Exclusive – Michael Thomas talks transfer plans and Arsenal’s pre-season build-up

The Michael Thomas Column
Hi everyone, Mikel Arteta is being very active in this transfer window, going by the rumour mill, but up to now we have only seen Albert Lokonga and Nuno Tavares offically confirmed. I am a llittle worried that the lack of early arrivals could hinder Arteta’s ability to get new players integrated into the team ahead of the new season.
Ideally you would want to get the players in early and integrated into the squad and system, especially if coming from another league. I can imagine they are working really hard behind the scenes and the Euros would have made it all the more difficult. A few prices changing, injuries etc. We need to get a few more players out of the club and have the deals in place ready for the new arrivals.
But the good news is that Tavares, Lokonga and probably Ben White will all have a few weeks in training with Arteta ahead of our first game against Brentford, but are any of them likely to go straight into the starting line-up? Ben white is probably the most likely but it will depend on how match-fit he will be. Lokonga will at least be on the bench but I think Elneny may play in there ahead of him for that game & Tavares will depend on the system. It looks as if Arteta wants to stick with 4 at the back which will see Tierney get the nod and rightly so.
Having let Luiz leave this summer, and the terrible news that Gabriel has suffered a long term injury, added to the fact that Saliba will not be joining the squad, Arsenal are likely be short of defenders at the start of the season even if Ben White arrives.
It is a massive loss to lose Gabriel as I had him down to have a big season this year. We do have Chambers who can also play CB and has played there during some pre-season games. In the circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arteta signed another CB.
If the rumours are to be believed, there are going to be quite a few outgoing from the team as well. If there are a lot going out the door perhaps  Arteta could be short of players before their replacements are brought in and the outgoing players will need to be handled carefully, especially if there are still doubts on the terms being acceptable. We have had this problem before with the likes of the Ox and I would like to think that the club have learnt from those mistakes and will either get the players out beforehand or not to involve them in the games. If they don’t leave, they’re professianals and I’m sure they will come back in and fight for the team regardless.
The “small Covid outbreak” in the Arsenal camp ended up forcing the Gunners to cancel the trip to America. It could be a plus that the squad didn’t have to travel, but Arsenal could have done with a couple of hi-profile games against top teams to improve their fitness. Travelling long distances is always a lot for the body but I’m sure the club will be working hard to put the relevant games on, back here. We are living in a tough time right now and sportsmen are humans so will be at as much risk as me and you. Don’t be surprised if this happens to a few more teams throughout the season.
Playing too many pre-season games can be a plus and a negative. On one hand you don’t lose the rhythm but you can also suffer from burnout. The players that didn’t go away with their international teams will feel well rested and come back really refreshed for pre-season which hopefully shows in the fitness levels in that first game. For me the first 4-5 games are won on how much harder you can work than the opposing team. It’s all about getting the points on the board and building confidence.
The Gunners are only left with the Mind Series games against Chelsea and Tottenham to gain in confidence and fitness, but 100% pre-season can be damaging if results go against you. You don’t want to go and get smashed 3-4 games in a row going into game one of the Premier league. Saying that, we have had good pre-seasons in years gone by and still not performed early on, but I am still sure they would like to get a couple of good performances in and avoid any injuries.
Looking on the positive side though, Arsenal ended the season with five EPL wins in a row. If we can beat Brentford convincingly in our opener, should we be feeling even more confident to keep our run going in the more difficult fixtures. We have a very hard start to the season which makes that opening game even more important. Start off strong and then go into the following crucial games against Chelsea and Man City on a high and pick up as many points as possible.
I am confident that we can pick up points against both Chelsea & Manchester City. Arteta’s record against the big teams isn’t the worst and he should feel good. We are probably not expected to pick up points in the City game especially, but all you want is 100% application and the team fighting for the badge.
Can’t wait for the season! 3-4 more quality signings and I think we will be talking of the good job the club has done to get this group of players together, and hopefully the home crowd (maybe full capacity!) will get behind Arteta and the team, and not send out negatives vibes before the season even gets started.
Let’s head for the new season in the best possible condition Gooners!
Speak again soon
Michael Thomas
Tags Michael Thomas

49 Comments

  1. John Ibrahim says:

    White, Albert Lokonga and Nuno Tavares

    yet the writer is looking for 3 or 4 more signings…….

