Transfer windows are notoriously fraught for everyone involved, from the chairman sweating over the club’s bank balance right down to the fan nervously refreshing the deadline day live feed.
In an ideal world, our clubs would have all their business done in a fortnight and the rest of the summer could be spent carefully constructing plans for the season to come, unhindered by speculation, contract sagas or unsettled stars.
Unfortunately, football simply doesn’t work that way and the reality of the modern era, for Arsenal in particular, has been about plugging holes and quick-fixes. In short, we’ve lacked an sense of a plan.
This summer, however, for better or worse, the club seems to have something approaching a strategy. From its contract offers to its transfer proposals, the club has a goal in mind and it is working towards it.
For those to whom it may not have occurred, the club’s strategy is broadly two-pronged: buy young and buy British.
Although both facets of this strategy won’t apply in every case, at least one seems to be applicable to every case, and it’s not like this way of working appeared from thin air just in time for summer, it seems to have been some time in the making.
Take the contract extensions of Folarin Balogun, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and the proposals put forward to Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nkeitah. Ok, so Eddie’s offer is unlikely to get over the line but the intent here is clear – the club is investing in its young, home-grown talent. The manager has prioritised what he sees as the core, the next generation he hopes will lead the club over the next five years.
And consider also what we know so far of our movements in the transfer market – the much-reported interest in English trio Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale, both 23, and James Maddison, 24, speaks to an extension of that strategy.
Other widely-reported transfer targets include Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavres, both of whom are 21. While the latter pair are not English, their ages accord almost perfectly with the sort of profile of player we have clearly made a priority.
The way the manager and technical director want to move forward, therefore, is clear – at least for this summer. Whatever you make of the strategy, at least there is one. This sort of clarity of purpose is unusual for Arsenal, a club that, for the last three of four years at least, has attempted to stop the water coming in with sticking plasters.
Expensive deals made by Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery (and to a lesser extent Mikel Arteta) have resulted in an over-paid, bloated, unbalanced squad that, instead of propelling us back up the table, has seen us continue to slide down it. A change of tact was not only desirable, it was essential.
If investing for the future means a slower pace of progress in the present, I think the majority of fans will sign-up to it. There will always be those who demand instant success on a perpetual and immutable basis but, for the most part, fans can appreciate a project and can get behind something if they understand it and invest in it.
If Arteta and Edu can achieve all their arms in this window and the next, they will go a long way to providing the sort of clarity of purpose we have lacked for a long time. There is no denying how much we all loved a marquee signing in our Champions League days but those days are gone, at least in the short-term. For now, we will need to act accordingly in the hope that, in a few years time, when this team comes into its prime, we will be ready to return and to challenge.
It may be that we have to cash in some of those investments along the way to keep the project alive and progressing but, again, if fans can see the bigger picture, it will be understood.
It’s worth remembering, of course, that there is still a long way to go in this summer’s transfer circus and there are sure to be more surprises but, at the very least, we can say with some confidence that there is a clear set of objectives. Like it or not, we know where we stand.