Rivals fume as Arteta builds a squad two-deep at every spot…


Arsenal have found a way to imitate Guardiola’s approach at a fraction of the price—a squad two-deep at every position, including a complete overhaul of the squad as well? Knock me over with a feather. As it turns out, being Pep’s cone-man comes with certain advantages, namely, that you can “copy” his tactics without spending £250m per window on a squad that was already among the best and most-expensive in the land. The project’s not quite complete, but let’s have a look all the same…

As you gaze upon that graphic, consider the possibilities. Yes, it does depend on us signing Raya to create depth at the GK position. However, perhaps for lack of space, here’s what it doesn’t include:

  • Smith Rowe could also play at LW along with Martinelli and Trossard (it was Martinelli’s injury, after all, that gave the Smith his chance in the first place).
  • Trossard could also play at CF, a role he’s played to some aplomb in various quarters (even if he’s re-defined the role, drifting out wide to create space for other to bomb forward).
  • Havertz could pop up almost anywhere from the #8 he might presumably play to a second striker, false nine, or out-and-out striker.
  • Tomiyasu has played at LB, pocketing no less an opponent than Mohamed Salah.
  • New signing Timber can offer cover at RB, CB, and, perhaps, in a pinch, DM.
  • Rice could be trained up to play a role more-assertive than the DM he played at West Ham. #6? Sure. #8? Hmm…

If you’re finding any of this hard to picture on paper, imagine how hard it may be for an opposing manager to picture it on the pitch. Will it be Zinchenko inverting from the left, or will it be Timber inverting from the right? For the former, how do you counter the interplay between White and Saka and Ødegaard (yes, I do love a bit of polysyndeton)? For the latter, how do you counter the swirling vortex that will consist in varying degrees of Martinelli, Trossard, Smith Rowe, and Havertz? It’s madness, I tell you. Benny Hill could not have imagined high jinks of a higher order. If you’re not hearing Yakety Saks by now, I’ve not done my job.

What’s more, we’ve seen this club do its business on a relative shoe-string. That might seem like a madness, given that we’ve spent almost £200m this window on top of having spent some £300m in the previous two seasons. That’s quite a shoe-string…until you consider that we’ve seen Arteta ship out almost every single player he inherited when he took over in December 2019 and replaced them with a dizzying quickness. It could not have been easy to shed this club of overpaid deadwood like Mkhitaryan, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Ozil, Sokratis, Torreira, Luiz, Aubemayang, and Lacazette, among others, but what is one to do when one inherits players on bloated wages? Yes, it might have been nice to sell for a higher fee here and there, but look back on that list of names and tell me who we could have sold for more.

While there is much to be made of our spending over the last three seasons, that is but a drop in the bucket compared to what Man City, Chelsea, and Man U have spent over a similar period to improve squads that were already among the best and/or most-expensive in the Prem, if not further afield. Since Arteta’s arrival, Arsenal have spent roughly £26m per player on 21 transfers for a total of some £546m. In the same period, Man U have spent roughly £38m per player on just 13 players to improve a squad that already included players such as Rashford, de Gea, Fernandes, Fred, Dalot, Lukaku, Matic, Magurie, and Pogba, who were each expensive if not productive. Man City spent a similar £38m per player on just 11 players to add to a squad that already included Mahrez, Rodri, Cancelo, Laporte, Mendy, Walker, Aguero, De Bruyne—ok, I have to stop there. If I haven’t made my point by now, I’ll need a sharper sword.

For as much as has been about how much Arsenal have spent, just as little has been made about how little Arsenal have spent in the preceding years. Yes, there have been the one-off splurges on Ozil or Sanchez or Aubemayang, but it’s only been in the last few seasons that Arsenal have spent on a level commensurate with those with whom we hope to compete if not defeat.

Our rivals will fume and fuss about our spending as if they haven’t watched on with vindictive glee as Wenger refused to spend above his own valuation of this or that player, opting instead for a Sanogo, a Gervinho, an Arteta (yeah, I went there…), a Squillaci. We’ve spent the better part of the last fifteen years being pennywise and then a few years pound-foolish before finally finding something in between.

Now that this club is finally finding its financial footing, various other clubs too numerous to be named are getting their knickers in a twist. ‘Twixt the two, I’d cast my lot with the former. It’s feeling less and less like a careless roll of the dice.

