Signings’ Review : Arsenal 2016-17

Arsene Wenger signed 4 major players last summer, and while many fans expected the club to push on from last season’s second place finish, sadly for many Gooners, it was not to be. We take a look at how Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding, Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi got on in their debut season at the Emirates.

Granit Xhaka

xhaka1 (101GreatGoals)

(Photo Source : 101 Great Goals)

Flying in recklessly with a two footed challenge, at number one, its Arsenal’s bad boy, Granit Xhaka. Arriving from Borussia Monchengladbach for a hefty fee of £34 million, the Swiss international was believed to be the one to add much needed steel and leadership to an Arsenal side that desperately needed it.

After getting sent off for reckless challenges against Swansea and Burnley, pundits were quick to brand the central midfielder a flop, with some even going so far as to say that he was already the worst signing of the season; a tag that Spurs’ Moussa Sissoko didn’t feel like sharing.

After a rough start warming the bench and spending time on the sidelines, suspended (thanks to the aforementioned challenges), Xhaka slowly became an integral part of Wenger’s side, only behind Alexis Sanchez in terms of games played. The Swiss midfielder was instrumental in Arsenal’s FA cup success, with a superb showing against Premier League champions Chelsea.

Xhaka had an average pass completion rate of 90% in the Premier League, topping the midfielder charts, higher than Chelsea’s N’golo Kante and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba.

At just 24, Xhaka still has time on his side and by adding discipline to his aggressive nature, has all the makings of a future captain.

Rating : 8/10

Rob Holding

holding1 (PainInTheArsenal)

(Photo Source : PainInTheArsenal)

Calm, composed, sound in possession and defensively solid, it seems as though Pep Guardiola was looking in the wrong place all this time. The young English defender joined Arsenal for a measly £2.5 million last summer and unsurprisingly, not many Arsenal fans seemed too excited to hear about him. Apart from a few outings in the FA cup and the League Cup, Holding did not get much of a look in.

After Arsenal’s shambolic showings in the Premier League following a rather routine exit in the last 16 of the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich, Holding finally got his break, as Wenger, for the first time in 20 years, shifted to a 3-man backline. Holding made good on this opportunity, forming an incredible partnership alongside Mustafi and Koscielny. Since the tactical change, Arsenal haven’t lost a single game in which Rob Holding has started.

The centre half completed 82% of his passes and won 75% of his tackles, and at a young age of 21, dominated the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa, much to the liking of the Arsenal fans.

In a time where inflated transfer fees have become the norm and young players hardly ever get opportunities to showcase their talent at top clubs, Rob Holding is a refreshing reminder to us all that maturity differs from age.

Rating : 9/10

Lucas Perez

perez1 (Metro)

(Photo Source : Metro)

After years of calls for Arsene Wenger to sign a striker, Wenger finally splashed the cash on Deportivo’s Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has now become a journey man of sorts, after spells in Ukraine with FC Karpaty Lviv and Greece with Superleague side PAOK FC.

Following his £17.1 million move to Arsenal, Perez barely featured for the Gunners, racking up just 11 league appearances for the Gunners, most of them from the bench. Like Holding, Perez was restricted to starts only in the League Cup and FA cup games. When given a chance, the forward did perform, scoring 8 goals and creating 3 in all competitions.

The Spaniard suffered due to the occasional injury, and Arsene Wenger’s preferred striking options of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud. Perez joined Arsenal with the hope of getting regular game time for a call-up to the 2018 Spain World Cup squad, and a move back to Spain could reap better rewards.

Wenger has himself said that he cannot promise Perez more game time next season, however, having said that, Perez has not been a failure but a victim of Arsenal’s various choices on the attacking front.

Based on the fact that he is still only 28, and did enough to attract suitors from within England as well as Spain, Perez would still command a significant resale value.

Rating : 6/10

Shkodran Mustafi

mustafi1 (Daily Mail)

(Photo Source : Reuters)

After a prolific front man, the next big signing Arsenal needed was a strong partner for Laurent Koscielny. Shkodran Mustafi was believed to be the missing piece in Arsenal’s backline. Per Mertesacker’s knee injury and Gabriel’s foot injury coupled with the inexperience of Rob Holding and Calum Chambers forced Wenger’s hand to spend big bucks for the former Valencia man. Mustafi had built himself a reputation at the Mestalla and after prolonged talks, a fee of £35 million was finally agreed.

Having had a previous spell in England with Everton, aided with his fluency in Spanish, Mustafi settled in very quickly and was able to communicate well on the pitch. His solidity alongside Koscielny earned him widespread praise as Arsenal went on a 17 game unbeaten streak.

However, after a hamstring injury in December, Mustafi did not come back the same player. Arsenal lost back-to-back away games against Everton and Manchester City, at a time when fans desperately hoped that this season was going to be different and prospects of Mustafi going an entire season unbeaten were being discussed. Those losses came as a serious blow and from then on the swift downturn in Arsenal’s fortunes seemed definite.

Mustafi did put in some solid performances but still seemed prone to the odd mistake. The ball playing centre-half was seen vociferating to Bellerin in Arsenal’s away tie against Bayern Munich while he was completely unaware of the space he had created for Thiago to run into, leaving the midfielder with a simple shot past the hapless Ospina. Doubts still surround Mustafi’s position at Arsenal, with Gabriel’s improved form, the rise of Rob Holding and Wenger’s preference to play Monreal as a centre-half rather than a wing back.

At just 25 years of age, the German international has a lot of time ahead of him to improve, but his defending ability cannot be doubted.

Rating : 7/10

(Statistics : courtesy of Squawka, WhoScored and Premier League)


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