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Grading Arsenal’s 4 Summer Signings

In the summer of 2016, Arsène Wenger uncharacteristically rolled out the chequebook and splashed £90,000,000 on four signings. At the time most Arsenal fans felt every weak spot of the squad had been covered; a striker, a centre-back, a holding midfielder and a prospect for the future. All in all, the fans went into the campaign brimming with confidence as the squad that came 2nd last year had finally been strengthened.

Fast-forward 8 months and for the first time in two decades, Arsenal have finished outside the top four. Despite an upgrade in personnel, Arsenal’s title prospects have taken a huge dent this season and many feel the squad has regressed.

Let’s review the impact and usefulness of those four signings.

Granit Xhaka (£35m) – 6/10


Granit Xhaka started 39 games for Arsenal in the 2016/17 campaign.

It’s always hard to have a hefty price tag attached to your name, especially when you come to play in England. For £35m, the English public were expecting a hybrid of Xabi Alonso and Daniel De Rossi, instead, they received Granit Xhaka. After not starting the first few games of the season, the Swiss midfielder’s welcome to English football was abrupt and a rude awakening. When he did start, he gained a reputation for being a rough tackler, picking up 2 red cards and 5 yellow cards throughout the season. It was perceived that the 24-year old couldn't keep up with the pace of the Premier League so he resorted to fouling players. At a time that was true, but recently the Swiss midfielder’s true class has shone through.

Ever since the switch to 3-4-2-1, Granit Xhaka has come into his own as a holding midfielder. Not only does he dictate play from the middle, he also turns over play at higher rates. He breaks up play and then distributes it quickly to give Arsenal the best numerical advantage as possible in attack. Alongside Aaron Ramey, the two have been able to form a partnership that provides balance in both attack and defence.

Overall, Granit Xhaka has had a slow-burner of a season that has eventually culminated in a fruitful way. The 24-year old looks like a player that could be at the forefront of Arsenal’s possession play for years to come.

Rob Holding (£2m) - 7.5/10


Rob Holding has maintained an 82% pass accuracy this season.

Despite only starting 9 Premier League games, Rob Holding has been one of Arsenal’s breakout stars this season. The 21-year old has turned from a nobody into a potential star in the course of just one season. When the Englishman was signed for £2m on deadline day last summer, the fans bemoaned and groaned that Wenger hadn’t spent big bucks on a striker instead. Fast-forward a season and Rob Holding looks to be the buy of the year.

Holding exudes the confidence & experience of a 31-year old veteran. He’s calm on the ball, strong in tackles and competent in 1v1 defending. In Arsenal’s back three, his on the ball skills have been showcased as he now has the space & cover to step out of the defensive third to build up possession.

Overall, Rob Holding has had a breakthrough season that’s shown us how high his ceiling could be. Next season, it’s imperative the Englishman starts regularly, as his development requires it.

Lucas Pérez (£19m) - 5/10


Lucas Pérez has scored 8 goals this season.

Despite directly contributing to a goal every 36 minutes he’s played, Arsène Wenger has seemingly not taken a shine to the Spaniard. The 28-year old has given his all in every game he’s played this season but his performances, despite being productive, have not impressed the boss enough for him to be first choice.

In the few games he did play, Pérez showcased his lethal left foot, good link up play, industrious work rate and elusive final third movement. The only thing the wide forward seemingly lacked was the pace to break in behind defences. Despite that, he had all the attributes to succeed in Arsenal’s style of play on the highest of levels.

Overall, due to his lack of presence in the matchday squad, you have to say that Lucas Pérez has been an ineffective signing for Arsenal. When signed he was billed as Arsenal’s answer to their ever-present striker problem, instead, he was just another player not to make the first team.

Shkodran Mustafi (£35m) – 5.5/10


Shkodran Mustafi picked up 12 yellow cards for Arsenal this season.

World Cup winner and fully-fledged German international, Shkodran Mustafi was meant to have a much bigger impact on Arsenal’s defensive set up this season. Instead, Arsenal have conceded more goals this campaign than they have in the past 4 campaigns.

After the first 20 games of the season, Shkodran Mustafi was being labelled as Arsenal’s only Invincible, as he hadn’t lost a game until he re-visited Goodison Park. Abysmal performances at the Etihad and the Allianz Arena continued to highlight the German’s weaknesses.

After a first full season at Arsenal, it’s clear that Mustafi is not the defender we all thought he was. The 24-year old lacks leadership skills, positional awareness and the temperament to play in a high line. Overall, the German has been a disappointing acquisition, providing us with more problems than solutions.

About the Author Mathaeus Abuwa

Arsenal fan with a soft spot for Pascal Cygan.

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