Average rating 4.7 / 5. Vote count: 27

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

20 thoughts on “Rivals fume as Arteta builds a squad two-deep at every spot…

  1. makhapilajames

    Great Article. A few points I would like to air:

    Harvertz was a MUST Have

    Nobody envisaged Arsenal going for the former German wonderkid. Having risen to prominence at a fairly quick pace, the former Leverkusen ace found it fairly hard to fit in a disorganized and dysfunctional Chelsea system. The rotating door manager policy employed by the club did not help. Playing under Lanyard, Tuchel, Porter and Lampard again, he only showed glimpses of what he could offer. One thing is certain, he was never and will never be a number nine, at least not in a 3-4-3 system. Given the chance to exploit his creative capabilities and instinctive running ability from a deeper advanced 8/ left 10 position, I believe he will prove to be an astute addition to our attack. Sit tight and watch the renaissance of the German wonderkid under the tutelage of Arteta.

    Raya Raises Ramsdale

    There is so much bed-wetting and baseless rumbling brought by our interest in Raya, the Brentford goalie. Some feel that he is a little bit better than Rambo but not worth the £40 million price tag being touted. I have watched him against us and especially in that VAR-controversy game we played against Brentford last season. He is assured. That is where he is better than Ramsdale. Rambo is a brilliant character. Great for l’espirit d’equipe. It must be said, he has errors in his game that have proven costly in the past. In preseason, it has been evident that his concentration levels sometimes fault him when most needed. That being said, I feel Raya’s arrival will push him to a greater level of efficiency in the goal post. He will be better, if not, we will have an equally brilliant goalie to step in when needed. Imagine a scenario where Rambo gets injured for 5 months à la Neuer last season and we have to rely on Turner for the duration. What would that do to our tittle aspirations? Turner is great at actually keeping the goal but is nowhere near as good with his feet. Distribution from the back is key to the way we play and Raya gives as good as Ramsdale.

    Otherwise, looking forward to the new season and especially the upcoming community shield game. It’s high time Arteta drew some blood from his former mentor.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      well-said! I addressed the Raya rumours in a previous post. Ramsdale, not facing any real competition for the spot, has gotten sloppy. He’s young and probably prone to believing he’s better than he really is – and the occasional spectacular save fuels that feeling while convincing fans of the same. Signing someone like Raya would put Ramsdale on notice.

      As for Havertz, I do share the feeling he’ll rediscover the form that attracted so much interest for him in the first place. He’s not the first player to look confused and out of sorts at Chelsea in the last few seasons. Let’s hope the stability & structure he finds at Arsenal rejuvenate him.

  2. consolsbob

    Very interesting Jon. I have never thought of actually working out the relative spend of clubs in that way. Of course, we know the other side of the coin, or in this case the empty beaked bean can that we received for a squad load of players.

    Painful but perhaps necessary for an ambitious club. We just are not used to it.

    I would take Raya over Ramsdale all the time. As our friend above says, Ramsdale is a great character but a dodgy keeper. If he does arrive, he will be No.1 very quickly.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      transfermarkt is great for making these breakdowns. For all of the whingeing and hand-wringing over our summer spend, we’re still newcomers at this particular poker match, and a good deal of all of that fuss is how quickly we’ve shown how well we can spend. Aside from Pepe, there really hasn’t been a flop to speak of (and he was more a Sannlehi signing anyway).

      On the selling side, we just haven’t had players worth selling, and that in and of itself is indicative of how devoid of real talent Emery and Arteta had to work with. We’d done some good business in selling Willock and Iwobi, but that’s really it. That will start to turn around as the players in this squad improve and attract attention from other clubs – and we find it easier to sell a key player who, instead of standing head and shoulders above his teammates, is one of many in a squad brimming with talent. Selling someone like van Persie was devastating for the squad’s confidence not to mention its overall quality. Selling someone like Martinelli (not that I’d want that to happen anytime soon) would not have nearly as deep an impact – and we’d probably get a tidy fee with which to lure players already eager to join this squad.

  3. Positive pete

    Yes .’ Bedwetting’ can be a problem.Very prevalent on one or two blogs,notably LeGrove & London is Red( extreme) .

