Arsenal: No signings better than old signings

Arsenal, Reiss Nelson, Mikel Arteta (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Arsenal, Reiss Nelson, Mikel Arteta (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images) /

Amid the financial pressures of COVID-19, Arsenal are being linked with several older players on cheap deals. Given the current make-up of the squad, no signings would be a smarter move than old signings.

With the coronavirus pandemic postponing the current season for the best part of three months — and potentially longer as we do not know if, how and when the season will resume at this early stage — football clubs are hanging on. They have little to no revenue, face another season with no matchday income as matches behind closed doors seem inevitable, and are having to scramble to get their finances in order.

For Arsenal, this means adapting in the transfer market. They are more dependent on matchday income than any of the other top six but have been promised by the Kroenkes that their financial pitfalls will be covered, though this will not include any added investment.

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This week, Raul Sanllehi told staff not to expect any big-name signings this summer, per the London Evening Standard, while there is a growing acceptance that if the club is to add to the squad in the window, it will be on cut-price deals, loans, or free-agent signings.

This is mirrored in the names that have been linked with the club. Bar Thomas Partey, the most tangible links feature moves for Willian, who will be available on a free transfer when his Chelsea contract expires at the end of the season, or Pablo Mari and Cedric, two players already on loan at the club but could remain on a permanent deal, Mari with a very palatable £8 million clause and Cedric on a free.

In fact, Willian, via Brazilian YouTube channel Desimpedidos, said that he would be willing to move to a rival club. He also said that his family is happy in London, very much leaving the door open to a move to the Emirates.

But deals like the Willian one, or signing Lavyin Kurzawa at left-back or Cedric at right-back, are not the types of smart and progressive moves that clubs embarking on a rebuild make. These players are not significant upgrades on the younger players they would be replacing.

Take Willian as a prime example. Why should Arsenal sink a six-figure salary into the Brazilian’s latter years of his career when he is already slowing down when they have Reiss Nelson who is ready and raring to play and has his whole career ahead of him? Nelson has the higher ceiling, the long-term value, and is far cheaper. Why stunt his progression by bringing Willian in?

And the same argument can be made for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Cedric and Bukayo Saka and Ryan Fraser and any other average veteran taking minutes away from a young prospect. In fact, if the Gunners cannot make signings that offer significant steps up at certain positions, they would be better not making the signing at all; if they are only going to add average veterans, it offers no value.

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So, as Arsenal prepare for what could be one of the most disrupted transfer windows since World War Two, they must focus on quality, not quantity. Adding players for the sake of it does not help. As such, no signings would be better than old signings.