The seemingly imminent arrivals of Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale continue something of a theme for the Gunners over the last 18 months – out with the old and in with young.
You might even add ‘and British’ to that moniker given the unusually abundant number of home grown players both arriving and coming to prominence at the club during Mikel Arteta’s tenure.
While you’d have to go a long way to find a fan truly enthused about our summer business (which I think is a little unfair), nobody can deny that, for the first time in a long time, there appears to be a strategy in the way Arsenal are going about their business.
It may be a result of Brexit, the pandemic, impending changes to homegrown rules or a mixture of all three, but there is no denying that the focus, for the most part, has been on building something for the future – an investment, almost.
At 22 and 23 respectively, Odegaard and Ramsdale are just two more players who seem to fit the bill. They’re arrival comes in the wake of new deals for Hale End trio Folarin Balogun, Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka, an extension for Kieran Tierney, and add to the arrivals of Ben White (23), Nuno Tavares (21) and Sambi Lokonga (21).
Whatever else may be taking place at the club, there is at least some emerging consistency in the vision we have for the future. Mikel Arteta is trying to build something for the medium term around a core of talented youngsters who have plenty of room to go. That the majority of them are British should also help with their future sell-on value should the eventual need arise.
It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that a significant number of players who have departed over that same period share something in common too – their advancing years. Shkodran Mustafi (29), Mesut Ozil (32), Sokratis (33) and David Luiz (34), to name but a few, have said their farewells of late and may not be the last in that demographic to depart – with Willian (32) and Sead Kolasinac (28) seemingly destined for the exit door (if we can find someone to take their wages!)
It has been a long time since we have seen what amounts to a strategy in our transfer dealings and in our squad building. That it is so obvious is perhaps a result of grim circumstance and necessity rather than a genuine desire to nurture a new dynasty but we are where we are for a reason: careless recruitment.
Arsene Wenger was ever reliant on his network of scouts for recommendations and was far more concerned about a variety of technically sound midfielders than he was about building a solid and reliable back five. While we were in our pomp, that was seldom a problem and, in especially in his early years, Arsene was a master of unearthing diamonds for a mere pittance.
But the footballing world caught up and as teams like Borussia Dortmund and Leicester forged ahead into a new era of talent identification and value generation, Arsenal lurched from a series of quick-fixes to corrections to panic buys.
By the time Arteta arrived the club had a bloated, vastly over-paid and under-performing squad in a state of malaise.
That is not to say the Spaniard has not made mistakes of his own in the market or, indeed, that he will not make them again in the future. Rather, it is to say that the rot had to stop somewhere and, whether by circumstance or choice, that process has begun. It may not deliver the sort of instantaneous results and return to glory we might all crave but it has a lot of ingredients that could pave the way for a delicious and trophy-winning cake in future.
So, no, the return of Odegaard and arrival of Ramsdale will unlikely set the league alight this season (frankly we don’t have the pull to be able to do that now) but they are part of a bigger plan, a plan that should be taken in the whole and applauded for what it is trying to achieve.