Arsenal and the transfer market are one of the best recipes for drama, complete with twists, turns, happiness and bitterness. At the start of the January window, Unai Emery came out and declared that Arsenal only had the budget to complete loan transfers with an option (not obligation) to buy. Understandably, Arsenal tried and failed in the pursuit for Yannick Carrasco, Ivan Perisic and Christopher Nkunku. Ultimately, despite having major injuries in the defence, all Arsenal managed was to add Denis Suarez to their ranks. The upcoming transfer window poses Emery with a tough question – do they build through their youngsters or buy established players?
Is Arsenal’s Transfer Future Under Unai Emery to Build or to Buy?
Build: The Loaned Starlets
With the winger position identified as a point of concern, Reiss Nelson’s swashbuckling season with Hoffenheim means that Arsenal may have the solution on hand already. Emery is also clearly a fan of Emile Smite-Rowe. He played and impressed in the Europa League before suffering injury and moving on to RB Leipzig on loan.
Apart from these players, the likes of Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah have all made impacts in the games they have played. On a tight budget, Emery could look at building his Arsenal with these players as the bedrock. Throw in Rob Holding, Dinos Mavropanos and Calum Chambers, and Arsenal could have a squad for the ages. This is not even considering Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Lucas Torreira, who all are first-team members at this point.
Buy: Established (Ageing) Stars
Arsenal seem to already be moving down this path, adding Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sokratis and Stephan Lichtsteiner in the past few windows. Even the pursuit of Perisic points to more of these deals. When done right, this could be a title-winning strategy. A bunch of established experienced players would have the right amount of fire and graft to deliver trophies.
The downside, though, is that building such a squad would be expensive and be almost completely useless within a couple of seasons. The fact that most of these players will have no resale value means that Arsenal could be left with a ridiculous wage bill and no way out.
Build: The Tottenham Way
As much Arsenal fans may loathe Tottenham Hotspur, they have built a strong squad over the past few seasons. Mauricio Pochettino, Daniel Levy and the scouting team have unearthed some absolute gems from the lower leagues and built them to be amongst the very best the Premier League has to offer.
While Arsenal’s purchase of Matteo Guendouzi pointed to such a strategy being explored, Sven Mislintat’s exit means that Arsenal may not see many more signings of this kind. A disappointing outcome considering Guendouzi’s metronomic rise.
Buy: The Overhaul
Emery has made it clear that he doesn’t need Mesut Ozil. Arsenal may struggle to create chances, but Emery isn’t going to bring Ozil on. There are a few players at Arsenal who have no impact while creating a major hole in the wage budget. Emery needs to make a call on who has to go. Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi, Mohamed Elneny and a few others maybe shuffled off early in the next window.
Whether Arsenal will have the budget to rebuild the squad after all of these exits (along with Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck, all of whom are retiring or reaching the end of their contracts) is something only time will tell. A solid centre-back, a good attacking-midfielder and possibly a wingback are all pressing needs. An overhaul of this magnitude may finally give Emery the squad he requires but Arsenal’s weak budget and even weaker negotiating skills may make this a monumental task.
By the time the 2018/19 season comes to a close, Emery would have a series of tough questions to answer. From the team standpoint though, only one matters – build or buy? It could be the difference between a glut of silverware or a swift exit for the gaffer.