With all around scrambling for signings, Arsenal were conspicuous in their deadline day silence. Mikel Arteta wanted a new striker this month – but spent the final hours of the transfer window desperately fly-tipping disgraced ex-captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
You can understand fan concerns. Arsenal had the weakest squad of the big six before they started hacking at it with outgoings. All these wages were presumably being freed up for a marquee signing – yet the Gunners go again with just two strikers for the second half of the season.
Should Gooners be worried? Perhaps. But here are five reasons why everything might just turn out for the best after all. Honest.
1. Arsenal's fringe stars weren't playing anyway
OK, let's look at the outgoings. Aubameyang wasn't likely to play for the Gunners ever again, followed by tank-like left-back Sead Kolasinac, fourth- and fifth-choice centre-backs Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers, young strikers Tyreece John-Jules and Folarin Balogun… and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, however we place him.
None of them were getting Premier League minutes. These were mostly stars who featured in the first three defeats in the season before Arsenal's key players came back.
The only reason any of this lot would have played would have been for injury. Which us leads us…
2. There are only 17 games left
Arsenal have played 21 games this season in the league. They're out of the League Cup at the semi-final stage and have bombed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle.
In fact, between now and April Fool's Day, Arsenal have five fixtures. Five. There's no excuse for not keeping these players fit now – and with just one game a week at the very least up until the end of the campaign, it's harsh for the Gunners to deny the likes of Maitland-Niles or Chambers more minutes elsewhere on the off-chance that they could be called upon.
Most weeks, realistically, the players who are gone were only going to sit on the bench. In some cases, not even that.
3. It improves the squad in the long-run
Not only is a smaller squad closer in harmony – and thus more conducive to success – but this is now a team that has shed a few more older heads: some of which were reportedly unprofessional behind the scenes.
That's an added responsibility to the youngsters – a new captain may emerge from this group. But not only is it about the players currently at the club – having a strong core until the end of term with more wages off the books, means that Arsenal are set up nicely for a big summer.
They've freed up a few big earners, after all. Speaking of…
4. No silly money spent on panic buys
Remember when Arsenal almost dropped £92m on Thomas Lemar one deadline day? When they brought in a crocked Kim Kallstrom? When in the haste of losing Alexis Sanchez, they swapped him for Henrikh Mkhitaryan?
The wrong signing this month could have ruined the next transfer window. Bring in, say, Arthur on an 18-month loan – and you're stuck with a player you didn't want for a long time, which becomes a factor if you want to sign a top midfielder in the summer. If the Gunners had never signed Mkhitaryan, maybe they'd have kept Aaron Ramsey, for example.
Sometimes, it's better to make no signing than the wrong signing. Especially in the long-term.
5. No excuses now
…Well that's all one way to think of it. Another is that the pitchforks are being lit now by certain fans now and that Arteta is once again very vulnerable to scrutiny.
This month was, we assume, signed off by him and director Edu. If this gamble doesn't pay off, then there really is no hiding. He can't blame this one on subpar squad players he had from predecessors. He can't blame it on not signing anyone, since the money was clearly there for a striker, should he have wanted it.
This is do or die for the Spaniard – and that's a good thing. If the fans who think heading into the second half of the season with a smaller squad is suicidal, they'll either be proven wrong – and the Gunners will get top four – or they'll be proven right, with either Arteta leaving or even bigger, bolder investments getting made.
Everyone gets want they want here: and the Emirates hierarchy lives or dies by their decisions. It's a bold gamble, to say the least…
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT.
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