Trust the process? Arsenal’s Ramsdale transfer farce piles pressure on Arteta and Edu
Mikel Arteta did his best to sound unconcerned on Thursday while speaking about the state of Arsenal’s squad ahead of the new season.
“We are talking about probably the most difficult transfer market in this industry over the last years,” he explained, when asked if he felt slightly underwhelmed at the business the club had done so far.
“We are trying to adapt.”
- Rangnick at Lokomotiv Moscow: 'The biggest fraud in Russian football history', or a man misunderstood ahead of Man Utd move?
- Mourinho moaning about referees, transfers and squad depth: Is Roma boss already going into meltdown?
- Julian Green: The Bayern and USMNT wonderkid now stuck in international exile
- Who is Arthur Cabral? The Barcelona transfer target emulating Salah with Basel heroics
But as he prepares for Friday night’s season opener at newly-promoted Brentford, deep down Arteta must be worried.
Arsenal may have spent £75 million ($104m) this summer on Ben White, Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga, but their squad is still looking very short in key positions with just under three weeks remaining of the window.
They will do some more business between now and August 31 , with a goalkeeper and a new attacking midfielder the two priority targets, but at least one of those positions should have been sorted out well before now.
The fact that Arsenal are going into the first game of the season without any suitable back-up for Bernd Leno is farcical.
This is a huge season for Arteta, just as it is for technical director Edu. If things go wrong on the pitch this season, then it’s those two who could pay the price.
Despite two successive eighth-placed finishes in the Premier League, Arteta never really had to fear for his job this summer, even though Arsenal missed out on European qualification for the first time in a quarter of a century.
But the leeway the Spaniard has been given so far will not remain forever. He will be under serious pressure to get results this season, especially with fans back inside stadiums.
Arteta was fortunate that supporters were not around during the 2020-21 campaign because they would have certainly made their feelings known while having to watch some of the football that Arsenal produced.
The fans played a major role in Unai Emery’s eventual dismissal , with the large swathes of empty seats on a matchday at the Emirates Stadium finally convincing owner Stan Kroenke that a change was needed.
And should Arsenal start poorly this season, then it would be no surprise to see plenty of empty red seats on show again in the not too distant future.
That’s why ensuring key business was done early this summer should have been an absolute necessity.
Yet Arsenal will go to Brentford on Friday with Alex Runnarsson sitting on the bench, a keeper who is clearly not good enough to be a No.2 at Premier League level.
Should anything happen to Leno, then Arsenal will find themselves in serious trouble during a start to the season which sees them taking on Chelsea and Manchester City within the opening fortnight.
“I cannot tell you,” Arteta said on Thursday when quizzed on whether the club was close to signing a new keeper. “I have no answers to that.”
They had spent weeks talking to the Blades about the 23-year-old, only for the potential deal to break down during talks on Wednesday.
Arsenal ultimately decided to pursue other targets due to Sheffield United’s asking price, which is believed to be in the region of £30 million ($41m), but that valuation is one that had long been made clear to them.
So the fact that they waited until 48 hours before the start of the season to look elsewhere was a huge error and it’s one that has now left Arsenal perilously short of options heading into the new campaign.
It could be that they return for Ramsdale right at the end of the window and hope that Sheffield United accept a lower price, but that is a risk that could have massive consequences should something happen to Leno between now and then.
“It's been a really difficult transfer window and probably a lot of things will happen in the last week or so,” Arteta said.
“On this first period of the window we’ve done a few things we wanted to do. There is still a bit to go, so I’m sure things will happen either way.
“The club, the owners and myself, we all have the same interests, which is to make this team much stronger and we know that we still have things to do to get what we want.”
This was supposed to be the summer of unprecedented change at Arsenal - the moment that the under-performing squad we’ve seen in recent years was ripped up and started afresh.
Those two successive eighth-placed finishes were supposed to be the breaking point, but the overhaul that we all expected has struggled to get off the ground.
There have been three new additions in Lokonga, Tavares and White, with the latter becoming the club’s most expensive ever defender following his £50m ($69m) move from Brighton .
But more was expected, much more.
There is of course still time to push through further changes, with the imminent departure of Joe Willock to Newcastle for around £25m ($35m) a potential catalyst for incomings.
But Arsenal are in desperate need of a strong start this season. They can’t afford to be playing catch up, such is the strength of the teams they are competing against now for the European spots.
They finished six points off the top four last season and, given how those top sides have strengthened this summer, it’s going to be very hard to close that gap.
The addition of a new attacking midfielder will help, with Martin Odegaard still a priority should he be made available by Real Madrid, but that potential deal is another that is expected to drag on until the end of the window.
Arteta described this summer as having the potential to be ‘unprecedented’ but so far it’s one that has failed to live up to the hype.
Arsenal are heading into a new season looking underprepared once again and a poor start will leave Arteta and Edu with few places to hide.