Arsenal have often been accused of lacking a plan in the transfer market.
Just take the centre back position for example. At the start of last season the Gunners had as many as nine players in this position on their books, each of which showed the various different approaches they had taken to recruitment.
There was Rob Holding, the £2million signing from Bolton brought in under the Arsene Wenger tradition of bargain-spotting. Shkodran Mustafi, whose purchase was heavily influenced by the stats-based approach of Jaeson Rosenfeld and StatDNA, was also on the books.
Then there was Dinos Mavropanos, the unknown Greek defender spotted by the ‘diamond eye’ of Sven Mislintat. His compatriot Sokratis had been the type of grizzled veteran preferred by Unai Emery, while David Luiz and Pablo Mari had been brought in via the contacts-based approach favoured by Raul Sanllehi.
This summer though that finally looks set to change.
Goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo joined Smith Rowe and fellow youngsters Flo Balogun, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in becoming players who have committed their futures to the Emirates, while Kieran Tierney has also signed a deal to stay in North London for the long term.
Those player retentions have been supplemented by the arrivals of 21-year-old pair Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga from Benfica and Anderlecht respectively showing that a clear trend is starting to emerge among Arsenal’s recruitment.
Not one of those players is over the age of 24 as the Gunners look to build Mikel Arteta a squad capable of competing in the upper echelons of the Premier League for years to come.
This strategy looks set to continue with the next piece of business Arsenal are expected to complete this summer, with the £50million arrival of 23-year-old centre back Ben White imminent football.london understands.
The Gunners business shows no signs of stopping there as they look to add several more players to bolster the existing group.
Again the policy of recruiting players of a younger demographic can be seen in their pursuit of a creative midfielder to provide back up to Smith Rowe.
Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard is near the top of the list of candidates the Gunners are looking at this summer for a fee believed to be in the region of £40m and is just 23-years-old. Lyon’s Houssem Aouar is 22 meanwhile and James Maddison of Leicester City is a relatively old 24-years-of age.
Again the trend continues with the central midfielders they are looking at. Yves Bissouma, Ruben Neves, Sander Berge and Manuel Locatelli have all been sounded out a potential Granit Xhaka replacements for fees believed to be in the region of £30-40m, with not one of them being over 24.
Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale and Tammy Abraham of Chelsea who have both been linked with £30m and £40m moves to North London are also both under 24 demonstrating the clear profile Arsenal are after in the market this summer.
When Edu first took over as technical director signings of then 29-year-old Cedric and 32-year-old Willian created some concerns over the Brazilian’s ability to look after the Gunners squad in the long-term.
Now though it appears those signings have stopped as a new era of squad building is ushered in at the Emirates.
That’s not to say they will never happen again. In an interview with his fellow Invincible Gilberto Silva, Edu admitted that his role as technical director was “finding the balance in squad building between very short, medium and long-term periods.”
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The contract extension handed out to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last September shows that in very special circumstances he’ll be willing to adapt to situations as they arise.
But by and large it seems that Arsenal finally have a clear direction in the transfer market, and the squad is looking all the better for it.