After 31 days, the January transfer window has finally shut.
With Champions League football seemingly on offer for the first time in half a decade, this window was always going to be crucial for Arsenal, who still had plenty left to achieve despite an excellent summer window that saw them bring in Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard and Takehiro Tomiyasu.
“We are expecting some activity because there are some players and a few loans that hopefully we have to complete,” said Mikel Arteta of his side’s plans on New Year’s Eve.
“But it depends. It’s – as we all know – a very complicated market, and it’s a short window, so we will see what happens.”
The Gunners had focused on the midfield and striker departments, but going into transfer deadline day on Monday they had only managed to sign goalkeeper Matt Turner ahead of a summer move, meaning there was plenty more to be done. Several outgoings also needed to be finalised.
With the deadline day now done, and the window finally over football.london takes a look back at what was a busy 24 hours for Edu, and where it leaves them ahead of the rest of the season.
Up until deadline day, much of the transfer action around the Emirates Stadium had been surrounding outgoings from the club.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles had set the ball rolling by securing a loan move to Roma, before Flo Balogunjoined Middlesbrough until the end of the season. While the moves seem to suit all parties involved, their timing had come under some scrutiny given the lack of numbers in the Arsenal squad in early January.
Pablo Mari had then joined Udinese for the remainder of the campaign after finding game time hard to come by with no European football this year.
In the academy set up, Hale Enders Karl Hein, Tyreece John-Jules, Brooke Norton-Cuffy and Ryan Alebiosu had also left the club via loan moves to Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Lincoln and Crewe Alexandra respectively.
Despite all those departures, there was still more to come on deadline day.
Nikolaj Moller was the first in the academy set up to leave, joining Dutch outfit FC Den Bosch on loan. There had been some thoughts that the Swede could challenge Mika Biereth and Khayon Edwards for a starting spot in Kevin Betsy’s under-23 side, with Balogun now out of the picutre, after he was recalled from a spell in the German third tier with Viktoria Koln, but that did not turn out to be the case.
Jordi Osei-Tutu, who had also been recalled from a loan spell of his own at Nottingham Forest amid further injury troubles, was then allowed to join Rotherham for the remainder of the campaign.
Tim Akinola was sent north of the border to get more minutes with Dundee United after struggling for game time with the under-23s, while under-18s starlet Amani Richards left on a permanent deal to join Leicester City.
The 32-year-old had not played since being stripped of the Arsenal club captaincy last month for disciplinary breaches, and Mikel Arteta had made it clear that he was no longer part of the first-team plans after omitting him from the travelling group who went on a mid-season warm-weather training trip to Dubai.
Despite attracting interest from two sides in Saudi Arabia, the Gabon international seemed destined to be joining Barcelona on a loan move until the end of the season.
That appeared to be all but confirmed when Aubameyang was pictured arriving at Barcelona airport, only for it to then emerge that he had made a trip to Catalonia before any financial agreements had been made between the two clubs.
However, a deal was eventually struck to allow the former Borussia Dortmund star to head to the Nou Camp on a permanent basis, meaning that his Arsenal career is now over.
As for incomings, there was precious little for Arsenal fans to celebrate.
Lino Sousa had already joined the academy set up from West Brom, and his arrival was added to by the signature of American centre back Auston Trusty.
What didn’t happen
This will be the column that probably irks Arsenal fans the most.
As mentioned at the start of the article, the Gunners’ two main positional targets were centre midfield and centre forward.
In the former, it appeared that any action was unlikely heading into deadline day.
Edu had tried to secure a six-month loan move for Arthur Melo, but Juventus’ desire for the deal to be an 18-month loan with an obligation to buy meant that it couldn’t proceed.
Bruno Guimaraes had meanwhile joined Newcastle in controversial fashion, while a move for Gini Wijnaldum or Youri Tielemans didn’t ever look likely this month.
With Mohamed Elneny returning from AFCON before the next Premier League fixture against Wolves and Granit Xhaka and Thomas Parteyboth back for that match, it was decided that the Gunners would be able to get by with what they’ve got.
This essentially put paid to any chance of Elneny leaving despite the fact that the Egyptian only has six months remaining on his contract in north London.
Up front though it appeared that more action could be on the cards.
Arsenal had already moved to try and strengthen the centre forward position by signing Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, but as reported by football.london early in the window, the 21-year-old’s desire was always to stay in Italy, and he ended up at Juventus.
After that, attention was turned to other targets including Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton and Lille’s Jonathan David, but as the final day of January approached, it appeared Alexander Isak was the most likely player to potentially join.
The Swedish forward had been spotted in London in the days leading up to Monday and was, in theory, the easiest deal to do given his reported £70million release clause from Real Sociedad, but the Gunners ultimately elected not to do this.
Interest was also reported in Espanyol striker Raul de Tomas, but sources close to the player revealed very early on deadline day to football.london it was not going to be going ahead so late in the window.
The failure to obtain a centre forward meant that Eddie Nketiah ended up staying despite late interest from Newcastle who were keen to bring him in before his contract expires in the summer.
Youngster Omar Rekik meanwhile ended up staying in north London despite interest from Championship side Stoke City, and Kido Taylor-Hart could not move anywhere on loan due to an abdominal injury that he is currently recovering from.
Where is the club lacking
Well, the most obvious answer to that question is centre forward.
As things stand the club’s most orthodox number nines are Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, both of whom will see their contracts expire in the summer.
Gabriel Martinelli can play there if needs be, but the likelihood now is that Arsenal will be in for at least two strikers come the summer as they seek to solve what has been a problem position since Arteta took over.
Takehiro Tomiyasu is a regular in the middle of defence however, and could end up covering there if needs be, but asking him to slide over would mean that Cedric – who is more of a traditional modern overlapping full-back than an inverted full-back that Arteta tends to prefer on the right side – will have to come into the team.
There have also been some suggestions that central midfield is a position where the Gunners may be a little short given the problems they’ve had this month in which Albert Sambi Lokonga was the only senior orthodox option for games against Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Burnley.
However, the impressive development of Charlie Patino combined with the return from loan of Miguel Azeez and the availability of Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny means that Arsenal have decent depth in that area of the pitch.
Verdict on the window
As the month of January draws to a close there is a feeling that Arsenal have left themselves unnecessarily vulnerable going into the back end of the season.
Hopes are still high about securing the top four, and with the lack of depth throughout the squad there are fears that the Gunners are sabotaging their own chances of playing Champions League football next year.
In isolation, each departure can probably be justified.
None of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Flo Balogun, Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers or Sead Kolasinac were likely to get consistent game time until the end of the season given that the only competition Arsenal are still competing in is the Premier League, while getting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s significant salary off the books signals the removal of a considerable financial millstone from around the club’s necks.
However, it is as a collective where the deals will rightly be questioned.
If Arsenal are playing in the Champions League next season then Edu will be heralded as a genius for freeing up finances to fund a summer spending spree, but if they are not then he will be derided as a saboteur in what could be the Gunners’ best chance of dining at Europe’s top table for some time.
But at the same time, it is inherently risky, given how many were allowed to leave.
The way history looks back on this window will also likely be clouded by what the Gunners do in the summer.
If they’re able to bring in an elite number nine and a long-term solution in central midfield, then this month’s starvation in terms of transfers will likely be forgotten very quickly.
Arsenal’s actions this month have certainly split opinion, but only time will tell if they were the right ones.