Hello everyone. You may not remember and I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting but this time last year I decided it might be fun to go back and review our transfer business from five years ago. The thinking was that you need many seasons to judge how truly successful a transfer window is. Here’s the link to last year’s review: https://arsenal-mania.com/forum/threads/the-2014-15-transfer-window-a-review.33949/#post-4936638 So to pick up where we left off let’s look at the 2015/16 window. The squad at the time 2014/15 was another season in which the club was competing at the higher end of the PL table albeit never really challenged Chelsea in any meaningful way after they beefed up with Diego Costa and Fabregas in the transfer window. In fact we had a remarkable run after Christmas where we barely dropped a point in the league although the first half of the season was midtable level. We finished third although we won in the FA Cup and the consensus was that we were on the verge of becoming contenders. The team had changed slightly that year in how they played with Wenger leaning on the following formation after many injuries. This was arguably one of the strongest teams we put out post-Invincibles. Cazorla was in his prime and Ramsey played a vital role in offering both width and legs to cut inside from the right hand side to double as a third midfielder if needed while Bellerin was a teenage phenomenon who could get high up the pitch. We also had Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Wilshere and Arteta as options, injuries notwithstanding. Areas of need The obvious areas for improvement started with the striker. Giroud has a complicated legacy at the club, he was an incredible link up player who came up golden in the clutch and was a nightmare from set pieces. Unless you played a Mourinho brand of football like he did with Drogba and surround him with elite goal scoring midfielders like Robben and Lampard then you were always going to struggle to win major honours. With only Alexis and Ramsey as midfield goal scorers it meant a different player would be needed in that role. We also had Welbeck on the books at the time and he was invaluable at pressing and playing almost like Calvert-Lewin is right now minus the goals. Again if you have two strikers on the books who aren’t goal scorers you need those players elsewhere in the team and we just didn’t have it. A secondary need was a centre midfielder. Coquelin had an amazing turnaround in his Arsenal career from January 2015 until the end of the season but beyond him and Cazorla you couldn’t hang your hat on any of our other midfielders due to fitness and quality concerns. Departures Lukas Podolski - Galatasaray - £2.5M Ryo Miyaichi - St. Pauli - Free Abou Diaby - Olympique Marseille - Free Semi Ajayi - Cardiff City - Free Emi Martinez - Wolves - Loan Serge Gnabry - West Brom - Loan Wojciech Szczesny - AS Roma - Loan Nothing really outstanding in that business, after a nondescript half a year loan at Inter Milan, a then 30 year old Lukas Podolski was sold to Galatasaray for £2.5M. He’s bounced around Japan and Turkey a bit since and is currently playing for Antalyaspor so all in all the club did well to get a small fee for someone who clearly didn’t fit in with the club anymore since they had Alexis on the left hand side. As for once hyped prospect Ryo Miyachi he’s gone on to have a pretty unremarkable career for Hamburg based club FC St Pauli in Germany’s second tier although he’s played more and more with each year. The sad story of Abou Diaby finally came to a close at Arsenal. The player who Wenger and many around the game believed would be a midfield star for the generation after the Invincibles was left a shadow of the barnstorming midfielder we’d been teased with pre-injury in his youth. After a season where he made no league appearances he left to join Marseille although he only played five more games in two years before he called time and retired from the game. The club sorted out loans for Szczesny - fresh from his fight with Gerry Peyton - Gnabry and Emi Martinez. The Gnabry saga has been done to death and I won’t rehash it here but the loan was a disaster and he was promptly gone not long after. Emi went to Wolves which was also a very poor idea. Wolves at the time were a midtable Championship side but they had cult hero Carl Ikeme between the sticks who’d come off two incredible years and was the man in form for them. Emi didn’t manage to dislodge fan favourite Ikeme and only made 13 Championship appearances as Wolves finished 14th. As for Szczesny he had a rocky start at Roma where he fractured a finger and was benched for smoking again but knuckled down and even after Roma signed Alisson the following summer, he returned on loan and kept the gloves before eventually securing himself a move to giants Juventus where he’s become an important player. Seeing the trajectory of all three players it’s quite funny how we loaned all three out as disposable options not so long ago. I also want to draw attention to the Wilshere saga. This was when Man City were still a bit of a shambles in the recruitment department and apparently they were keen on signing Jack for a rumoured 40M fee. This has to go down as a massive opportunity missed, he contributed almost nothing after this summer and if there’s an example of where we went wrong as a club it’s this. As a footnote, Semi Ajayi deserves credit for turning his career around post release and eventually becoming a key player in securing West Brom’s promotion to the Premier League last year. Signings Petr Cech - Chelsea - £10M Ismaël Bennacer - Arles-Avignon - £150k Jordi Osei-Tutu - Reading - Free Donyell Malen - Ajax - Free Well not much to write about here. The story goes that for whatever reason the club didn’t make a single outfield signing in the summer of 2015. Although as we can see from the above that’s not quite true. On the face of it signing two talented youngsters like Bennacer and Malen for a combined 150k is incredible business. However the fact that neither of them now play here and are two of the most highly coveted youngsters in Europe worth probably worth the better part of 100M combined is an especially cruel joke. As for then first team signings, whether or not the links to Karim Benzema were genuine (I suspect not) the club couldn’t find