    6 or 7 signings every season….

    none of the players will stay at the club for more than 3 seasons

    Big name and big tag signings that what the fans and media always wanted

    1. John Shush says:

      Are you happy to finish eighth every season? That is the most negative thing! You want us to lose key midfielders and not replace them? What kind of logic are you using? We need a CM, CAM and RB when Bellerin leaves (not to mention a decent back-up keeper)! What part of that do you disagree with ahead of this long season with no European football? Do you want this to become the norm for Arsenal?

      1. HairyBengaliballs says:

        You build a team, you dont just buy anybody or everybody and expect to win. Football is a teamwork

      2. VasC says:

        What kind of club choose to lose “KEY” players? And who may be that KEY midfielders in your opinion we are going to lose / have lost in this summer?

        1. John Shush says:

          Xhaka was a key part of the midfield last season. The stats put him as our key midfielder. We can’t lose someone like that and replace him with ‘positive thinking’ and ‘get behind the team’. Lokonga is a Guendouzi replacement; he is one for the future. We need a starting midfielder that is a worthy partner to Partey in the midfield and arguably one to replace him if he gets injured again (there goes another season in mid-table). Our lack of creativity is highlighted by the xG (expected goals) coming in at 10.45 for Auba in the PL last season (he scored 10)! Laca’s conversion rate is pretty high, but our midfield just isn’t good enough! We don’t have enough depth to keep us in the places we want to be in next season!

          1. VasC says:

            My question is why do you want to replace Xhaka in the first place, if the stats put him as our key midfielder, according to you. Unless Xhaka’s sale is going to bring us ridiculously crazy money, like to sale of LCFC’s Kante and Drinkwater brought them when they were their KEY midfielders in their title winning campaign.

            “That is the most negative thing!” (sic) You’ve commented earlier and now you comment Partey to get injured again, our midfield isn’t good enough and don’t have enough depth. WOW! That’s the most positive thing I’ve come across in JA so far.

          2. John Shush says:

            VasC, I’m sorry if stats bother you and Partey being injured and not having quality depth is new information (to you). It’s no coincidence that we performed much better in the second half of the season (when he wasn’t injured). I would rather be realistic than delusional. That makes me genuinely positive (unlike your sarcastic comment).

          3. VasC says:

            “I would rather be realistic than delusional.” (sic)

            “We need a CM, CAM and RB when Bellerin leaves (not to mention a decent back-up keeper)!” (sic)

            After the club finished 8th last season, with no European football to offer this season, spent closer to 50+ million quids on new players this summer, sent players out on loan unable to find a spot for them in the first team squad this season, borrowed some 100+ million quids on loan last season to cover the operational expenses of the club and made almost NOTHING through player sales this summer, yet you wish to sign QUALITY PLAYERS for CM, CAM, RB and a possbile GK.

            I must admit that you’re the model REALISTIC Gooner and I’ll be content with being delusional.

            Why do you consider Lokanga as a replacement for a player who wasn’t even in our squad last season is a mystery to my delusional mind!!!

          4. John Shush says:

            Why can’t we take a loan to invest in the squad? Why can’t the owner invest any of his money? That loan you are talking about has already been paid and refinanced! I’m delusional because I want the club to invest in the playing squad? If we don’t, you can stay happy and delusional because it seems you like to see Arsenal in eighth place! We needed midfielders before we signed Ben White, and we still need midfielders now!

        2. John Shush says:

          VasC, we could do it on the cheap (Sabitzer, Pereira, Lamptey and Onana)! We could go expensive (Bissouma, Maddison, Ramsdale (don’t ask why) and Aarons). Either way, we need changes, or we will get more of the same! Insanity is what again (doing the same thing and expecting a different result)?

          1. VasC says:

            “Why can’t we take a loan to invest in the squad? Why can’t the owner invest any of his money?”
            That’s why FFP rules are introduced. Our club is still respected around the world, not just because of our trophy laden past, but also for the way the club operated within their means. There are still things money can’t buy in this plastic world.

            “I’m delusional because I want the club to invest in the playing squad?”
            Even with European distractions, our squad finished last season strongly. That shows there is enough quality in our current playing squad. The few departures after the season concluded were Luzi, Odegaard, Ceballos and Ryan. We’ve already brought in ASL, Tavares and hopefully Ben White. Willock, AMN and Balogun must be considered as new additions to our squad this season. The club MUST invest in the playing squad. Not in terms of MONEY. But, TIME, in developing the talents already at our disposal.

