On yesterday’s Arsecast Extra we were asked a question about our best January signings of all time. This was obviously inspired by the hat-trick of assists that Leandro Trossard provided in our 3-0 win over Fulham. A corner for Gabriel, a cross for Gabriel Martinelli, and a cross for Martin Odegaard. Two of those assists were with his left foot too.
There’s no question he has been an excellent addition to the squad, not least because he provided some depth and cover at centre-forward too. Something we’ve needed to give Eddie Nketiah a breather, and in light of the injury situation which meant he was needed up front.
There were quite a few people on Twitter wondering whether the omission of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was deliberate, and I can tell you honestly I simply forgot all about him. I don’t know if that says something about me, or if the way the player left the club – also in January – is the reason. Either way, it wasn’t spite. I don’t harbour any ill-will towards Aubameyang really.
He was instrumental in that very important FA Cup win in 2020, a trophy that gave Mikel Arteta some goodwill in the bank that was perhaps crucial for him during more difficult times subsequently. It’s also worth remembering that he arrived at a turbulent time in the club’s history – the manager who signed him was gone in less than 6 months, Unai Emery arrived and departed in 18 months, and then the Arteta era began. He scored a lot of goals in that difficult time, and Aubameyang was always the same guy, the same player, an out and out goalscorer often used in other ways, but the team and the dressing room evolved during his time.
Whatever happened to precipitate his departure is water under the bridge now, it’s a bit sad he ended up at a hellhole like Chelsea, but that’s football. I also believe that while the way he left and our inability to find cover last January had a significant impact on our final position last season, it’s part of why we are where we are this season too. Positives and negatives.
I noticed Tim from 7amkickoff did a bit about January signings and their stats (still got it, Tim!), reproduced below:
Leandro Trossard: 2022/23 – 1 goal, 5 assists (in 6 matches so far)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 2017/18 – 10 goals, 4 assists
Andrei Arshavin: 2008/09 – 6 goals, 8 assists
Emmanuel Adebayor: 2005/06 – 4 goals, 4 assists
The Arshavin one sticks in the mind most clearly from those because of what a saga it was. The deal was finally done after the deadline, with special dispensation, and that four goal haul at Anfield was a remarkable individual performance. I’ve often wondered how players who do something as extraordinary as that must feel afterwards knowing it wasn’t enough to take all three points.
When he raced through to make it 4-3 in the 90th minute he must have thought that would win it, but it’s fair to say that defensively we were a bit crap back then. One of Arsene’s brain farts in thinking Mikael Silvestre was in any way good enough didn’t help, and Yossi Benayoun – latterly of this parish for one season – snatched an equaliser. That was our second gutting 4-4 draw of the season too.
Beyond the players that Tim has mentioned, you can go back to 2003-04 when we brought in the late Jose Antonio Reyes from Sevilla. Let’s remember, this was an Arsenal side with Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Kanu, Sylvain Wiltord and hot-prospect Jeremie Aliadiere on the books, but we broke our transfer record that January to add another quality forward to the books.
It’s not as if he was prolific, but his contribution to the Invincible season was crucial. He scored three times against Chelsea (two in the FA Cup, that rocket!), and one in the Champions League (too soon), but after we’d won the league at White Hart Lane, we still had four games to navigate to achieve something many thought impossible. It’s something Arsene spoke about a lot, the difficulty of keeping the motivation high after you had achieved your season goal of becoming champions.
Those last four games were tough for that reason. There was a stupefying 0-0 draw with Birmingham; Reyes scored an equaliser against a Portsmouth side flirting with relegation to get a 1-1 draw there, before he got the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win away at Fulham. We know what happened on the final day against Leicester at Highbury, but while Reyes’ goals are hardly the most exciting of that incredible season, they were so, so important.
Obviously things didn’t really work out for him at Arsenal, but in terms of his impact on one of the club’s most impressive achievements, his name is indelibly linked to that. The money we paid for him is worth it in that context.
Of course we have had a few underwhelming January arrivals too, but it’s also worth mentioning the arrival of Martin Odegaard when he came on loan. I was impressed enough during that period to want us to make it permanent if possible, and that short spell – even if it was impacted by injury – was enough to create the bonds between the player and Arsenal to make it happen. There was more to it, we had to satisfy Real Madrid’s demands, but fast forwarding to now, £35m looks like an absolute bargain when you see what other clubs are paying for players who will probably never have 50% of the impact the Norwegian has had on our team.
Anyway, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast, it’s below, and over on Patreon we round up the weekend’s Premier League action in The 30.