Mikel Arteta has become accustomed to disappointment during his brief and eventful time as Arsenal manager. The Gunners finished his first full season in charge in their lowest position since 1995, only eighth. Arsenal have spent a quarter of a century playing European football every season. Now one of their most southerly journeys this season will be to Brentford on Friday.
Arteta goes there with an incomplete squad, with Arsenal’s business half done. The breakdown of a move for Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale leaves them looking dangerously short of alternatives to Bernd Leno. Some mooted transfer targets, whether James Maddison or Tammy Abraham, have not arrived. Arteta admitted it has been tough.
“We are talking about the most difficult transfer market in this industry over the last years, for sure, and we are trying to adapt,” he said. But with Joe Willock’s move to Newcastle not completed, Roma unable to afford Granit Xhaka and a host of players who Arsenal might have been willing to sell not attracting sufficient offers, funds are limited.
“It is [the same] for every club at the moment,” said Arteta. “We have ownership that they are willing to invest in the team and they want to get the team better with bigger aims. But at the same time we need to be careful because we want to be in a financial position that is sustainable for the club.”
Arsenal’s owners, the Kroenke family, have felt parsimonious in the past but they authorised a £50 million ($69m) deal for Ben White, making him the most expensive defender in the club’s history. “He is a player we have looked at for a long time,” Arteta said. “He fitted the profile of exactly what we wanted.”
Nuno Tavares has also arrived to understudy Kieran Tierney at left-back while Albert Sambi Lokonga, who seemed a youthful addition to the midfield ranks, may be parachuted into the team as Thomas Partey is out until September's international break, as are Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli. “The difficulty with him is how long he has been injured,” said Arteta of the oft-sidelined Partey.
There may be a makeshift look to the midfield. Arsenal feel in limbo. “In this first period of the transfer window I think we’ve done a few things we wanted to do,” added Arteta, but he has encountered frustration since then.
“There are a lot of question marks still to be resolved. Anything is possible and there is still a lot of things to be done and a lot of clubs involved. But I am willing to work with the players I have at the moment.”
One of those is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The captain turned 32 in the summer and had his worst season, with just 10 league goals, since 2010-11 last year. Arsenal could do with seeing the Aubameyang of old.
“Since he came back he looked in the right mindset and he’s trying to put last season, which was difficult for everybody and not just for him, for many different reasons, and go back to the level that he can achieve,” Arteta said.
Arsenal finished the campaign with five straight wins but still unfulfilled. As rivals have spent, they risk being left behind. This season has to be better than last. “Our goal is to get the best version consistently that is going to bring us closer to winning football matches,” Arteta said. “That’s what I want from the team. [Fans] need to be excited and they need to see a team that is capable of competing with those teams because our history is related to that. Nobody can deny that. That's the aim and that should be the objective.”
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