Mikel Arteta says he’s pleased with how Arsenal have strengthened key areas of the squad heading into the second half of the season but he admits the January transfer window was tough to navigate and the club had to adapt their plans.
It’s well documented that the Gunners attempted to recruit Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk and Moises Caicedo from Brighton only for Chelsea to gazump them on the former and to be told the latter wasn’t for sale.
With the clock ticking, Arsenal made the practical decision to recruit two older players – Leandro Trossard and Jorginho – knowing they needed bodies to give themselves the best chance of competing for the Premier League and Europa League titles.
“It was a really tricky one but I think at the end, it’s a really positive one,” said Arteta when asked to reflect on the business Edu had completed.
“We had three main, key areas and positions we wanted to improve and fulfil. And we’ve done it. With Leo, we bring a player who already knows the league, who has been performing at a great level, that has the versatility that we needed and adds quality and goal threat to the squad, especially after the injury to Gabby [Jesus].
“With Jukub, a young talent with incredible potential, that is going to adapt really well to our way of playing and we didn’t have a back-up [left side) centre-back for the whole season.
“And then the last one, with Jorge, a player that when you look at his CV, his playing record, his quality, I think we made some really decisions there.”
Arteta also touched on why he decided to let three players on the fringes of the squad depart on loan.
“Sambi needed time and games to develop the talent that he has. I think in Palace, we found the right club with the right coaching staff as well. Hopefully, that will work out.
“Marquinhos needed minutes, it’s going to be a really tough but good test for him to play in the [Championship] league in a great club [Norwich].
“Then with Cedric [Soares], as well, he was demanding minutes and it was difficult to promise that to him. He’s a player that we all loved and it’s been a difficult decision to let him go but we had to respect his will to play.”
In total, Premier League clubs committed £815 million to transfers in January with London rivals Chelsea responsible for a third (£280 million) of that outlay. Arsenal’s portion – £55 million – wasn’t insignificant, especially given it dwarfed the total spent by clubs in Italy (£25 million) and Spain (£25 million).
“It’s the context that we live in,” said Arteta when asked about the way English sides splashed the cash.
“We had, on our side, the possibility to do certain things we didn’t do in the summer and we are always willing to improve the squad.
“I think the squad is still in a moment that we cannot waste any opportunity to evolve it, whether it’s to give players minutes or improve and add depth to the squad. I think every team tries to do the same and that’s why it’s so competitive.
He added: “I’m really happy with what we’ve done. What you’ve planned and what you can actually do in this industry normally it doesn’t happen so you have to mould and adapt. We’ve done that.
“The most important thing at the end, is that the profile, the person and the qualities that we bring to the squad make us better. I have no doubt that we’ve done that.”