You do not always have to sign players to strengthen your squad.
A current players development can see him go from talented youth player to first team regular in the matter of months.
Even if they do not kick on to be a first team regular, they can still become an important first team squad member.
We have seen that with Bukayo Saka.
This time last year he was an U23 player. Fans were talking about our lack of left wing options and the likes of Ousmane Dembélé, Justin Kluivert and Malcolm. All of these players would have cost £30million+.
Instead of making a big money move, Arsenal promoted and developed Bukayo Saka. He became that extra option on the left wing and is now a £30million+ player.
Saka is an example of why looking at what a club spends on new signings is not a good method to compare squad improvements.
Barcelona spent £0 on Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Ineista and Sergio Busquets. They dominated Europe.
With Mikel Arteta preferring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left wing, and Gabriel Martinelli injured until Christmas, Arsenal were left with one senior striker in Alexandre Lacazette.
Heavily linked with Odsonne Edouard in a deal which would have been worth close to £30million, Edu and Arteta decided to go down another route.
Instead of signing for Celtic’s French U21 international, the club opted to go for an English U21 international. Arsenal were rewarded when the youngster came off the bench to score the winner against West Ham United.
How excited would we all be if this summer, Arsenal spent £20million on England’s first choice U21 striker? Someone who had scored 7 goals in his last 3 England U21 appearances, including 2 hat tricks. And then he came off the bench against West Ham to score the winner.
And then a few days later he scored again in his first start of the season.
We would all be sitting here this saying “great signing”, excited about how we have one of England’s best young strikers, who is ready to push for the first team.
But because he came through the youth team, the hype is not quite there.
Eddie Nketiah has been patient during his time at Arsenal.
A prolific goal scorer at youth levels, he scored 15 goals in 16 appearances for the U18s and a further 12 goals in 26 games for the U23s. He was just 17 at the time.
The next season (2017/18) he got a handfall of appearances in the Europa League and League Cup.
Against Norwich in the League Cup, he came on as an 85th minute substitute, nabbing an equaliser for Arsenal just 15 seconds after coming on with his first touch, before hitting the winner in extra time.
2018/19 was a tough one for the young striker as he missed out on a loan to the Bundesliga due to injury to senior Arsenal players. Missing out on this game time set him back in his development. Although he did score his first Premier League goal on the last day of the season.
In the summer of 2019, he got his loan deal, joining Championship side Leeds.
Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa described Nketiah upon signing as a “young, important player in English football”.
Despite Bielsa also describing Nketiah as a “complete player”, he continued to pick Patrick Bamford ahead of Nketiah. Opting for a work horse striker rather than a goal scorer. Nketiah returned to Arsenal in January 2020, his loan deal cancelled.
This season, with Martinelli out injured, Nketiah has stepped up to be Lacazette’s understudy.
Arsenal have backed Nketiah throughout his career.
In 2018, Arsenal had 2 England you internationals. Nketiah and Stephy Mavididi. It was Mavididi who was released, joining Juventus. He is now at Montpellier.
This summer Arsenal had a similar decision to make.
19-year-old Florian Balogun was itching for game time. Demanding it. Refusing to sign a new contract unless he had guarantees of being in Arsenal’s first team squad. Minutes in the League Cup and Europa League.
The problem for Balogun is he had Nketiah ahead of him.
Nketiah has done everything that Balogun has achieved in the youth team, has taken his loan deal and now deserves his chance in Arsenal’s first team set-up. Nketiah is a better player than Balogun.
Moving Balogun ahead of Nketiah in the pecking order just so that he signed a new contract made no sense. Nketiah deserves his chance in Arsenal’s first team squad. Balogun doesn’t.
Ideally, Arsenal would want to keep Balogun. Send him on loan, and then depending on his and Nketiah’s performances this season, make a decision on the 2 in 2021. Balogun does not want to wait 12 months for his chance. He wants it now. And Arsenal can not give it to him.
Instead Arsenal are giving the chance to Nketiah, and it is now up to him to take it.
He took his chance against West Ham, scoring the winner. For Arsenal, he is like a new signing.
Had Arsenal signed an England U21 international with back to back hatricks at that level for £20million, and he scored a winner on his 2nd appearance of the season, we would all be shouting “what a signing”.
Instead people are still moaning that we have not improved the squad. Not made enough new signings.
Arsenal have added a £20million to the squad. Just like in Saka and Martinelli.
The 3 of them would cost Arsenal £70million if they were signed today. Instead they cost £7million.
Back the youngsters, back Nketiah, back Arsenal.