It feels like multiple years have passed since Arsenal got battered in a European Final by their cross-London rivals while also failing to show up for the last six weeks of the Premier League season.
The doom, the gloom, was seemingly endless. It looked like things were only going to get worse, and that as a collective group, Arsenal fans needed to have a long, hard look at (and probably alter) their expectations for the next five years, due to missing out on Champions League football for the third consecutive year.
Two of Arsenal fans’ biggest sources of pain and scarring seemed to be colliding in May; the collapse during an important run in the Premier League, and then, given the rumors of only having £40 million to spend over the summer, being the laughing stock of the transfer market.
Those two things threatened to overtake the swashbuckling days of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, and the smart and efficient business dealings of the early Wenger years as what people consider “Arsenal’s DNA”. The naivety that Arsenal had trademarked through the Gazidis era was an attitude that was incredibly evident in the front office set up, and it eventually seeped into the players.
Not addressing the glaring needs in the squad transfer window after transfer window, and then panic buying when they did actually buy (see: Skhodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez) is one of the reasons why Arsenal has transitioned from a club that was a Champions League staple to one that plays in Azerbaijan multiple times a year.
Well, guess what? That all has seemed to come to a halt the past couple of weeks, as Raul Sanllehi used his £45M budget to get six players in. Which included Nicolas Pepe, who is going to cost Arsenal €80mil, paid in installments, with the first payment being in the range of €17-€20mil according to multiple reports.
No big thing, just shattering Arsenal’s transfer record on one of the most coveted attacking players in Europe. That’s just Raul being Raul. Light work.
This is after reports of Arsenal missing out on Ligue 2 player Alexis Jean Louis and looking like Ryan Fraser was going to be out of Arsenal’s price range. How far we have come in such a short time.
if you would have told me Arsenal were going to sign who we ended up with when the Deadline Day clock hit zero, I would have slapped you for trying to deeply hurt my feelings.
Sanllehi wasn’t done after the Pepe deal was wrapped up. He also shipped off deadwood and fringe players, while also selling Arsenal Academy graduate Alex Iwobi for a reported £40mil.
To say Arsenal haven’t been a good selling club is an understatement, so to see Sanllehi cut ties with a player who was an Arsenal boy since he was in grade school was a shock to the system on multiple levels.
For a club that prides itself on a playing style that is spontaneous and creative, having a back room staff that is thinking the same way in the transfer market is a good sign of the club (finally) moving in the same direction.
The ruthlessness that Sanllehi showed in just his first window in charge will go down as one of the transformative points for Arsenal this millennium. The days of Dick Law missing flights, and Arsenal not dealing with certain agents because of “values”, or dealing with the wrong agent entirely (shoutout to Joel Campbell), is over.
The years of reactionary business decisions that left Arsenal with players that simply weren’t, and aren’t, good enough seems to be over as well. Old habits have to die hard, and Sanllehi is doing his best Bruce Willis impression.
So please excuse us Arsenal fans and our doubtful attitudes heading into this summer, we have baggage, more than we want.
Sanllehi and his proactive moves in the transfer market was a breath of fresh air, one that Arsenal fans have been gasping for for years. So much so that this past year’s January transfer window has been long forgotten, completely overlooked due to the shiny new signings that have strolled through Colney the past couple of weeks.
Sanllehi had a plan, and stuck with it. When he did hit roadblocks like Leipzig not negotiating Dayot Upamecano’s price, instead of throwing his hands up and accepting the loss, he gathered himself and called one of his connections, Kia Joorabchian, and got David Luiz and his endless curls to come to Arsenal for a minimal fee. Luiz plugs an important gap for a year or so, which gives Sanllehi and his crew time to narrow down their list of who will become Arsenal’s centerback of the future.
This combination of long-term planning and short-term planning is something that Arsenal haven’t done in a long time, and it feels good to finally be able to see this new regime’s vision and how they plan to carry out.
Now it’s time to actually play the games and see what the new players we have brought in can do. It’s a truly exciting time to be an Arsenal fan, and that hasn’t been the case for quite some time.