Arsenal 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Note: As we cover more of the top teams in the Premier League – especially the “Big Six,” the individual transfer write-ups will feature a look at the overall roster (as Part 1), followed by a separate post that will contain the individual transfers to/from the team, which will be updated as appropriate (as Part 2). 
Before I get too far into my thoughts on the team this year, I believe a moment of reflection is due for Arsène Wenger. He is an outstanding manager and has the title of the longest serving Arsenal manager in club history (and second overall, only to Sir Alex Ferguson) with just shy of 22 years as Arsenal’s manager. He left the club after the end of the 2017-2018 season with the Gunners never having fallen beneath the midtable line during his tenure. Wenger was a great manager for this Arsenal side and despite the “Wenger Out” that followed him the twilight of his Arsenal career they had astonishing consistency. I bring this up for a couple of reasons, first, as I noted Wenger retired, so now the club is in a situation that is “brand new” for much of the club staff, players, and fans. They had to find a new manager, and with every new manager no matter how “close” they are in ideology, there are always some changes. Enter Unai Emery who is by no means “new” to managing sides (or major sides), his managerial exploits include time at Spartak Moscow, Almeria, Valencia and most recently (until he resigned), PSG.
So far, Emery has not made any monumental changes to the side although I suppose some argument could potentially be made for Jack Wilshere departing. From a tactical standpoint (without going too far into the weeds), both Emery and Wenger seem to utilize a similar approach. So, I anticipate Arsenal will still line up with a back four, a defensive midfielder, a central midfielder, 2 attacking midfielders, and a combination of two strikers. The moves Arsenal have made thus far in the season seem to reflect consistency with this strategy.
My biggest concern for this Arsenal side heading into the season is the sheer number of goals conceded. Arsenal’s goals scored were more than enough to carry them to a higher place than they finished and frankly a better goal differential (2017-2018 it was +24). Arsenal finished tied for third in the league on goals scored, however, they had a rather atrocious number of goals allowed. Arsenal gave up 51 goals which seems reasonable on face, however, here are some of the teams that gave up near that and their final positions: Everton – 58 (8th), Crystal Palace – 55 (11th), but here’s where it gets worrisome, Brighton – 54 (15th), Huddersfield – 58 (16th), Southampton – 56 (17th), Swansea City – 56 (18th/Relegated), West Brom – 56 (20th/Relegated). Here’s another comparison, the Champions. Manchester City. gave up almost half the amount of goals (27) that Arsenal did.

This is where things get tricky, Petr Cech‘s career is very illustrious with nearly half of his over 400 Premier League games being shut outs. This last season, he provided only 12 clean sheets across 38 total games and conceded 52 goals, which equates to nearly 1.5 goals allowed per game. Yes — some of the goals in question were results of the Arsenal team getting completely thrashed (Liverpool’s 4-0 win, City’s 3-1 and 3-0 wins, and United’s 3-0 win for examples), but you just can’t concede that many and hope to be competitive for Champion’s League soccer. Then-backup keeper David Ospina made a few starts, but the results weren’t impressive enough to knock Cech out of the starting role.
The hard part about analyzing goalkeeping is that keepers are judged on goals, but that’s not reflective of the entirety of the situation. For example, in my Everton Match Report, I discuss Stekelenburg probably being at fault for the first goal, but the other two were nothing he even had a shot at. Along these lines, Petr Cech has publicly stated that he plans to continue to fight for the starting role at Arsenal, although this situation is definitely complicated by the addition of another keeper (see part 2 for more details) especially with the age difference. At 36 Cech is getting towards the latter end of his career, but he seems to believe he’s up to the task of Premier League soccer.
The Arsenal defense will have some concerns starting the season with Laurent Koscielny (32) out with a ruptured Achilles,Per Mertesacker (32) who retired, and a number of players with more minor, but nagging injuries. Shkodran Mustafi (25) dealt with some injury problems with thigh/hamstrings, Nacho Monreal (31) with ankle, Sead Kolasinac (24) had some “mystery periods” on the bench that I think were likely injury related, and Calum Chambers (22) with a hip injury. Ultimately managing all these injuries probably contributed some to the amount of goals yielded because the prior year, they only yielded 44. They’ve added some defenders and lost others, I think it’s all about managing minutes and keeping the group healthy.
To see a breakdown of Arsenal’s individual transfers this season, please click here for Part 2, which will be updated throughout the season with the latest transfers and other notable additions to the club.

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