May’s Europa League defeat should have been the cue for Unai Emery to rip up his Arsenal blueprint and start from scratch. He had blown it. It didn’t work – and with Arsenal suffering the consequences of their double-failure to qualify for the Champions League in the shape of a lacklustre transfer budget, the manager should have been prepared to make more sacrifices than have taken place this summer.
Of course, there’s a fair amount of hindsight involved here – but the facts are that Arsenal are not recruiting at the rate they were last year – with the main difference between Emery’s first two summers as Gunners boss being the wealth of finances afforded to him.
And an efficient way to boost funds (if none are forthcoming from the owner) is to sell players. And an efficient way to accrue large amounts of cash is to let go of your best ones.
As drastic as it may look, with Arsenal seemingly left in multiple transfer stalemates, the fastest way to rebuild the team may have been to part ways with their most valuable assets at the end of the season – namely strike duo Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Assuming they sell for their current market values for argument’s sake, that leaves over £120m to rebuild the entire Arsenal squad, plus the £40m sum they have been granted in the off-season.
Would buying 50 goals worth of talent for that price be too much of an ask? Or alternatively, would improving on a disappointing season be a harder task with a measly budget to hand?
If you handed Emery the former scenario now, unless he knows something us onlookers don’t, he would surely be in a better position than at this moment with just a solitary incoming at the club and only weeks left in the transfer window.
It may well come to be the risk Emery regrets not taking. Suddenly their transfer targets would seem more attainable. If Celtic want a bit more for Kieran Tierney, they could do that. Wilfried Zaha may still be somewhat out of reach, but at least they may be able to make an opening bid less worthy of a panning from the press.
Not only would the double departure allow an ensuing of a mass refresh of the Arsenal playing roster, but existing members of the squad would be forced to step up in the absence of the key strikers that topped both goals and assists rankings at the club last season.
Equipping the manager with an almost unprecedented amount of cash would give him free reign to recruit players for the kind of Arsenal team he wants to mould, and having made a start on that last season, seeing his main goal threats go would have been the price to pay for only amassing a lowly transfer kitty through their underachievement.
Harsh it may be, but Arsenal’s situation means the manager should perhaps have taken a step back to analyse the situation and make difficult decisions. No-one said this gig was going to be easy…