The Gunners were generally praised for their transfer activity in the 2022/23 campaign. The additions of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko always looked astute and brought players with winning mentalities and experience to the squad. Further promising additions were made in the winter window and there is no doubt that the signings made by Mikel Arteta and the club played a big part in Arsenal having one of their best seasons in a long time.
Whilst 2022/23 ultimately ended the disappointment of finishing second, rather than the glory of winning the Premier League, on balance it was a better campaign than almost anyone predicted. What’s more, it means Arsenal are back in the Champions League for the 2023/24 season. Being back at Europe’s top table means the Gunners need more strength in depth and more class, especially if they are to push City even harder this term and, hopefully, land a trophy – or two! But who did Arsenal sign in the summer window? And who did they let go? Here we take a look at all their major deals and assess the window as a whole.
Arsenal’s Signings in Summer 2023
The table below shows all the players the Gunners brought in, excluding those footballers who were returning to the club from loans. Note that fees are listed in Euros and are approximate, with full details often undisclosed, especially in relation to possible add-ons.
|Declan Rice||24||Midfield||English||West Ham||€117m|
|Jurrien Timber||22||Centre Back||Dutch||Ajax||€40m|
|David Raya||27||Goalkeeper||Spanish||Brentford||€3m loan fee (future purchase likely)|
Some Gunners may feel that more strength in depth was needed if the club are to battle on four fronts this term. That is a fair argument but overall the squad looks in decent shape. Raya is 27, relatively young for a stopper, whilst the outfield trio all clearly have their best days ahead of them too. As we shall see, Arteta sold a number of players too but even so, his net spend during this window came in somewhere around the £150m mark. That is a considerable sum and shows the club’s owners will continue to back their Basque manager in the transfer market. But what have the Gunners got to show for that sizeable outlay?
Rice is a brilliant acquisition and whilst there is no doubt that Arsenal have paid top dollar for the former Hammer, we believe he will prove decent value in the long term. Hopefully he will stay at the Emirates for many, many years but if he doesn’t, there is certainly a good chance for the club to make a profit as and when he leaves.
The defensive midfielder is now fully established in the England team as one of the first names on the sheet. He does a job that few English players seem able to do effectively and operates as a screen in front of the back four. However, he has always had more attacking ability than that and that has been something Arteta has wanted to bring out.
Aside from his pure football ability though, perhaps the biggest thing Arsenal have gained is leadership. There seem to be fewer and fewer leaders in the modern game, or is that just our inner Graeme Souness (insert the name of whichever football-was-better-in-our-day ex-pro you prefer though) talking? Either way, Rice is a real leader and mature beyond his years.
He won’t turn 25 until January 2024 but has 45 England caps and has captained West Ham at under 23 level. He was named skipper of the full senior team for the first time at the age of just 20 and that says a lot about the sort of man he is. In May 2022, when Mark Noble left the Hammers, he was named full, permanent skipper and revelled in that role. He guided West Ham to European silverware and we believe there is every chance he can do that with Arsenal too.
Time will tell when it comes to Havertz, a player who at his best can beguile and bewitch and can make football look more like art than sport. Several managers and respected pundits have fallen in love with the young German, only to end up feeling that they haven’t quite managed to get the best out of him.
That possibly paints an unfair picture for a player who turns 25 in June 2024 and has played fewer than 100 league games in England. It is not as if he really failed at Chelsea and he was loved at Bayer Leverkusen. Moreover, his return of 13 goals from 39 matches with Germany is very decent considering he operates primarily as an attacking midfielder.
He has already scored at two major tournaments for Germany and in his homeland has been described as an Alleskönner – a footballer who can do a bit of everything. Some have suggested he is a mix of Michael Ballack, Mesut Ozil (a hero of Havert’s) and Toni Kroos, which would make him some player, for sure. He is tall, possesses brilliant balance and two good feet and if Arteta can find the right role for him, and get the best from him, Havertz could prove a steal.
