arsenal. He also made it clear he’s not going to sit around and that he’s going to push Bernd Leno all the way:

“Bernd’s done a fantastic job over recent seasons and I’m here to push him all the way and take his shirt.”

It will be fascinating to see how this dynamic develops. It’s clear when a club spends big on a young keeper they’re doing so because they see him as a future number 1. Nobody spends £24m on a back-up keeper, so it says something about what lies ahead for Leno. At the same time though, there’s professional pride, the desire to play and the German has to put himself in the shop window a bit if he wants a good move next summer. I can’t imagine this is going to go Lehmann/Almunia style, but the competition could be intense, which would be no bad thing.

For all the doubts that Ramsdale arrives with, I really hope he knocks it out of the park in an Arsenal shirt, because ultimately that’s going to be good for the team. Good luck to him, and welcome.

So, that’s five signings, all of them in their early 20s, and it’s something Mikel Arteta touched on in his pre-Chelsea press conference. It’s a very distinct move away from some of the stuff we’ve done in recent years:

We’re going to try and do it in the right way, so this club is stable. It is a clear indicator, the business that we are doing. The ages are between 21 and 23-years-old and it tells you the project that we are building.

We have White (23), Ramsdale (23), Odegaard (22), Lokonga (21), Tavares (21), all though the door this summer. Then when you look at the squad and you see the likes of Tierney (24), Gabriel (23), Smith Rowe (20), Balogun (20), Saka (19), Martinelli (19), there’s a solid core of young players – augmented by experience in various shapes and sizes – and you can see that, at last, there appears to be a plan.

We’ve tried the sticking plaster approach. Get the older guys in whose experience can help us get back into the Champions League etc. It’s fair to say that has been an abject failure. How quickly this comes together, it’s impossible to say. It’s also not guaranteed that it will come together, but I think there’s encouragement in that we’re acknowledging what came before didn’t work, and attempting to do something that actually makes sense.

I think our patience may well be tested in August, with Chelsea and Man City to come before the Interlull. Whatever the weight of public opinion though, I don’t think it’s realistic that a club backs a manager to the tune of £130m in the transfer market, then makes a change after just three games. Arteta’s future won’t be decided by what happens in the next two games, simple as that.

I also don’t think it’s as simple as saying ‘Judge him in May’ either. If we’re struggling mid-season, the football isn’t any better, and we’re way off the pace, you have to take stock. But if we’re in the European places, more competitive, and some of those young players are beginning to flourish, then you can argue the trajectory is what it should be. It’s an interesting one: a project like this does require patience, but the monetary outlay also demands improvement, not just in the medium/long-term.

I want Arteta to succeed, because if he does, the team does, the club does, and as fans that’s what we want, right?! However, this financial backing, with no more hiding places after a pre-season and a week to prepare for every Premier League game, means the pressure is on.

Let’s see what he’s made of.

Right, that’s your lot. We have two extra podcasts over on Patreon for you. As always we have a Premier League preview show, looking ahead to Chelsea, and there’s discussion of the new signings in our new player podcast too. Check them out here.

Have a good Saturday, back tomorrow with a full preview of tomorrow’s game.

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