6th October 2020
Arsenal are regularly criticised for their dealings in transfer windows – but the Gunners have still made some excellent signings over the past 10 years.
Few would argue that their business on the whole has not been good enough, but there is hope that things are starting to change with Mikel Arteta as manager.
We’ve ranked Arsenal’s past 10 summer transfers windows from worst to best.
Getting Rob Holding from Bolton for roughly £2million proved a canny pick-up.
But they weren’t so astute elsewhere, with over £80million spent on bringing in Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez. To put that in context, Liverpool spent roughly £50million on Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum that summer – and that was without the promise of European football.
A symbol of how Arsenal have been outflanked by better operators in recent years. And that’s not to mention allowing Serge Gnabry to leave for Werder Bremen for just £4.5million.
READ: An Xl of Arsenal academy graduates still playing elsewhere: Gnabry, Malen….
A quiet window, with Petr Cech the only arrival. He never quite replicated his best Chelsea form at Emirates Stadium – and the feeling by the end was that replacing him, with Bernd Leno, was overdue.
It was just as serene in terms outgoings, with £2million from Galatasaray for Podolski the only funds recouped, but there was also the now-infamous decision to send Gnabry to Tony Pulis’ West Brom on loan.
Arsenal went on to finish second that season, their best league placing since 2005. A settled strategy might have worked well for them, but it’s also worth asking: might they have toppled Leicester that year if they’d only pushed the boat out a bit more in the transfer market?
Another summer and another transfer record broken – but Alexandre Lacazette hasn’t managed to match his one-in-two (100 goals in 203 Ligue appearances) ratio at Arsenal.
He’s scored a respectable enough 51 goals in 131 games for the Gunners, often playing out wide, but it’s open to opinion as to whether he’s been worth £52.7million.
Then there’s Sead Kolasinac (in on a free), Oxlade-Chamberlain (out to Liverpool for £34million) and Wojciech Szczesny (to Juventus for £12million). Debatable decisions.
The post-Wenger era began with an interesting array of signings.
Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi were once tipped to be the future of Arsenal’s midfield, but both are now out on loan, though the latter still has time to establish himself.
Bernd Leno has proven himself as an excellent Premier League goalkeeper, while Stephan Lichtsteiner didn’t work out but with no harm done with a free transfer on a one-year deal. After two full seasons, there are questions to be asked about paying £17million to Borussia Dortmund for Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Yet again the club struggled to recoup funds, but offloading the likes of Joel Campbell, Jack Wilshere, Perez and Cazorla, either at the end of their contracts or sold for minimal fees, was a necessity.
The club-record £72million paid for Lille forward Nicolas Pepe was considered so extortionate that head of football Raul Sanllehi reportedly paid for it with his job after an “internal review”.
But the more time goes on, the more Pepe looks like he could justify the fee. Furthermore, selling Alex Iwobi for a £27million to Everton was something of a masterstroke, while Gabriel Martinelli looks one of the biggest bargain signings of recent years at just £6million from Brazilian side Ituano.
We’re yet to see it, but there’s hope William Saliba, secured for £27million before being loaned back to Saint-Etienne, will prove an excellent player. David Luiz and Kieran Tierney have also proved useful acquisitions, doing especially well under Arteta.
Like with Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez’s legacy at Arsenal has perhaps been tainted by his latter days there, but his arrival and early impact was just as big. There’s a strong argument that the Chilean enjoyed the best form of his club career at The Emirates, scoring 80 goals in 166 appearances for the Gunners.
Getting £17million from Barcelona for Thomas Vermaelen also has to be seen as a major plus, but on the flipside, the near £50million spent on Calum Chambers, Danny Welbeck and Mathieu Debuchy did not turn out to be a wise use of funds.
READ: Arsenal’s 15 best signings of the 2010s: Sanchez, Cazorla, Ozil…
It’s too early to place this year’s business any higher – we’ve been here before – but Arsenal would appear to have made a really transformative signing in the shape of Thomas Partey. He’s exactly what they need in midfield and arrives for a good price.
There have also been some very encouraging early signs from Gabriel Magalhaes, even at not-inconsiderable £27million, while Willian on a free is another clever signing, albeit the 32-year-old did well to land himself a three-year deal.
In terms of outgoings, Emiliano Martinez produced some excellent performances for Arsenal over the summer, but getting £15million for their back-up goalkeeper can’t be argued with as a business decision. Time will tell whether £1.8million Alex Runarsson is a good replacement.
After years of consistent top-four finishes and title challenges under Arsene Wenger, the 2011-12 season was shaping up to be an unmitigated disaster.
Newly-minted Manchester City had begun to park their tanks on the Gunners’ lawn by taking Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy, while Cesc Fabregas eventually completed his long-awaited move to Barcelona. To make matters worse, they started the season by taking one point from the first three games and suffering a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Manchester United.
But by hook and by crook, they managed to salvage something at the very end of the transfer window. Arteta, a £10million signing from Everton, provided much-leadership and guile in midfield, while Per Mertesacker (£8million from Werder Bremen) would form arguably the Gunners’ best central defensive pairing of the last 15 years alongside Laurent Koscielny.
Their eventual third-place finish seemed impossible in August, but they pulled it out of the bag on deadline day.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£12million from Southampton) proved another astute signing, but the less said the better about André Santos and Chu-Young Park.
Actually, we do have something else to say about Andre Santos…
READ: I visited Andre Santos’ restaurant and it’s exactly as bad as you’d expect
This was the window in which Arsenal sold Robin van Persie, their standout player by a distance, to Manchester United for £22.5million. For many, an unforgivable decision, especially given how important he proved in securing Sir Alex Ferguson’s last Premier League title with the club.
But in came future beloved cult hero Santi Cazorla, plus Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. For Cazorla alone, this window gets bumped right up the list.
READ: A tribute to Santi Cazorla, master of not one, not two but three roles at Arsenal
After a few fallow years in terms of signings and few new names to get truly excited about, Mesut Ozil’s deadline day signing from Real Madrid in 2013 was a true game-changer. A genuine statement signing.
The Germany international had registered a mindblowing 47 assists in just three seasons at Real Madrid and had played a major role in their scintillating 2012 La Liga title, in which a scintillating side under Jose Mourinho hit a record 100 points, scoring 121 goals. It’s easy to forget what a coup it was to get him.
Things have since turned sour at Arsenal, but few will forget how inspired he was in those few first years in north London, not least the 19 assists and six goals he registered in a phenomenal individual 2015-16 campaign.
There was little else to shout about that summer, with Mathieu Flamini returning on a free, small fees paid for Yaya Sanogo and Semi Ajayi, with Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh and Emmanuel Frimpong out the exit door.
But Ozil alone, even for a club-record £43million, made that summer one to remember for Arsenal.
The 13 players Arsenal have signed on deadline day and how they fared
Can you name every £10m+ player signed by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal?
Thomas Partey next: How Arsenal’s 16 signings from La Liga have fared
Arsenal’s last 10 signings before Stan Kroenke – and how they fared