With the 2018/19 Premier League season over, and the International summer schedule well underway, now seems like the perfect time to review the season for each Premier League team in terms of their transfer activity.
Has the club’s business been successful? Who has hit the ground running, and who looks off the pace? Where will they need reinforcements over the summer ready for the new campaign?
Over the next few weeks we’ll take an in-depth look at each Premier League side, including those coming up to the first tier next season.
We’re going to grade each team on its season, its transfers and its prospects for next 2019/20.
Starting things off, it’s Arsenal.
2018/19 transfer and season summary
Players in (summer): Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno, Sokratis, MattéoGuendouzi, Stephan Lichsteiner (Free)
Players in (winter): Denis Suarez (Loan)
It’s been an odd campaign on the red side of North London. Having started the season without Arsene Wenger at the helm for the first time in over 20 years, there was always a feeling of the new and unknown about this term.
With Unai Emery, Arsenal clearly have a talented and experienced new manager, who has managed to steer the club to its first European final in 13 years.
On the other hand, missing out on Champions League qualification via the league to their London rivals will sting a bit. It hurts more that they didn’t triumph in the Europa league final to seal their spot at the top table of European football next season.
On the other hand, it’s a season of flux, and Emery’s done reasonably well to steer the ship onto a new path.
For that reason, we’re giving Arsenal a C on the overall season score.
Though joining in the January transfer window of last season, it’s hard to look past the impact of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in his first full campaign for the Gunners.
Finishing the season as the joint Golden boot winner with 21 goals is a supreme achievement, and the partnership the Gabonese has struck up with Alex Lacazette has been more than impressive.
In terms of this season’s influx, it’s a mixed bag, but there have certainly been some standouts.
Lucas Torreira looks made for the Premier League and appears to have added the steel to the Arsenal midfield that some say has been lacking since the days of Patrick Vieira.
Bernd Leno has acquitted himself well, and looks to be a solid, if perhaps unspectacular successor to Petr Cech.
Sokratis has arguably been the Gunners’ best defender this season, but that is not necessarily the highest of compliments.
It seems harsh to judge MattéoGuendouzi on a first term in the Premier League at just the age of 19, and he’s been by no means a poor signing. Realistically he has featured more than was expected when he first arrived, billed as a move for the future. The jury is still out.
One signing who certainly isn’t one for the future is Stephan Lichsteiner. The Swiss veteran is undoubtedly a very talented and accomplished defender, but with only 23 appearances across all competitions, and starting only 10 games in the league, due mostly to injuries and fitness issues, the 35-year-old has managed to make a free transfer not look like that much of a bargain.
But even Lichsteiner looks good value compared to Denis Suarez, and the Spaniard hasn’t actually made the move to London permanently yet.
Having joined from Barcelona in January, Suarez has made just four league appearances, all from the bench, spending the final six weeks of the season out injured and racking up a grand total of 67 minutes of league football in 2019. Unlucky? Perhaps. But honestly, also just out of his depth in the Premier League.
Taking into account the hits and misses, Arsenal score a C+for Transfer activity this season.
There are a few certainties in life. Death, taxes, and the talk of Arsenal needing new defenders at the end of each season.
What seems odd is the lack of any concrete interest in a defender during the January transfer window, Emery instead remained content to solely bring in another midfield playmaker on loan.
Sokratis has been solid, but is on the wrong side of 30. Koscielny is never going to get fit enough for a full campaign ever again. The less said about Mustafi, the better.
Rob Holding is not the solution. Elneny or Xhaka at CB is not the solution.
Arsenal MUST buy at least one, high-class centre-back this summer. You only need to look at their Premier League rivals’ defences to understand why Arsenal finished outside the top four.
City have Ottamendi, Laporte and Stones. Liverpool have Van Dyke, Matip, Gomez. Chelsea have Rudiger, Luiz and Christensen. Spurs have Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Sanchez.
Any one of those centre-backs would be a first choice at Arsenal. Not a single Arsenal centre-back would be a first choice at any of those clubs. Simple as that.
With one, or two, top-class centre-backs, Arsenal would have a team capable of challenging for the title. If they remain without one, even the top four appears beyond reach.
Think I’m being harsh? The Gunners shipped 51 goals in the league this term. Worse than Wolves, Everton, Leicester and even Newcastle.
With that in mind, their potential rating, how well they can do next year, is two-pronged:
With a top class Centre-Back — A/B
Without — C/D
There’s talk of triggering Kostas Manolas’ £31 million release clause at Roma.
The Greek central defender is exactly the sort of signing the Gunners are crying out for and at £31 million is a total steal.
The only sticking point may be exactly why Manolas is free to leave Roma for so cheap — it was a clause inserted in his contract if they failed to qualify for the Champions league, which is what happened.
But Arsenal aren’t in the Champions League either, so would Manolas be willing to leave Roma to join another Europa League team?
However, though they didn’t manage to secure Champions League qualification next year, there are still options available.
One such option is Espanyol’s Mario Hermoso. The 23-year-old has blossomed into a top talent in La Liga this campaign. With the Catalan outfit having narrowly missed out on European football, he’ll surely be tempted by a move to club who can guarantee it next season in, at least, the form of the Europa League.
Hermoso is dynamic and is already displaying leadership qualities, as well as having been capped multiple times by his country. At £35 million, he’s isn’t cheap for a player plying his trade below the very top tier of European clubs, but could prove to be a bargain in the long term were he to help solidify the Arsenal defence for years to come.
Stefan Savic at Atletico Madrid and Nacho at Real both have just one year left on their contracts. Neither are first choices for their sides, and bids at around the £25–35 million mark may well tempt their clubs to cash in rather than risk losing them on a free next summer. The Gunners may struggle to persuade either to drop down into Europa League football, but the offer of first team football plus a final bumper contract for two players each in their late 20s could perhaps just about convince at least one of them.