Despite the big money spent on two midfielders, the addition of Dutch centre back Timber has been hailed by some as Arsenal’s best bit of summer transfer business. Early in the 2023/24 campaign, the Utrecht native’s involvement with the Arsenal first team has been limited, at least in terms of minutes on the pitch. However, he has 15 caps for Netherlands and two Dutch league titles to his name already. In addition he was named Player of the Year in the Dutch top flight in 2021/22.
He is a shade under six feet tall, so not perhaps a typical Premier League centre back. However, he is fast, with exceptional acceleration and was wanted by Erik ten Hag (who gave him his Ajax bow) at Man United, before the club signed Lisandro Martinez. He is very comfortable with the ball and will offer Arsenal so much going forward and starting attacks. In addition, he is very flexible and capable of playing anywhere in a back three or four, which could be useful in a game-packed season.
Raya’s loan signing, which includes an option to buy in the summer for a fee of £27m was an interesting one. After initial doubts, Aaron Ramsdale won over Arsenal supporters and had a great season in 2022/23. And yet Arteta has moved to sign a top-class goalkeeper on a deal which most expect to become permanent and possibly before the end of the season.
Raya is a brilliant all-round goalkeeper and has an excellent range of passing. He completed far more passes than Ramsdale in 2022/23 and many, many more forward passes. His save percentage was also superior and it will be very interesting to see how things play out this season. Arteta has stated that he wants strong, fierce competition in every area of the pitch and there are no guaranteed starters anywhere. The hope is that players spur each other to greater heights but with goalkeepers there is often a feeling that a little more security is needed for them to perform at their best. Whatever happens, however, Raya certainly looks like a quality addition.
Outgoing Players at Arsenal in Summer 2023
Below we can see a table of the players who left the club. We have excluded all loan deals from this. However, among the players the Gunners have sent out to other clubs, some for fees but most not, are Kieran Tierney, Nuno Tavares and Marquinhos.
|Granit Xhaka||30||Midfielder||Swiss||Bayer Leverkusen||€15m|
|Matt Turner||29||Goalkeeper||USA||Nottingham Forest||€8m|
|Auston Trusty||24||Centre Back||USA||Sheffield United||€6m|
|Pablo Mari||29||Centre Back||Spanish||Monza||€5m|
|Rob Houlding||27||Centre Back||English||Crystal Palace||€1m|
|Nicolas Pepe||28||Winger||Ivory Coast||Trabzonspor||Free|
The two most interesting deals there are those for Pepe and Balogun, although some might also question what Arteta has against Americans! Pepe has been a disastrous signing in truth, but many Gunners will be disappointed that Balogun has been allowed to leave.
The young striker was born in New York and plays for the USA but only recently chose not to pursue selection for the Three Lions. He was prolific for both Arsenal’s Under 18s and the Under 23s, netting 75 goals and serving up 18 assists in 103 games. Last term he went on loan to Stade Reims in Ligue 1 and bagged 21 league goals. That was only seven fewer than Kylian Mbappe and made him the fourth-highest scorer in the French top tier. That was some achievement in a mid-table team.
Letting Balogun go may have been a tough decision for Arteta but the club made a handsome profit on him. Niether of those is true when it comes to Pepe, who was signed for a massive £72m back in 2019 and has been allowed to leave for free despite having a year left on his contract. For whatever reason, it just did not happen at the Emirates for Ivory Coast international, who was born in France. He departs having played 112 games for the club, netting just 27 goals.
Arsenal Have Added Real Class
Overall we would give Arsenal’s business in the summer window of 2023 a very solid seven out of 10. Or perhaps an eight if we were feeling generous. The fact that the club were able to get Rice is such a big plus and in many ways it seems so strange that other top clubs did not put up more of a fight to sign him.
Just about every top side in England is somewhat lacking in terms of leadership and character in midfield and Rice offers that – and so much more. Havertz brings an extra touch of class and creativity and if he shines it will take a lot of pressure off Martin Odegaard. He should also bring more goals to a side that already shared them out well and will make Arsenal even harder to defend against.
All in all the club have strengthened well and whilst a few extra bodies might have helped, the fact that Timber can play anywhere at the back is a major advantage. Getting Pepe off the wage bill will further strengthen the club’s finances too and Arteta and co look well-placed to enjoy a fine season.