The transfer window is closed and with it, a fan's dreams of a team getting a miraculous player in are dashed. This is how it felt yesterday online.
The optimism around Arsenal has been amazing, and the performances of the team have warranted that optimism. Sure you could say that it was an easy schedule (and I have) but Arsenal still went and with one exception dominated the teams that lined up against them. Even in the one exception Crystal Palace, there was a period of dominance before things got a bit more even.
The xG difference in Arsenal's matches has been +0.1, +2.0, +1.5, +2.3, and +2.5. When a team is putting up those kinds of numbers good things are happening for them.
What I think I saw yesterday is that the pain of last season is still right there, the scars of finishing 8th back to back are not fully healed. While the vibes are good, it is not fully trusted and I am concerned how the environment might be if Arsenal stop winning every match.
The trigger yesterday was the Douglas Luiz saga.
Luiz is a player that I think Arsenal have been tracking for a while, it makes perfect sense, he is Brazilian, he has some Pep links and the age works with where Arsenal are in their cycle.
This was my takeaway after doing some stats scouting on him yesterday:
It is hard to get actually excited about a player that I think is truly a backup. His career trajectory under different managers and in multiple different systems all show roughly the same thing, an average to an average plus player. I don’t think that there would be any situation where if other players were fit that he would play ahead of any of the current midfielders
He is not a bad player but I don’t think that there is a ton of upside in this where he turns into a starting caliber player for a team that is top four. Maybe that is okay and having a solid all-around player on the bench is good but this isn’t really a move that raises the overall talent level at Arsenal or pushes any of the current starting players with a player that might take their spot.
It felt like he was a player Arsenal were comfortable with, he didn't come with a ton of risk of not being able to play in the Premier League, and with his contract situation, the club thought maybe they could avoid some of the deadline day desperation markups. Unfortunately, Aston Villa decided that the player with them until at least January with the distinct possibility of getting 0 in transfer fee was worth more than the 25 million plus pounds Arsenal offered.
From Aston Villa's perspective, I can kind of see it. Their team is kind of a mess right now. They have talented players on the team but they are much worse than the sum of their parts right now. While it isn't probable, the face a real risk of falling into a relegation fight (see Everton last year who were very similar) and that comes with a massive financial cost. Keeping Luiz for anything but stupid money to help keep them up is something that probably has some sense to it.
From Arsenal's perspective, I think they made the right choice too. Transfer negotiations can have a bit of game theory in them, where this is a repeated game where if other teams that sell see that a team will repeatedly bid against themselves into fees that are very high, holding out and waiting for that to happen will be how teams deal with you. To keep teams honest a team will have to truly have a best and final offer and be willing to walk away and take some short-term pain. I think that Arsenal did this with both Neto and Luiz, I don't doubt that Arsenal would have loved to have them on the team right now but they were not willing to blow up their valuation of the players and bid against themselves ala Manchester United and Antony.
That leaves us looking back at the transfer window and thinking how well Arsenal did. Arsenal brought in Gabriel Jesus for 47 million, Oleksander Zinchenko for 32 million, Fabio Vieira for 32 million, Matt Turner for 6 million, and Marquinhos for 3 million. They also brought back William Saliba from loan and have integrated him into the first-team squad.
Overall that is two starters, a rotation player with a lot of upside, and a lottery ticket prospect. If you want to count Saliba that is a third starter or very least major rotation upgrade. Arsenal also did this while really only losing one player from their starting eleven last year in Alexandre Lacazette.
Overall Arsenal added first eleven talent to a team that was on the cusp of top four last season, that is really good and I think on its own means that this was a successful transfer window that supports the goal of Arsenal being a serious contender (if not slight favorites at this point) for top four. Arsenal were not perfect in the window, they didn't get much in the way of fees for players that they no longer wanted, they also had areas where they could have potentially added more depth.
Given the totality of the window, how Arsenal learned from their mistakes of waiting to get key business done last year, taking advantage of getting the key players all in before the start of the season, and the overall improvement in quality I give this window an 8 out of 10.
Over the last two summers, Arsenal have really overhauled their squad, they have invested massively into this team, it isn't perfect yet but it does seem like there is a plan that this team is building towards.
Week 6 odds
It is a fast turnaround after the midweek matches so let's get straight into things.
The weekend kicks off with the Merseyside Derby, they like to say anything can happen in a Derby but man I really don't think anything but a Liverpool win will happen here and the odds agree.
There are six 7am (3pm) kickoffs, I don't have a strong thought on picking one of these so I will probably stick to watching the NBC Goal Rush program that helps to follow them all.
The late Saturday match is the next sacrificial lamb for Erling Haaland to score at will against. The question I am interested in is whether City can beat the performance marker that Arsenal laid down in this match (probably).
Sunday features two matches with Brighton taking on a bafflingly bad Leicester City.
Then finally ending with Manchester United vs Arsenal.
This is a bit closer than it would have been a couple of weeks ago, but Arsenal are still favorites here. Manchester United have now won three in a row but they have not been especially convincing in those wins. The interesting thing is that it looks like they have pretty much abandoned the heavy-possession style (that will probably be the case here too) that Ten Hag seemed to prefer in the Eredivise. It would be really nice to see Arsenal continue their unbeaten run up against their biggest test of the young season.