The 2016 summer transfer window has been one of monumental, record-breaking change in the football world.
With English clubs now having an unprecedented amount of money due to the Premier League’s lucrative TV deal, total spending for the window is set to reach £1 billion for the first time ever. Thirteen out of the 20 Premier League clubs have broken their transfer record this summer, including Manchester United’s world-record £89 million signing of Paul Pogba from Juventus.
So where do Arsenal fit into all of this?
It’s been a typically testing summer, with the club yet again waiting until later in the window to take care of business and, as a result, leaving the team looking undercooked for the start of the season. Thankfully Arsenal got the required business done in the end, but at the cost of a potential 5 points.
With the window finally shut, here are Arsenal’s notable ins and outs from this summer. The key word here is notable—keep in mind that I’ve only included significant transfers of first team players.
Granit Xhaka, central midfielder, £30m from Borussia Monchengladbach
With all the fuss about how desperately Arsenal needed a striker and a center-back this summer, the signing of Granit Xhaka went under the radar a bit. The Swiss midfielder seems to enjoy pinging diagonal long balls as much as he does charging into a 50-50, obtaining a fascinating blend of tenacity and craft to his play.
The 24-year-old gave a glimpse of what he’s all about against Watford and it already seems like he’ll be a key player for the Gunners this season.
Takuma Asano, striker, £800,000 from Sanfrecce Hiroshima
I can’t pretend to know much about the little-known Japanese striker besides the fact that his name is quite fun to say, but winning the J League’s “Rookie of the Year” award and a pair of goals scored at the Olympics for Japan is certainly promising.
After failing to obtain a work permit to play in England, the 21-year-old will go on loan to Stuttgart for the season. Wenger has said that Asano is “one for the future,” so keep an eye out for him in Germany.
Rob Holding, center back, £2m from Bolton Wanderers
After a baptism of fire in the form of a 4-3 home defeat to Liverpool on the opening day of the season, Holding has put in some impressive performances alongside Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the Arsenal defense. With an experienced partner next to him, the 20-year-old has settled into Arsenal’s back line with surprising ease, already dealing with the likes of Jamie Vardy, Troy Deeney, and Odion Ighalo.
Considering his age, Holding looks remarkably poised and assured at the back. It’s early days, but £2 million looks like an absolute bargain for the young Englishman. Hats off to Wenger for this one.
Lucas Pérez, striker, £17.1m from Deportivo La Coruña
While Lucas might not be THE striker Arsenal fans have been craving for years, he’s an exciting signing nonetheless. Not only does he offer the Gunners a much-needed alternative to Olivier Giroud, but his versatility means he can play anywhere across the front line.
Having only just proven himself at hometown club Deportivo La Coruña with a 19-goal season after years of being loaned out, the 27-year-old will be hungry to prove himself on the biggest stage of his career thus far. The Spaniard’s explosive pace and nasty streak have led some to call him “the Galician Jamie Vardy,” but it remains to be seen how he adapts to English football.
Shkodran Mustafi, center back, £35m from Valencia CF
Not only did Arsene Wenger spend more than £30 million on one player this summer, but he did it twice!
£35 million might be a lot for a defender, but it seems like money well spent when you consider the fact that Chelsea spent £32 million to bring back David Luiz after refusing to pay an absurd £60 million for Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
At the prime age of 24, Mustafi can be the natural heir to Per Mertesacker as Koscielny’s defensive partner. First, however, he’ll have to get Rob Holding out of the team.
Wojciech Szczesny, AS Roma, season-long loan
Arsenal’s Polish keeper will spend a second consecutive season on loan at Roma after making 34 Serie A appearances for the club in 2015-16.
At 26 years of age, Szczesny still appears to lack the professionalism and attitude to succeed at Arsenal as he was yet again caught smoking last season following Roma’s 6-1 Champions League defeat to Barcelona. His recent moment of madness in a Champions League qualifier against Porto reminds us that he still hasn’t ironed the propensity to commit costly errors out of his game.
Joel Campbell, Sporting Lisbon, season-long loan
The loaning out of Joel Campbell was a move that left a number of fans scratching their heads. During the limited play time that he was given last season, the Costa Rican always worked hard both to create something going forward and to win the ball back in defense, making him an extremely useful squad player.
It turns out that Campbell’s loan move abroad—the 5th in his Arsenal career—came from his desire to play first team football rather than Wenger’s lack of faith in the player. Respect to Campbell for wanting to play more, and let’s hope he does well with Sporting Lisbon.
Calum Chambers, Middlesbrough, season-long loan
It became clear that Chambers had fallen down the pecking order at the Emirates when Wenger picked new signing Rob Holding to start alongside Laurent Koscielny in Arsenal’s last two Premier League matches.
Still just 21, the former Southampton man is extremely young for a center back and still has a long way to go in his career. A loan spell at another Premier League club and the consistent playing time that comes with it should give Arsenal a better sense of where Chambers currently is in his development.
Serge Gnabry, Werder Bremen, undisclosed fee
A transfer that came out of left field, as Gnabry was expected to stay at Arsenal this season and fight for his place after tearing up the Olympics in Rio with six goals for Germany.
Instead, the 21-year-old will ply his trade at Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. It’s a shame to see an exciting youngster depart on a permanent basis, but we wish Gnabry the best as he returns to his homeland.
Jack Wilshere, AFC Bournemouth, season-long loan
Rarely has there been a transfer that made Arsenal fans feel as many emotions as they felt regarding Jack Wilshere’s loan move to AFC Bournemouth. There’s something surreal and slightly sad about seeing the Arsenal midfielder hold up a Bournemouth jersey on deadline day. No disrespect to Bournemouth—an incredible club with a brilliant story—but remember that Wilshere won the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2011 (!) and was supposed to be much further down the line in his career by now.
Alas, injuries have taken their toll on the 24-year-old and he now finds himself in need of some serious playing time to get back on his feet and playing to his full potential. It’s a testament to Arsenal’s options in the middle of the park, too, that the club felt the need to loan Wilshere out in order for him to play regularly. After all, he’d have to compete with Mesut Özil, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, and Mohamed Elneny to get into Arsenal’s midfield—that’s quite a tall order.
While it would’ve been great to watch Wilshere break into the Arsenal starting XI, at the end of the day it’s in Wilshere’s best interest to spend a season somewhere he can consistently play Premier League football and get his career back on track.
Best of luck, Jack.
Overall Grade: B+
While Arsenal didn’t get the coveted marquee striker that fans wanted, they did sign a central midfielder and a center back—two key areas that needed strengthening. Granit Xhaka could very well anchor the Gunners’ midfield for years to come, while Shkodran Mustafi is as good of a center back as we could have wished for. The purchase of Rob Holding looks quite clever, too, and Lucas Perez might raise a few eyebrows this season.
Although some of the last-minute loan departures leave the squad a bit lacking in terms of attacking options, most gooners will be satisfied with this transfer window and excited for the season that lies ahead.
Follow me on Twitter: @Gunner_NYC