            “we could do it on the cheap (Sabitzer, Pereira, Lamptey and Onana)!”
            Cheap, based on speculation. Nobody knows the real valuation of those players their current employers have in mind. And how could you entice those players to switch to us when we don’t even have European football to offer them this season, but hefty pay cheques. That doesn’t sound “cheap” to me.

            “doing the same thing and expecting a different result”
            If we do THE RIGHT THING AGAIN AND AGAIN, we can attain PERFECTION. That’s how a talent is developed. But, signing players is just similar to gambling. Some works and others don’t. But, developing a talent won’t cost the club in millions compared to signings.

          2. John Shush says:

            VasC, I see you ignored the part about Partey getting injured for the first half of the season and our upturn in form coinciding with his return. We need more players like Partey in midfield; it is that simple! FFP got relaxed last year, and we are still not taking advantage! Mesut’s wages are off the wage-book! Our wage bill is already much lighter than this time last year! We will lose millions if we don’t buy the players we need for yet another season! Developing players takes years! If we don’t gamble (even an average amount), then absolutely nothing will change! Let’s ask the clubs and find out what the fees are in real life.

  2. gotanidea says:

    I fully agree with you, we shouldn’t send out negatives vibes before the season even gets started.

    Arteta’s detractors have to realize that we produced gazillions of good chances last season and in the pre-season, particularly the high numbers of corners and free-kicks awarded. We just don’t have a dominant CF to score from those set-pieces

    1. Dan kit says:

      Arteta detractors!

      We finished 8th and played football that belongs in the 80s and you expect Durand to be happy on not have a voice to what is happening not this club .
      I remember 2 games last season that I actually enjoyed watching ,not sure where you got the gazillion chances from .
      https://www.premierleague.com/stats/top/clubs/corner_taken?se=363

      https://www.premierleague.com/stats/top/clubs/total_scoring_att?se=363

      As for corners and chances maybe check these lists and see where we are compared to where we finished in the league and you will see that is exactly where we deserved to be .

      1. Dan kit says:

        Not sure why I said Durand ment to be fans

    2. Logic says:

      What are on about, which gazillions of chances? Now are you saying Auba is not a lethal striker??? I could have agreed if you would have said this about laca but Auba a proven year in year out striker, a golden boot winner for so many years in different leagues. You are surely very manipulative like our very own manager, keeping saying the same thing on repeat until ppl start to think it’s true. Time will tell again if ppl who are called negative were realistic or ppl who are portraying themselves as fountain of positivity were just naive & ignorant.

      1. gotanidea says:

        I didn’t say anything about Aubameyang. Just wanna mention that we don’t have a dominant CF in the front line

        We’ve been awarded with a lot of corners and free kicks in 2021, but we have no tall CF to score from those situations. Tierney and our RB also made many long crosses, unfortunately our forwards aren’t good headers

        1. VasC says:

          30+ crosses in our game against Wolves last season, yet we scored from a corner through our CB, instead of our CF from those crosses.

          Wasn’t the manager supposed to define the tactics of the team based on the players he picked? Based on stats, it’s clear that our two senior CFs win only around 30% of their aerial duels. So what good is it to the team, if the chances created are not favourable to the strengths of the players on the pitch?

          1. gotanidea says:

            We can’t keep using the counter-attacking tactics to cater to our forwards’ playing styles, because the oppositions have found out how to play against such tactics in the beginning of 2020-21 season and it’s not entertaining to see

            Ranieri got an EPL trophy by making a system that suits his players’ playing styles at that time, but it was cracked by other managers in 2016-17 season. As a big club, Arsenal should be dominant in the field

        2. VasC says:

          Ranieri’s tactics wasn’t cracked by anyone in the 16/17 season.

          In their league conquering 15/16 season, LC had 7 players who clocked 3000+ minutes in the league along with 4 players who clocked 2000+ minutes. A solid 11 plus fringe players to last the entire campaign.

          In 16/17, with the burden of competing in Europe, only one player clocked 3000+ minutes in the league. He simply didn’t have his best 11 at his disposal to last the duration of the PL season.

