High Risk, High Reward or a Fool’s gambit? A look into Arteta’s Arsenal winter transfer window

Sujay Desai
By Sujay Desai
7 Min Read
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The art of gambling is no trade for a faint-hearted person. More often than not, the party which is willing to risk it all on the vague lines of “High risk, high reward” ends up regretting taking the gamble. In 2022 January dealings, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has shown great bravado on similar lines. Signing an astounding 0 number of players with immediate effect to his depthless squad in the transfer window and overseeing the departure of another 13, the gaffer has played all his cards and taken a big gamble. While many might quickly jump to conclusions and call it a fool’s gambit and even a disastrous recipe to yet again miss out on the top 4, is there more to the move than apparent to the naked eye? Let’s take a look at the pros & cons.

PROS

SENDING A CLEAR MESSAGE:

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With a staggering 60 trophies in their trophy cabinet, The Gunners are definitely English football royalty with a very rich history and tradition. To play for a club which is synonymous with football heritage should always be an honour and should be given the highest level of respect. In recent years, social media banter in the last few years has hurt the image of the club.

Add to that, Pierre Aubameyang’s utterly disrespectful behaviour with the club while being the highest earner & team captain and similar incidents involving Xhaka, etc have wounded the already ailing side even more. However, with the termination of Auba’s contract, Mikel has sent a clear message to players aspiring to play for the club and fans worldwide – we are here to win major trophies and playing for Arsenal should be considered as a big honour.

PLAYING FOR THE BADGE & LOYALTY:

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Johan Cruyff once said, “If you have second thoughts on playing for Barcelona, you are no longer of service to us.” This quote is still relevant in today’s day and age. Despite their recent fall, Arsenal by no means is a small club.

After Dušan Vlahović’s decision to choose a move to Juventus, most clubs would’ve feared losing their best striker. But, not Arteta’s Arsenal. Not only did he suspend Auba but also terminated his contract. In turn, he has promoted and encouraged the likes of Lacazette, a player who isn’t in the best form currently but carries immense pride in playing for the Gunners. Loyalty above all.

REWARDING THE PATIENT YOUTH:

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A major flipside to losing a dozen of your players in the transfer market without any reinforcements is the vast hole it leaves in your squad. At the Emirates Stadium, Arteta is missing key players & backups in several positions. That’s where the youth squad comes in.

If Pep’s Barca, Xavi’s current Barca or Ten Hag’s 2019 Ajax and their latest team this season is any indication, a talented team full of youngsters can create their own reality and can even go on to achieve Shangri-la. Mikel possesses a competent crop of young players in the likes of Bukayo Saka, Pepe, Ødegaard, Ramsdale, Smith Rowe, Gabriel. In the youth ranks players such as Charlie Patino, Omari Hutchison, Marcelo Flores have shown great calibre and capability to burst onto the scene as well. At this tender age, these players can be moulded into system players with Arteta at the helm. Paired with a few big names, this team could soon be challenging for Europe, too. A risk in the short term, a reward in the long term.

CONS:

INCONSISTENCY IN FRONT OF GOAL:

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Arsenal’s dream of replenishing their squad with a potent striker like Isak or Vlahović after Auba’s departure was just that – a dream. Captain Laca has been in a downward spiral, too. He has struggled to get into goalscoring positions and failed to influence games often this season. Now, lacking a clinical finisher, Arsenal are bound to struggle against low block teams, a sight already encapsulated in their nerve-wracking draw against Burnley in January. This could facilitate the inclusion of Mika Biereth, an exciting striker part of Arsenal U-23, but the lack of experience might affect Arsenal in the final leg of the season.

A TOP 4 FINISH IN DANGER:

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Arsenal currently sit 4 points below 4th position in 6th, with 3 games in hand over their main rivals in securing a UCL berth, West Ham & Manchester United. On paper, it might seem extremely easy but with the lack of experience in their squad and barely any depth, a top 4 spot is far from sealed for Arsenal. If they fail to qualify for the Champions League inspite of being in an ideal position, questions are fated to be raised over Arteta’s decision making & credibility in the long run.

CONCLUSION:

In a game which is slowly being taken over by colossal amounts of money, rarely do you see a team making its mark without the guidance of popular coaches or marquee players. But Arteta’s Arsenal has displayed the potential do so. His team has been slowly developing and the results are quite exciting. The trust he has shown in his young squad and the tough times they have faced together have also built strong morale. With Auba’s departure freeing up a major part of the wage bill and Arsenal saving money in this transfer window, the American owned club is set to go all out to secure some major figures to compliment Arteta’s system and budding young squad in the summer. A monumental risk capable of yielding astronomical results. In Arteta’s process, we trust.

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