    1. jw1

      No doubt pete! Long been a lurker at LG– but won’t post there.
      Almost requires a safety helmet. ⛑

      See you in several places– and enjoy your comments.

  4. Jon Shay Post author

    I’d be surprised to see Arsenal blogs complaining too urgently about where we’re going. I’d once been among the most-ardent believers in the “self-sustaining” model that Wenger was so (in)famously committed to but see the necessity of having an owner who’s willing to spend. We’d been fighting against these other clubs with one hand tied behind our backs, and we’re the ones who did the tying!

    1. consolsbob

      It’s not the blog, which I too read and find interesting. The blogger is a true fan and sways like one. His readers though are a right bunch of flakes. He knows it and expects them to meltdown every time something goes wrong. Doesn’t seem to bother him.

  5. jw1

    Ben Cottrell is leaving the club. Joining Slovenian side NS Mura in a permanent deal.

    Few years back he looked like ‘one for the future’, with Arteta giving him minutes at the end of an EL group stage game (vs Dundalk in ’20).

    Cottrell will be the first Englishman to ever play for NS Mura; a side who beat Sp*rs in the Europa Conference League a couple of seasons ago.
    (Because of course they did!)

  6. A Simple Truth

    another series of cherry-picked takes that caters far too much to the thirsty bunch…considering your titular choice and disingenuous financial arguments, if I were in the room at the time that it was written I would discreetly ask you to blink once if you’re being held against your will by Arteta himself…half my kingdom for even a modicum of balance Jon

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      You are the Prospero to my Ariel, perhaps. You surely know that you’ll find an almost Panglossian optimism here, but I’d quibble against the disingenuous financial arguments. Those are cold, hard facts pulled from each club’s spending over the last few seasons. Those can’t really be argued. What can be argued is what they signify. To me, they signify owners willing to back a promising new manager with a clear vision for the squad he wants. To you, they may signify a fraud, a snake-oil merchant of sorts who’s beguiled those owners to spend and spend and spend without any real purpose or direction. Perhaps I’m distorting your position, but I don’t mean to do so to set up and then knock down a straw man. I do find it hard to believe that Stan Kroenke, he who has amassed a fortune and a portofolio of franchises that are not just financially profitable to him but also successful on the various pitches, courts, rinks, gridirons, and other grounds on which they play, has been somehow hoodwinked by a wet-behind-the-ears charlatan who is simultaneously clever enough to do that hoodwinking and also that same charlatan.

      1. A Simple Truth

        optimism be damned, your cup runneth over…firstly, context matters and in this particular case you hid the incredibly unflattering asset management story behind your carefully plucked financial facts…secondly, the very notion that our present manager has had a “clear vision” throughout his tenure is downright laughable, especially in light of his script flipping past and positional aboutfaces…thirdly, as I’ve expressed in the past, I’m well-versed when it comes to most things pertaining to Kroenke’s sporting empire and until more recently relative mediocrity has been his claim to fame…when he did finally loosened his purse strings, he did so knowing full-well that none of the coaches/managers he put in charge had any history of championship success whatsoever, so wet-behind-the-ears and massive short-term spending is all he really knows…finally, when I simply asked for a modicum of balance, instead of tempering your Kool-Aid inspired stance, you doubled-down on your original rose-tinted narrative…to each his own, I guess

  7. makhapilajames

    A Simple Truth

    Arteta has has been on a good trajectory since he took over as Arsenal manager. He had to plug through an unsuited squad, won the FA cup with fairly average players beating Man City and Chelsea on the way, and now he is coming to his own with a squad that he (With Edu’s blessing) has recruited. I find it completely childish and ignorant for someone to be seeking fault with what Arsenal are doing ATM. FFS.. What do you and your mates really want?

    Even if it’s recency bias, you should remember that last year at such a time nobody thought Arsenal would challenge. Leave alone challenging, most pundits did not even rank us among the favourite for top 4. You are entitled to your opinion of course, but for me and so may other Arsenal fans online and in the stadium, we are fully behind the manager and what he is doing for the club. Apparently, even the owners do. So, just enjoy the journey or ship out. You are among the sorry lot of Arsenal fans who always find something to complain about even when things are fly.

      1. Mike VW

        oddly unhelpful comment. why don’t you respond to an points makhapilajames actually made? Maybe they make tthe case too strong?


Leave a Reply