      2. Kay says:

        Talking of lethal, Auba was wasteful last season and has been showing the same in the pre-season again. He’s been great in the past, but last season? Laca was more productive and I’m afraid with what I’ve seen from him during our pre-season games hoping that it’s not a repeat of last season from him

    3. Ozziegunner says:

      GAI, “gazillions of good chances last season”?
      Are you being facetious? If you are not, then you have no idea.
      Arsenal last season scored a total of 55 goals with a forward line of Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe, Saka, Willian (as poor as he was), Nheketia, Martinelli and Nelson available. The issue has not been the lack of a tall centre forward, but a midfield who do not progress the ball quickly enough from defense to attack, provide scoring opportunities to the forward line nor contribute goals to the total team tally.
      A more developed ESR, a fully fit Thomas Partey and the return of Joe Willock should improve Arsenal’s midfield, but Odegaard, Ceballos, Torreira and Elneny have to replaced and improved upon. A quality CAM and DM/deep lying playmaker are priorities over a tall CF or another winger.

      1. gotanidea says:

        If you don’t remember about the chances we created in 2021, you could rewatch our pre-season games. We were awarded a lot of set-pieces opportunities and we made plenty of good crosses

        The new CF doesn’t have to be very tall, but he has to win many ground/ aerial duels and should be a good header. Benzema, Kane, Lukaku and Morata fit this criteria in Euro

        1. Dan kit says:

          I replied the morning to GAI
          Pat hasn’t approved it by the looks of it
          As have a link to what GAI was saying

          1. Admin Pat says:

            If it is the one you doubled because of wron g email. It has been approved…

          2. Dan kit says:

            Adpat 👍

        2. Ozziegunner says:

          GAI, the midfield is the problem and should be the priority. As far as set pieces are concerned, you may as well say the team needs to be generally taller, when CB’s and midfielders come forward into the box. Maybe the ball should be played low to the forward’s feet in crosses? I will agree to disagree with your obsession with a tall CF and await the development and promotion of Nicholaj Moller.

      2. VasC says:

        Our problem last season was not just with progressing the ball swiftly from defence to attack. Mainly with the lack of bodies available in the attacking third. Our forward players were primarily tasked with defending around their own box instead of being shoulder-to-shoulder with the opponents’ defensive players. When we regained possession, there wasn’t any forward player up-front to release the ball quickly. If the defensive shackles are removed from our forwards, we can see their influences improve this season.

        1. The-Real-Vieira-Lynn-4ever says:

          Thanks to VasC, OG & DanKit for rightfully dispelling the myths being propagated once again by an individual who has possibly the most ironic namesake on this site…brilliantly executed, with both facts aplenty and logic to boot…you saved me a considerable amount of time and energy…have a good one

      3. Sylva says:

        Sincerely we didn’t have Gazillions of chances but we truly had several chances which our CF didn’t convert even Auba. When Odegard was brought in with the injection of S.Row several good chances were created. Our Center forwards at the moment are not dominant in box 18 compared to our former strikers like O.Giroud, Van parcey, etc.. But when we have Midfielders that are scoring well then we have goals all over the field. The better for us. It will be nice if M.Odegard can come back like it is rumored. He already has a chemistry with S. Row, Saka and Pepe that could be devastating next season for opposition defenders.

      4. VasC says:

        Though “gazillions of good chances” isn’t something I agree with, I’m all in for a “PLAN B” striker.

        Auba, Laca, Martinelli, Nketiah and Balogun are either runners or poachers. A physical, bruising CF in the same category as Diego Costa / Drogba / Ibra / Giroud will be a welcome addition to our squad and can be deployed as a “PLAN B” against teams that prefer to defend too deep to make our current crop of strikers incapable of putting the ball in the back of the net.

        1. Ozziegunner says:

          VasC, keep an eye on the progress of Nicholaj Moller on loan in Germany next season.

          1. VasC says:

            I’ll remain hopeful that he’ll be ready to be integrated into our senior set-up in the 22/23 season, after his season long loan spell in Germany. But, having someone similar in profile to Moller in our squad to complement our existing strike force in this new season will be an added advantage. I’ll be content, if our coaching team can develop a new “Plan B” with our existing squad.

  3. fairfan says:

    6-7 signings every season is probably par
    for the course for Arsenal these past 20 years.
    One equivalent to 50mill plus
    Two 30 -40 mill
    Two 10mill.
    140 mill is about average.
    Lower this season post covid of course but
    still likely to be 100m+.
    On average 1-2 will succeed 1-2 will be ok
    3 will fall short.
    So then you are back to 6-7 signings next season.
    It’s not good it’s not bad it’s just the way it is.

  4. fairfan says:

    OT.
    Good to see a Black referee in the Watford game.
    There was a Black linesman too.
    Hope it’s not just a token pre season gesture.
    Hopefully there will be 5-6 Black refs and a dozen or so Black Linesmen in the PL this season.

