Arsenal

Arsenal youngsters provide hope for exciting future but January transfer window gamble backfires

Football.London

After nine long months, 45 games played across all competitions and two transfer windows, Arsenal’s 2021/22 campaign has concluded and there’s plenty to discuss.

There seems to be a mixed feeling amongst the fanbase with regard to how the season ended. One on hand, qualifying for Europe means it was a success, but having been in the driving seat – as recently as May 11th – to seal a return to the Champions League, it does feel like a big opportunity was missed.

As a result, this summer promises to be an intriguing one for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu as they look to ensure the progress made during the season isn’t squandered and the club do not slide back down the Premier League table next season.

READ MORE:Nicolas Pepe awful, Martin Odegaard stars, Bukayo Saka superb – Arsenal season player ratings

Now, it’s easy to forget how the season started for the Gunners. Bottom of the table after three games with no goals scored, there were whispers of relegation and talk about Arteta facing the sack before things improved steadily month on month after the September international break.

Obviously, things weren’t perfect. Over the course of any campaign, there will be highs and lows, and the 2021/22 season was no different for Arsenal. Therefore, football.london have taken a closer look at the hits and misses for the Gunners from August to May. Let us know down in the comment section below the article if you agree with us or not…

Hits

Youngsters step up

Project youth has been Arsenal’s selling point over the past nine months. Last summer the plan was to inject the first-team squad with players aged 23 or under as deals for Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Benjamin White, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Martin Odegaard ushered in a new transfer strategy under Arteta and Edu.

All six, at one point, or another played their role in the Gunners’ top-four push and subsequent fifth-placed finish and they’ll be better for the experience next season. Then there’s Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli who have stepped up at crucial moments.

The quartet ended the campaign in double figures for combined goals and assists. The former pair are contenders for Arsenal’s Player of the Season, Martinelli’s form earned him a call-up to the Brazil senior national team and who knows what would have happened had Nketiah been introduced a game or two earlier.

In the cases of Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe and Martinelli they are among the best in their position in the country for their age group so the future is certainly bright whereas Nketiah’s somewhat unexpected rise to prominence could end up saving the club millions of pounds in the summer transfer window.

United fanbase

“Obviously now we need an immediate impact, we need to start winning games, we need to start to raise the level of confidence of the players, and finally we need the fans.” These were the words of Mikel Arteta upon his appointment as head coach in December 2019 as he spoke about uniting what was, at the time, a very divided Arsenal fanbase.

“We need to engage them, we need to be able to transmit with our behaviours, our intentions, what we want to bring to this football club. I think that’s the only way, where we give them a little bit, they give us a little bit, and suddenly we feel that connection, because when you plug these two things together, it is so powerful.

“I’ve been outside this football club and when you’re outside you look at it and you say ‘wow, this is massive’. So this is how I’m feeling. There is so much to do, I am so excited, and I think we have the right team, I have many conversations with the senior people at the club, and I feel we’re on the same path. So I have a good feeling.”

Home games against Tottenham and Aston Villa this season, in particular, as well as many away games, have highlighted the connection between the players and the fans. That could be as a result of a season of playing without a crowd due to the Covid-19 pandemic, or supporters could simply be buying into the process.

Big game results

This, admittedly, might be a contentious one given how the season ended (more on that later) but Arsenal have certainly turned a corner when it comes to getting results in the big games now. Home wins over Tottenham and Manchester United as well as beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is evidence of

Furthermore, winning away at West Ham under immense pressure was a massive test passed and there were encouraging signs in the home games against Manchester City and Liverpool. More of the same will be required next season if the Gunners are to establish themselves as a top-four side again.

Misses

January transfer window gamble

Arsenal let six first-team players depart in the January transfer window either on loan or permanently. With no European football as a distraction, going out of the FA Cup at the third round stage, there was an argument that Arteta didn’t need to work with a large squad during the second half of the season.

That’s fair, but did they need to sell Calum Chambers for a nominal fee to Aston Villa in January? Could Ainsley Maitland-Niles not have been used at full-back or in central midfield during the injury crisis? Letting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave was probably the best decision due to disciplinary issues, but was not replacing him a good idea?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Had Arteta foreseen what was going to unfold between February and May then perhaps he would have pushed even harder for a midfield signing or looked to bring in a striker or not been so quick to let fringe players depart.

At the end of the day, Arsenal missed out on a top-four finish by two points. Turning one of their six losses from the final 11 games into a win would have been enough for Champions League football and everything points towards the January transfer window gamble backfiring. Read more – Football.London

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