£42m Calafiori deal stalls, worrying trend - Arsenal early transfer window verdict

Riccardo Calafiori of Italy gestures during the UEFA EURO 2024 group stage football match between Croatia and Italy. The match ended 1-1 tie.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

For a team that's going to be challenging for the Premier League title again in nine months' time, there's a surprising lack of movement in the transfer market from Arsenal and Mikel Arteta.

Maybe they like smart, succinct business. But to speak so much about bolstering the squad and how you're planning on upgrading every position on the pitch and already more than three weeks into the summer window, the only signing has been a player that the Gunners have had on loan for a year already is not great.

£27million for David Raya is a good signing in today's market - he had good and bad moments at the Emirates Stadium last season but overall, he's probably an upgrade on Aaron Ramsdale who would undoubtedly pay a lot of that fee back if he gets the exit he desperately needs from Arsenal - whether that actually happens or not though is currently unclear.

The England international has done well to maintain his professional attitude around the club after just having his minutes completely pulled out from beneath him in a surprise move from his manager who routinely dismisses the idea of him actually leaving the club and in turn effectively turns his image into that of a backup goalkeeper - a role he also plays in the England setup behind Jordan Pickford.

Having signed a contract extension just last year, it appears as though Ramsdale could well spend the whole of next season sat on the bench - something that could end up depreciating his value to Arsenal if they were to decide to sell him if he doesn't leave in this window. It's about finding a good balance for both the squad itself and also the club's accounts, something both Arteta and sporting director Edu must get right this summer.

But that balance has to also be countered by change - there's a lot of talking and not a lot of doing at the moment. There are whispers of sales around Emile Smith Rowe, interest in Thomas Partey and links to Ethan Nwaneri but the funds do not seem to be coming in from anywhere as yet. In fact, the only sale the club has made so far this summer has been that of Mika Biereth to Austrian Bundesliga side Sturm Graz for £4million - hardly a fee big enough to help the team "improve in every possible department" as Arteta himself put it last week when speaking to ESPN.

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By this time last season, Kai Havertz had already been an Arsenal player for almost two weeks after a £65million move from rivals Chelsea and both Jurrien Timber and Declan Rice would be announced in a few days' time following a £34million move from Ajax and a £105million mega-move from West Ham respectively, but nothing looks at all like last summer despite arguably more talk of improvements and title chases following their impressive Premier League campaign.

Speaking of Chelsea, they've already made five signings in the space it's taken Arsenal to complete one-and-a-half if we're counting Riccardo Calafiori agreeing personal terms. Their upcoming sixth, Renato Veiga, has been a direct replacement after they bowed out of the race for Calafiori as Arsenal were so close to signing him already - and yet that's closer to going through than the Gunners' own deal. Whether or not you agree with their spending habits, Todd Boehly's £1 billion Blues do have a way of getting deals sorted and doing it quickly.

While it may not have worked out completely for them on the pitch just yet, it was the same under Arteta at first - the results were not great. In fact, his first home game as Gunners boss was a 2-1 loss to Chelsea before a good run of results in January and February helped them find their feet. It was a similar story the following year but look at how the project has blossomed now, something Chelsea are hoping happens to them this season under Enzo Maresca.

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But the late entries into the transfer market has been a running trend under Arteta - his second season as manager saw the first arrival of a major player in the form of Ben White on July 30, 2021 before Martin Odegaard and Ramsdale signed in mid-August ahead of deadline day when defender Takehiro Tomiyasu was signed with a few hours to go.

The season after, their only two big signings came in the form of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko - both from rivals Man City - and they were in early-to-mid July with no arrivals coming in at all in August. It's a worrying trend because it will catch up to them in one window sooner rather than later. They'll fail to get the stars they want and that could mean the Gunners supporters fail to see them go one step further and secure that first league title in more than 20 years.

A deal for Calafiori will be a good second step for them this summer, but like the northern ridge of Mount Everest, will it lead to a nicer third step and eventually the peak? Only time will tell. Links to the likes of Victor Osimhen and Nico Williams can be made all day but until there's concrete bids and negotiations taking place, fans should not get their hopes up, no matter what Arteta claims at press conferences.

Ultimately, it's not the end of the world if teams like to leave their business late in the summer or even in January. But when you're going up against the might of Pep Guardiola and the robotic nature that is a Man City team that has won four successive Premier League trophies, surely it's best to get your players together early on, let them gel together and continue that push, continue the climb to the top.

Otherwise you risk falling off.