For an in-depth look at the Arsenal roster in advance of the 2018-2019 season, click here to read Part 1. This post will be updated throughout the season with notable transfers and other additions to the club.
- Lucas Torreira ($33M from Sampdoria) – Torreira is the definition of a workhorse, he played almost the full 90′ for all but 2 games (he was banned for one of the two for yellow card accumulation). He comes to Arsenal with some substantial praise from his former coach, second strongest midfielder in Europe – behind only Barcelona superstar Sergio Busquets. This is pretty substantial praise for a younger midfielder (22), the elder (30) has played for FC Barcelona for nearly his entire career and has amassed over 300 games for them. I think Torreira was brought into replace Granit Xhaka who has not been in the best of form for the Gunners. While Emery may not speak it that clearly, my guess is that will be the effect. I think that Xhaka probably sticks around, but as a backup/rotation option rather than the first team. I also think that this will help shore up the goals conceded by letting him provide assistance in organization and man-marking abilities. He will also be there to try and win back position whenever possible (which will also likely relate to the goals conceded, it’s pretty hard for the other team to score if you have the ball).
- Bernd Leno ($27.5M from Bayern Leverkusen) – I think this is where things really get interesting, I mean what a way to waltz into a new team than to mix things up in the back. On top of it all, Emery is still being tight-lipped about who will be his first-choice keeper. My perspective is that he and Cech will probably be splitting time, because I can’t imagine Cech will continue to play too much longer. However, I do worry a little bit about the effect this will have on the squad during training — the goalkeeper is usually the focal point of the defense. If we’re two weeks out and we still don’t know who the number one is — does that mean the team also doesn’t know and has been working with two separate “bosses”? If so, I think that’s a reason for concern. I think going into the season that Cech will be the first-choice and that Leno will be second (and the heir apparent for when Cech does leave). Leno is undoubtedly the future of the club, so it’s all about whether easing him into that role or if Emery prefers “baptism by fire”.
- Sokratis ($17.5M from Borrusia Dortmund) – Sokratis was brought in to help shore up the defensive shortcomings I mentioned in part 1. He doesn’t fit the Mr. Versatility image that has been going on with really any of the defenders playing anywhere in defense. He’s a true, veteran centerback — and I think he was signed exactly for the first team. I think in the short(er) term he’ll take over in Koscielny’s spot, but even after I expect him to be quite involved — probably pushing Rob Holding or Calum Chambers more to the periphery (if the defenders can stay healthy) until they can stake a substantial claim in training (and back it up on game day, with consistency).
- Mattéo Guendouzi ($9M from FC Lorient) – Guendouzi comes at a very young age (19) but he clearly possess a lot of potential. He’s been playing for the French U20 team and has good technical ability. I worry a little about the amount of cards he’s managed to accumulate (discipline) and am also concerned about his current ability to win aerial duels. He hasn’t shown to be overly proficient as of yet. He does however, provide another midfielder who is talented at breaking up play and then getting the ball off to teammates. I imagine that as long as he works hard in training, that he will appear alongside Torreira with one in a more defensive role (probably Torreira) and Guendouzi with more opportunity to go forward.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner (Free Transfer from Juventus) – Lichsteiner comes over from a prolific career with Juventus, I imagine that he will play a supporting role to Bellerin while being able to provide tutelage and insight in training. Lichsteiner also has the ability to play in a right midfielder role, which might be helpful if the injury crisis does not abate for the Gunners. I’m not sure how much of a game day role Lichtsteiner will play, but I think he’ll have a huge impact psychologically and be able to provide veteran leadership.
- Takuma Asano ($1M loan to Hannover 96) – Asano doesn’t seem to have materialized how Arsenal had hoped, he’s an attacking midfielder/striker who doesn’t really score or assist. I think that this move to Hannover is likely the last audition for him while he is under contract until June 2020 he just hasn’t been prolific. Perhaps I’ll be wrong this season when he goes to the highest level of soccer he’s played yet (prior loans/transfers were for Tier 2 German teams or for Japanese sides), but I think to have much future at Arsenal he’s going to need to put on a brilliant show on loan. If he can’t score, he needs to make goals, if he’s not assisting then he needs to be setting up the goals (Americans call this a “hockey assist”). Some way or another, he has to prove to the side that they just can’t live without him. (Side note: I think it’s also possible this is a loan deal with a purchase clause, meaning that if Hannover like what they see, he might not come back to Arsenal except for some paperwork).
- Santi Cazorla (Free Transfer to Villarreal CF) – Cazorla hasn’t really been a part of this team since he had an Achilles injury in late 2016 requiring a number of surgeries (10 to be exact). He missed out on the entirety of the 2017-2018 campaign and is getting older, he’s currently 33. Outgoing manager, Wenger, talked up his chances about a new contract but whether it was his decision or Emery’s, they let him go after six years with the club. I can’t really fault the club for this decision, it seems like quite a risk to offer an extension to a player that basically hasn’t played a competitive match in 18 months.
- Jack Wilshere (Free Transfer to West Ham) – I’m not going to write a ton about this because I feel like I’ve given it a good treatment over on the West Ham write-up (which can be found here). Ultimately it comes down to Wilshere is ready for a bigger role, and Arsenal were not willing to commit to Wilshere.
- Per Mertesacker (Retired) – I take my hat off to Mertesacker, he’s been a wonderful Arsenal player for a number of years.
- Chuba Akpom ($1M to PAOK Thessaloniki) – Akpom hasn’t made an appearance for Arsenal and is moving down in competition to the (Greek) Super League. As a youth product he’s spent the better part of 5 years on loan, and it seems that Arsenal has made the determination that he doesn’t have the potential to compete for a starting role, so they might as well get some money for him. Seems like it’s a win-win for player and club.
- Lucas Pérez ($5M to West Ham) – Pérez has been on the periphery at Arsenal and was clearly not part of Unai Emery’s plans. Pérez spent 2016-2017 with Arsenal but was only fit for 2 starts and 9 substitute appearances due to injuries and illness. He spent the 2017-2018 season on loan at Deportivo de La Coruña where he had a dramatically different season he made 31 starts (4 more as a sub) in La Liga scoring 8 goals and assisting on 6 others. If he’s not in Emery’s plans, I see no reason for Arsenal to continue to carry him and his contract despite taking a fairly substantial loss ($11M) on what Wenger paid for him.
Last update: August 13, 2018