    1. DaJuhi says:

      Why? The best refs should be refereeing PL matches, regardless of their skin color. I dont think any white or non-white referee should be given privileges based on skin color.

      1. SueP says:

        He probably means that black and other minorities in the UK are coming through the system which is good to see. Your reasoning applies to talent most definitely but perhaps in the past opportunities were not taken or given

        1. DaJuhi says:

          @SueP,

          Ah I see. And when I talked about refereeing quality, PL most certainly has some diabolical referees so new faces would be welcome.

          1. Ozziegunner says:

            You’re not wrong about the current standard of officiating!

        2. Ozziegunner says:

          👍 SueP

  5. guy says:

    Are you old enough to remember Uriah Rennie, Fairfan? As far as I am aware he was the last and onle BAME EPL referee and retired in 2008! I remember him as a great ref and super fit. To give you an idea of the CV you may need to make it, his read: He practises both kick-boxing and aikido, and has a Master’s degree in business administration and law. He is also a magistrate in Sheffield

  6. jon fox says:

    How good and refreshing to read a sensible and positive article from one of our legends.

    By comparison to the relentless negativity on JA from the usua lbrigade of moaners and “sack MA agenda” ridden self entitled kids, it was so cathartic.

  7. Truered92 says:

    I hope this season is loads better than last

  8. Ronald kiiza says:

    our manager should bring Isco from real madrid to boost creativity on the pitch.

    1. Ozziegunner says:

      Ronald, for the price (£14 M?) Isco would be a fantastic mentor for ESR, Willock, Saka, Lokonga, Azeez etc. Also given he wants to make Spain’s World Cup squad, he will be prepared to put in a shift and showcase his talents.

      1. VasC says:

        If we sign, can Isco, a comparative newbie at Arsenal, be a better mentor to our young guns than our very own seasoned work-horse Laca? Personally, I don’t think so.

        If Isco, comparatively a young player in an ageing Real Madrid squad, can’t fight for a place in a team competing in both domestic and European competitions and a guaranteed 50+ games this season, we’re better off with including Willian in our squad for the new season.

        With almost no re-sale value, why do we need another player on Champions League salary, when we don’t even play in the Conference League this season?

        If he’s going to eat up playing times of our youngsters, how are they going to improve their game? One simple look at the improvements of Nelson, Martinelli and Pepe last season after we signed Willian will tell the whole story.

      2. Voyageur says:

        I’m not saying you are wrong OzzieG but this was precisely the rationale for bringing in Willian last year. Not saying that Isco will be another Willian, merely pointing out that the hindsighters who are ripping into he decision to sign Willian should remember it wasn’t an obvious own goal at the time.

  9. Aaron says:

    Simple equation really, AFC need 15 more goals this season or it will be more of 8th or worse, no matter what.

    AFC management needs to find a way to do that.

  10. Angus says:

    Hi Michael, thanks for the article. As to your worry over late arrivals I think we always felt we could get Odegaard and have little worry with him settling in. In the other positions we need to make sure we sell before we commit so yes it’s a worry but also unavoidable.

    Agree that White is the only one you would bet on starting although I wouldn’t count Lokonga out. He came in early so if he impressed enough he might just get the nod. Especially if Xhaka does go and is replaced late on. The feedback I’ve seen from the friendlies is that he has struck up an understanding with Partey. Actually learnt Gabriel had suffered his injury from your article (been busy) which is quite devastating but an opportunity for Mari to impress and with White do not think we’re particularly short in that position especially with Tierney able to step in LCB.

    Will say with the Ox situation he was actually playing well at RWB both at the end of previous season and the start of that one. Playing him against Liverpool though was obviously a bad decision. Think the club has changed pretty dramatically behind the scenes in that regard anyway.

    Preseason form is notoriously completely unreliable. Teams who focus on season prep will suffer in friendlies but be better for it come the season. Our preseason was pretty good last year including the Charity shield victory and we started with relegation form so it’s best to view preseason as a training exercise where results are a minor concern.

    The Brentford game is vital a good win there and there is no reason to be afraid of City/Chelsea (although we would of been better served to have them later.) As you say Arteta’s record against the top end is not bad at all, add a full preseason and a 1st real transfer reshuffle to his vision there is reason for optimism.

    Can’t wait either, hopefully a few good signings (can you imagine if we get Laturo.) Enjoyed the article.

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