Ranking every Arsenal signing made under Edu since 2019
Disclaimer: This is more an indictment on Arsenal than the individual players
Edu Gaspar took over as technical director at Arsenal in 2019. When he arrived, sporting director Raul Sanllehi said: "He has great experience and technical football knowledge and most importantly is a true Arsenal man. He understands the club and what we stand for."
Anyway here's a list of every signing Arsenal have made since then, ranked from best to worst. Arsenal fans won't need this warning, but it's not going to be pretty.
It speaks volumes that the most successful signing of the Edu era had his first season at Arsenal blighted by injury, making only 15 league appearances in 2019/20. But he remains one of the only players in the squad unaffected by Arsenal's tendency to make good players worse. His ability to consistently put in 8/10 performances at both left centre-back and full-back put him top of this list by a long, long way.
Another player who has suffered from injuries during his time at Arsenal, making just 49 appearances in his two years at the club. But a player who has shown several flashes of quality that convinced Edu to bring him in from Ituano. At just 20 years old, Martinelli has plenty of time to build on his promising start in north London, and if he can stay fit, should nail down the left-wing slot for years to come.
Pepe joined for big money in the summer of 2019, £72m to be precise, after Arsenal refused to bow to Crystal Palace's payment structure demands in their pursuit of Wilfried Zaha, and the price tag seems to have hindered him ever since. Or, at least it has clouded people's judgement of his performances.
He struggled in his first season, but 16 goals in 47 appearances last season isn't bad for a winger in a largely dysfunctional side. There's still time for him to justify his price tag, and it's evident that he has the talent to do so.
Arsenal have seen a whole host of underperforming centre-backs ever since Per Mertsesacker and Laurent Koscielny got too old and injured to keep up their form, Shkodran Mustafi being the most obvious example of someone who arrived with a good reputation and left with it in tatters. Of all the players to have played at centre-half, Gabriel has looked the most promising, if somewhat error prone.
Still only 23, he can by no means be regarded as a disaster yet, and should retain some resale value, unlike David Luiz.
The signing of David Luiz was rightly greeted with scepticism, as fans questioned the long-term benefits of taking cast-offs from Chelsea at the age of 32. He has of course gone full David Luiz at times; his horrific substitute appearance against Manchester City in Arsenal's first game back after the restart in June 2020 being the best example, when he gave away two goals and got sent off.
But he bounced back from that shocker, demonstrating why so many top managers rate him, thriving for a short time in the middle of Mikel Arteta's back three. He has since left to become a free agent, though, highlighting the downsides of signing players already on the decline.
There has been a surprising among of negativity towards the imminent re-signing of Ødegaard on a permanent deal following his loan spell last season. While his impact was limited in the 20 games he played, the numbers suggest he was influencing games more than we realise.
Stats provided by BetVictor show he registered an xA of 0.22 per 90 mins during his loan spell, out-performing fan favourites Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka in terms of chance creation. He also topped the list for progressive passes per 90 with five, almost double Smith Rowe's 2.63. He also scored against Tottenham, which is worth more than any stat.
Plus, he's still only 22, and was one of the best performers in La Liga while on loan at Real Sociedad in 19/20. Bringing him back permanently for £30m, as has been reported, looks like superb business.
Partey arrived at Arsenal to much fanfare, and understandably so. For Atletico Madrid, he had been the fulcrum of a resolute and successful Diego Simeone team, combining guile and technical skill with the sort of physicality suited to the Premier League. But his first season at the Emirates was, of course, hampered by injury. He has not been poor, but has not yet lived up to expectations. A particular low point came at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, when he trotted to the sidelines with an injury, only to be shoved back onto the pitch by Arteta in a failed attempt to stop a Spurs counter-attack.
Arsenal fans will be hoping Thomas can restart the Partey once he has returned from his ankle injury sustained against Chelsea in pre-season.
I had high hopes for Dani Ceballos at Arsenal. Despite his slight stature, he seemed robust enough for the Premier League, while also possessing the dribbling and passing ability to give Arsenal's midfield a much needed creative boost. But it's fair to say his home debut against Burnley was as good as it got. He stayed on for a second season but has since returned to Real Madrid after failing to make the desired impact.
Out of favour at Southampton, Cedric was sent on loan to Inter Milan in the 18/19 season, where he made four league appearances. Saints then loaned him out again, this time to Arsenal, for 19/20, during which time he made five league appearances (scoring one goal, to be fair). Edu and his team saw this as a good indication they should sign him up on a permanent basis. Ah, of course. His agent is Kia Joorabchian, who has close ties to Raul Sanllehi.
Mari was a bit of a weird one. Signed from Flamengo on a loan that was then made permanent after just two appearances and a bad injury, he has looked distinctly average in Arsenal's defence, as most players do. The only thing he's got going for him is that he's left footed.
Probably the most disappointing singing on the entire list, considering the high expectations set for him. It should be noted that Saliba is still only 20 years old and has had to deal with personal issues off the field in recent years. But three consecutive loans and a grand total of zero first team appearances in the two years he has been an Arsenal player is not what fans expected when he arrived from Saint-Étienne.
Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
It feels harsh putting Rúnarsson this far down the list with only one Arsenal appearance to his name. But do you remember it? No? Let me remind you.
Arsenal are playing Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup. They're not expected to win, but you never know. City take the lead through Gabriel Jesus' near post header after some poor judgement from Rúnarsson. But we'll let him off, it happens. City later get a free-kick just outside the box at an angle ripe for Riyad Mahrez's left foot. He connects with the ball well, but the shot is straight at the keeper, who doesn't have to move, and could easily palm the ball away from danger. But in the moment, his hands appear to disintegrate, as the ball flies through him and into the top corner.
Again, keepers make mistakes. But with only this to work with, I'm going to have to put him second bottom. Sorry.
The Willian signing carries an extra bitter taste when you remember Arsenal made 55 staff redundant to fund his extortionate wages. Signing a 32-year-old on a free after Chelsea have deemed them surplus to requirements, again, is not a long term strategy. Especially when you're paying him a reported £220,000 a week. Willian's lack of productivity was a constant source of frustration during his seven-year spell at Stamford Bridge, something Gooners soon came to discover as Willian racked up a total of one goal in his first season: a free-kick against already relegated West Brom.
There are, quite simply, no redeeming elements of this signing. And the worst thing is, he's got two years left on his contract.
With regards to this summer, it's too early to judge their new recruits. Nuno Tavares should, in theory, provide competent cover for Tierney at left-back. Albert Sambi Lokonga looks a promising addition to the deep midfield area. Ben White did not have the best debut, and may struggle to adapt to a new role in a back four without two man mountains next to him. At the time of writing, Aaron Ramsdale has not yet been confirmed but expect an updated version of this list next year to have him somewhere near the bottom. £24 million, for fuck's sake.