Arsenal Football Club look to be making their biggest transformation in 22 years, initiated by the resignation of Arséne Wenger in April and implemented by new manager, Unai Emery. To the joy of many Gooners, the Spaniard has not wasted any time in bringing in some new faces.
But these faces are certainly not new on the football scene. The players Emery has brought in are established, top class players who could, if all goes to plan, shape the way Arsenal play football in the years to come.
This article looks at each of the five signings that Emery has completed so far, and the kind of impact we can expect to see from these players.
And what better place to begin than at the back. With Premier League legend Petr Čech’s best days now behind him, Emery clearly felt a fresher face between the posts was a top priority, and 26-year-old Bernd Leno was the man to satisfy this. The German was left out of the World Cup 23-man squad but became an established keeper at Bayer Leverkusen over his seven-year spell at the club.
In this time, Leno has proven himself to be a top-class goalkeeper, and this signing has instantly boosted the depth and quality in Arsenal’s goalkeeping position. Providing he brings his quality with him to Arsenal, there is little doubt that he will succeed between the sticks. But how often will he need to be called upon? Well, two more of Emery’s signings may have a say on this.
Proof of the emphasis that Emery has placed on strengthening Arsenal’s back wall comes in the form of a couple of defensive signings, the first being veteran right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner. The 34-year-old made over 250 appearances for Juventus during his seven-year spell in Turin.
With his career most likely reaching its twilight stage, one of the key factors in the decision to sign Lichtsteiner was to import some experience into the defence, as well as a fresh mentality from a player who knows a lot about winning titles – a total of seven at Juventus to be precise. The Swiss international has also said himself that the move presents a personal challenge, and this attitude could be a driving force for the Gunners.
In terms of technical ability, it remains to be seen whether Lichtsteiner has enough left in him to force Héctor Bellerín out of the usual starting eleven, or whether we will see a simple rotation between them. Out of the two, there are no prizes for predicting who would win in a head-to-head race, but what Lichtsteiner lacks in pace, he makes up for in composure and passing ability, which is perhaps something that has been slightly absent from the Arsenal team in the past few years.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos, going simply by the name Sokratis, signed for the Gunners in early July for a fee of around £17 million. At the age of 30, this move also looks to issue some extra experience to the back four.
When it comes to centre-backs, quite often what you see is what you get, and Sokratis is no exception. Standing at 6ft1, the Greek international has immense strength, as well as excellent tackling ability and heading prowess.
Bringing in a top-quality defender like Sokratis should give Arsenal fans hope for a much better season defensively. Signing from Borussia Dortmund, he will join former teammates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Moving into midfield, Arsenal recently confirmed the signing of the promising Lucas Torreira, following an impressive set of performances at the World Cup with Uruguay.
Arguably Sampdoria’s best player last year, Torreira is the complete defensive midfielder, as good at winning the ball back as he is distributing it. His knack for short passes will suit the classic Arsenal style of play, and when they lose the ball, he will be just as quick to get the ball back, which should greatly satisfy Unai Emery’s philosophies.
Unlike the aforementioned signings, Torreira still has his best days well ahead of him. At the young age of 22, perhaps Torreira can provide a small glimpse into the sort of long-term transformation that Emery has in mind for Arsenal.
Finally, we come to the less well-known midfielder Mattéo Guendouzi, whom the Gunners have signed from FC Lorient for an undisclosed fee.
At only 19 years of age, it is unlikely that this is a first team signing, but the young Frenchman has shown signs of great potential whilst in the French second league, and can learn from some of the best at Arsenal.
Unai Emery has been quick out the blocks to sign these players, and don’t be surprised if there are more yet to come. A lot of Arsenal fans will be unfamiliar with the amount of change that is going on at their club, but looking past some of the tentativeness, there is an air of excitement surrounding the supporters – something that has been missing in recent years.
We could see a rejuvenated Arsenal this season, and with many of the top clubs using the transfer window to its full extent, the 2018/19 season could be one of the tightest Premier League campaigns yet.
Written by Harry Mahon.