Mikel Arteta says the process of recruiting players during the transfer window is akin to making a bet and that it’s his responsibility to make sure the odds are in Arsenal’s favour when the club commit to offering long-term contracts.
In the aftermath of Nicolas Pepe’s contract termination – a decision taken by the Gunners after the one-time club-record signing struggled through four disappointing seasons – the Spaniard stressed that with so many variables in play, navigating the transfer market is never an exact science.
“We are all human beings and one plus one is not always two,” said the manager in the final part of his pre-Everton press conference.
“You have to bring them [players] from different countries and cultures and then there are the styles of play they have to adapt to and they have to fit within a system and they have to fit within a different environment and that sometimes takes time and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
“Obviously I feel extremely responsible especially when we are demanding to buy plays for huge amounts [of money] to make sure that we’ve done the work to make it happen but sometimes it doesn’t. And it’s part of that.
“At the end, it’s a bet. When you’re buying a player, it’s a bet. And that bet can go wrong, you know? Because at the end, it’s a human player.
“A player can get injured, look what happened with Jurrien [Timber]. We are extremely happy [with him], but for a different reason, we don’t have a player on the field, you know? But we pay a lot of money.
“It’s a player that’s going to be really important but he’s not working at the moment because he cannot fulfil his job. But sometimes it’s that reason, sometimes it’s the reason that he’s not fitting, he’s not playing well enough, the coach makes so many mistakes that he doesn’t get the best out of him. A lot of times this is the problem as well. So it’s a bit of a difficult one.”
By and large, transfers and contract extensions since Arteta took over have worked out but there have been notable gaffes along the way. Even though he joined as a free agent, Willian was an unmitigated disaster, punts on youngsters like Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares didn’t click and the expensive new deal given to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was regretted almost instantly.
It’s too early to tell how some of the newer signings will work out but with Arsenal now competing at the top end of the table, Arteta and Edu seem to be getting better at poker.
After a promising start to the campaign, Arsenal now head into a hectic four-week period that sees the squad tackle big games across three different competitions, including the Champions League. Having had the international break to reflect, Arteta wants his players to be more ruthless when they return to action at Everton on Sunday.
“I would say, if we have 12 points, then I give them a 10,” he told Sky Sports when asked to rate his side’s start to the campaign.
“But there is always, as a manager, things that we have to improve, we have to do better. But listen, we started winning the trophy against Manchester City in the [Community Shield] final.
“We should have won the four games, that’s for sure. I watched them all back again and we should have won it [against Fulham], but the margin they’ve been too small and probably that’s the thing that we have to do better to kill games earlier and we have the dominance that we have shown already, be more ruthless.”
Arsenal were anything but ruthless during last season’s trip to Goodison Park when a James Tarkowski header was enough to seal the points on Sean Dyche’s first match in charge.
“In a sport and in life, you have to learn from the lessons, you know, and I’m sure that we have learned certain things from last year’s defeat,” said Arteta.
“The way we gave the game away at the end, you know, when the game was in total control, that’s when we gave it away and they have the capacity to do that and they’ve done it to us in a few moments in the last few years. We have to go back to that feeling that we had after the game and use that in the right way to be looking forward to that challenge.”