Mikel Arteta has arguably surpassed expectations in the recent transfer window with important cuts made to the wage bill, opportunities out on loan for sporadic players, and an introduction of an established talent in the attacking midfielder department on loan.
Permanent departures came in the form of Sokratis, Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi and Matt Macey which will inevitably free up much needed funds on the wage bill for Arteta to splash in the summer. It was a much-needed move for the German World Cup winner Ozil after he signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Fenerbahce. The move certainly did not come to the surprise of any after it was announced that he was not named in the 25-man Premier League squad at the start of the season, leaving him illegible to play for the Gunners until at least January. The departures of Sokrartis to Olympiacos and Mustafi to Schalke 04 are real statements of intent from the young Spanish manager, implying that he wishes to get ‘his own’ players in the squad and get rid of the players that do not quite suit the style of play that he wishes to implement.
Departures also came for sought after Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock on loan to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, respectively. The emergence of Emile Smith-Rowe has affected Willock’s game time, with the 21-year-old’s last start coming in a lacklustre 2-1 home defeat against Wolves back on November 29th. Willock proved his worth for the Magpies in their 3-2 home win against Southampton on Saturday, when he had a superb game and found his name on the scoresheet after he hit the back of the net in the 16th minute. Prior to the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, there were heavy rumours of a loan move for Maitland-Niles to several clubs such as Wolves, but it took until January when the deal was made which will see Maitland-Niles sign on with the Bagies until the end of the season in ore for regular game time.
William Saliba has had a difficult start to life in English football after signed for the Gunners in the summer of 2019 and spent the 2019/20 season on loan with Saint-Etienne in Lique 1. There were high expectations for the young French centre back after he impressed on loan with Les Verts but things have not quite gone to plan with the 19-year-old experiencing some family issues which had a knock on effect towards his availability and a loan move was imminent this January, this time in the form of Nice.
Brighton’s Mat Ryan came in the door at the Emirates signing a loan deal which will see him stay in North London until the end of the season. Emi Martinez impressed immensely when called upon in the later stages of the 2019/20 campaign and notably in the Community Shield in August, but number 2 to Bernd Leno was not enough for the Argentine shot stopper so he opted for move to West-Midlands club Aston Villa where he has shown his worth and flourished after receiving regular game time. This move for Martinez saw the introduction of Runar Alex Runarsson, but things have not particularly gone to plan for the Icelandic 25-year-old since joining with several errors leading to goals in the Europa League. Therefore, Ryan was brought in as a number 2 to Leno and with the German’s recent red card, the Australian will be called upon for the Gunners in the upcoming weeks.
Arsenal fans across the globe were lit up with joy when it was announced that 22-year-old Norwegian International Martin Odegaard signed a loan-deal until the end of the season at the Emirates from Real Madrid. Odegaard became the youngest ever Real Madrid player to make their senior debut when he came on as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo against Getafe at just 16-years-old. With the departures of Ozil and Willock, Odegaard will offer support for the exciting prospect Smith-Rowe, proposing healthy competition for the 20-year-old to help keep his feet on the ground and not get too comfortable.
Overall, it was a successful January transfer window for Arteta and technical director Edu who had come to agreement on the needed moves both in and out for the Gunners and executed these needs magnificently. This window will please Arsenal fans with many other top teams partaking in very little business over January, and it will also send the message out that work is being done, to get Arsenal back where they need to be.