The departures of Mohamed Elneny and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the closing stages of the European transfer window was a satisfying end to a good summer for the Gunners.
Although neither player’s exit will have a transformative effect on the team in the short term, it will allow space for growth in what could be an important developmental season for our emerging talents.
This time last year, the likes of Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith Rowe, Emi Martinez and Joe Willock faced innumerate obstacles between themselves and the first team. Fast forward 12 months and that is no longer the case.
Now, with the exits (albeit on loan) of Elneny and Mkhitaryan, the young Gunners will be thrust front and centre, from the fringes to the forefront of a squad that is going to have great need of them this season.
Unai Emery has already shown his willingness to deploy these young men in high stakes matches and their performances to date mean there is no reason that will change as we begin our domestic cup and European campaigns in earnest after the international break.
For them and for us, it is an exciting time and, hopefully, the start of a new era at the club, where the emphasis is on identifying and nurturing our own talent – selling where necessary to fund our ambitions – and maintaining a competitive level on the pitch.
It’s obvious that, at least in terms of financial clout, we aren’t going to be able to match the likes of Manchester City and United, Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid, and others in that bracket of super rich teams who don’t have to rely on canny investments and financial parsimony.
To that end, we have to find a sustainable and effective way of working and, in the way we have done business this summer, I feel happier that we are beginning to move in that direction.
We haven’t reached the destination yet – we’re scarcely off the driveway, in fact – but it seems the realisation that we need to find a different way of doing business has reached the executive level of the club.
The right structures are being put in place and, in time, those will hopefully begin to pay dividends.
Crucial to making sure that philosophy works is ensuring fans are also invested in it. For many years our transfer strategy has had more than an air of mystery to do it, and that’s putting it kindly. It has felt rudderless, ad hoc, and panic-driven and that lack of direction has been an enormous area of concern for fans, who have seen the team and style they came to love gradually disintegrate over a period instability and uncertainty.
Now, with the help of the Arsenal PR machine, we have had a little more insight into where we are going from the likes of Josh Kroenke and Raul Sanllehi and that has been matched with action in this hugely important transfer window.
While you could argue about the merits of spending £75million on a wide forward instead of a centre back, what you can’t deny is that the Gunners were purposeful and decisive in most cases in the last window.
There was even a streak of ruthlessness in their efforts to clear out the deadwood from a bloated and, at times, ineffectual squad. The departures of Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Elneny, Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielney, and David Ospina spoke to a ruthlessness that we have rarely seen over the course of the last few decades.
That’s not to say we have become the sort of heartless machine synonymous with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United but, clearly, we aren’t going to be taken for a ride as a club anymore. That’s a good thing.
Our squad is leaner now, it is hungrier, it is more optimistic, freer of mediocrity and more suited to the modern game than it has been for many years.
There is still more work to do, improvements needed on the pitch and in personnel but, for now, we can look back on this transfer window as something of a watershed moment – the summer Arsenal were dragged kicking and screaming into modern football.