the fabled world class striker they wanted. We were also linked heavily to Arturo Vidal but that felt unlikely to me also. Also though I want to highlight how full our squad actually was. Beyond the XI I posted above we had Wilshere, Rosicky, Gibbs, Arteta, Debuchy, Welbeck and Oxlade Chamberlain who failed to crack double figures in starts that season. Things were so bad we still had Joel Campbell playing regularly for us. Funds were inevitably going to be depleted by this wage drain and actually finding places to fit new signings in had become a problem. The squad had been severely mismanaged and there were now several players who should’ve been moved on by then. This was what really sank us, keeping players who were either never good enough or way past it rather than cutting our losses and trying to raise funds. The club decided for reasons best known to them to renew both Rosický and Arteta that summer as well. As for the one first team signing we did make in the summer, Cech wasn’t the keeper he’d been at Chelsea for so many years. We had a shambles of a goalkeeping coaching set up at the time and it’s probable whoever we’d signed would have struggled. At times he was solid and maybe wasn’t as bad as made out but when you do this within 45 minutes of your home debut it’s going to be an uphill battle. His Arsenal career ended pretty pathetically on that horrible night in Baku when he let in a couple of more goals than he should have to a team who he immediately then went to work for after the final whistle. When you consider that we had both Emi and Woj on our books at the time we definitely ended up with the worst scenario in Ospina and Cech. January Mohamed Elneny - FC Basel - £11.25M We signed one more player that January in Elneny as the club was laid low by injuries to a massive extent so they needed to sign someone to keep the then title challenge alive. In the end it maybe would have been better to buy no one. Elneny was a terrible value signing. Another example of a mid value signing who you can’t then sell on to anyone and ends up sitting on the books playing very little for 5 years. He’s had a mini resurgence under Arteta in the past month and gives you a solid 6/10 performance in every game due to the fact that he works hard, plays simple passes and doesn’t over complicate but in a top midfield he shouldn’t be starting regularly. Overall This is it. Arguably the worst window of Wenger’s time here. A squad jammed full of deadwood that tied the recruitment team’s hands when it came to bringing in new players and after a summer of big investment the previous year meant funds weren’t there either. The chickens had well and truly come home to roost. Loaning out future world class players and bringing in only a declining goalkeeper at a pretty large fee is depressing even five years on. The season was an inverse of the previous year, red hot before Christmas and playing some electric football with Özil having his best year at Arsenal including moments like this. That year was strange as Champions Chelsea imploded under Mourinho and City were pretty woeful under Pellegrini in his final year at the club as were Manchester Utd and Liverpool in Klopp’s first season. The door was ajar and after this incredible moment on Valentines Day: We stood two points behind Leicester and tied with Tottenham with a reasonably favourable run in. I felt confident for the first time in years. Then this happened. In his first PL game a teenage Marcus Rashford ripped us apart and ended up with two goals in a humiliating result. Then at home to Swansea after taking the lead we somehow let them come back and beat us. A 2-2 draw away at Sp*rs where Coquelin got himself sent off with one of the stupidest red cards I’ve ever seen was all but the final nail in the title challenge’s coffin. The Andy Carroll hat trick game a month later was just a kick in the teeth. As for the Champions League we were predictably embarrassed by Barcelona over two legs even though we pulled off a great home win against Bayern in the group stages. In the FA Cup we capitulated in a home quarter final against Watford for our first FA Cup defeat since March 2013. How could the club have improved? Almost everything. Strikers are hard to buy so I don’t hold that against the club and there weren’t really any immediate answers at that time. Still, if we knew Giroud was going to be our striker why didn’t we pursue a winger on the right who could either cut in or cross it so that we could play to his strengths? In terms of missed opportunities a few stand out to me: N’Golo Kante - Turned down for the first time by our super scout Gilles Grimandi for being “too small and average technically” before winning the title and making it into the team of the year. Then went to Chelsea and won the league again and the POTY. I love this game. Virgil van Dijk - Was apparently “too nonchalant” for then head scout Steve Rowley so signed for Southampton that summer for 13M. Top stuff that. James Milner - It was apparently between us and Liverpool who were trying to sign Milner on a free after City showed him the door. The sticking point for us was a four year contract demand which we weren’t prepared to offer while Liverpool were. Would he have been as good for us as he has been for Klopp? Probably not but still, the fact he’s been a consistent part of their success for almost five years shows maybe we should’ve caved. Son Heung-Min - Then in the Europa League, Sp*rs snagged Son for a bargain 22M from Bayer Leverkusen. Would possibly the greediest trio in football of Ramsey, Son and Alexis struggled to co-exist? Almost definitely. Still would have been electric if he played with Aubameyang. Likes of Jonny Evans were also cheap and available. Obviously this is in a universe where we probably haven’t signed Gabriel in the winter then Cech and Elneny. We’d have also sold Wilshere and would have patched things up with Szczesny. We then give opportunities to Malen, Bennacer, Gnabry and Martinez where possible and win a league if not maybe a CL in the coming years. Life is pain but not as painful as supporting Arsenal. Once again I thank you, the reader I realise this has been another incredibly long read but I enjoyed researching and writing it immensely even if some of the memories are horrifying. I hope you enjoyed it too and I’m looking forward to next years.