Mikel Arteta has overseen a remarkable change at Arsenal in his 22 months at the club.
The Spaniard was initially appointed as head coach in December 2019, a role that was upgraded to manager after guiding the Gunners an FA Cup triumph in the 2019/20 season, as well as Community Shield success.
Although, it’s not all been positive as under his watch Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe this season – the first time that’s happened in over two decades – and in a bid to avoid missing out again, Arteta went big in the summer transfer window.
A total of £142million was spent to bolster the first-team squad with Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Martin Odegaard.
When also factoring in deals for Willian, Cedric Soares, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Magalhaes, Thomas Partey and Alex Runarsson, it’s now 12 permanent signings that have been approved by Arteta.
Whilst that covers incomings, it’s easy to forget there have been a number of high-profile exits at the Emirates Stadium under the Spaniard – and in 2021 alone – some of which upset fans and some of which were just necessary.
But how have the nine first-team players either sold by Arteta or released on a free transfer fared since leaving north London?
football.london takes a look…
Joe Willock (Newcastle United, £25m)
One of three first-team departures in the summer transfer window and a move that split the Arsenal fanbase as the midfielder proved during a loan spell at Newcastle during the second half of last season that he can thrive in the Premier League.
Willock managed to score in each of the last seven Premier League games and won the Player of the Month award for May in the process.
Unsurprisingly, Steve Bruce was keen to bring the 21-year-old back to Tyneside and got his wish in August when the two clubs finally agreed a fee of £25m after extensive negotiations.
At the moment, it’s looking like great business from Arteta and technical director Edu as Willock is yet to hit the ground running at St James’ Park.
In seven appearances across all competitions, he hasn’t found the net and the Magpies sit second from bottom in the Premier League table.
With that said, should Willock hit top form, Arsenal stand to benefit as football.london understands that a sell-on clause was also slotted into the deal.
Willian (Corinthians, free)
The Brazilian joined Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer of 2020 after seeing his contract at London rivals Chelsea expire and looked to be a great piece of business early on.
Multiple assists on his debut against Fulham turned out to be a false dawn and Willian struggled thereafter.
Although he had a contract with the north London outfit until 2023, the attacking midfielder came to an agreement with the club to leave two years early and sealed a return to Brazil.
“My year at Arsenal was a bit complicated. I really couldn’t adapt to the club. I wasn’t happy there,” Willian told Arena SBT, via Sport Witness. “To make it very clear too, it wasn’t the club that wanted me to leave. I wanted to leave the club.
“I expressed my feeling [and] said I wasn’t happy. I said I wanted to look elsewhere, another place to play. And, so there was this decision to leave.”
Willian has made three appearances for Corinthians and although he’s yet to make a single goal contribution, this move has been beneficial for all parties.
David Luiz (Released)
Another Brazilian to depart Arsenal in the summer, but one that was confirmed before the 2020/21 campaign had finished.
After two years in north London, David Luiz left the club at the end of his contract in June and it took him a while to find himself a new team.
Eventually, he returned to Brazil to sign for Flamengo on a free transfer and has made two appearances since.
Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa, £20m)
A deal that Arsenal may live to regret as Emiliano Martinez hasn’t slowed down since sealing a £20m move to Aston Villa in the summer of 2020.
In fact, he has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and helped Argentina lift the Copa America in the summer just gone.
Whilst he may rub some Arsenal fans the wrong way by constantly referencing the club at any interview attempt – so it would seem – Martinez is proving to be the king of mind games.
After putting players off during a couple of penalty shootouts in the Copa America, he was spotted taunting Cristiano Ronaldo during Villa’s win over Manchester United last month.
The Red Devils had the chance to snatch a point in injury time after being awarded a penalty which Bruno Fernandes took and missed, but not before Martinez pointed at Ronaldo – seemingly calling for the 36-year-old to take the spot-kick.
It’s safe to say those antics did not go down well amongst Man United fans.
Matt Macey (Hibernian, free)
Forever a third-choice keeper at Arsenal, Matt Macey’s move to Hibernian in January has somewhat gone under the radar.
He has already established himself as number one at Easter Road and will have enjoyed Hibs’ pre-season win over the Gunners.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Olympiacos, free)
The experienced defender’s professionalism after being left out of Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads is something that isn’t spoken about enough.
Sokratis eventually got his move in January – vacating the No.5 shirt for Thomas Partey – as he joined Olympiacos, only to come up against the Gunners in the Europa League.
“I’m in touch with the players. I spoke with them and they are excited that we play against each other,” he said in an exclusive interview with football.london. “I’m close to a lot of them: David [Luiz], Granit [Xhaka], [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, Laca [Lacazette], Hector Bellerin and also Cedric Soares – these are the players I speak a lot with.
“I spoke with them and of course it’s strange [to be facing Arsenal] but I want to win – I want to go to the next round with Olympiacos. Friendship is one thing but qualification is another.”
Fortunately for Arsenal, this decision didn’t backfire as they avenged a defeat at the hands of the Greek outfit from the season before and there was even time for Sokratis to catch up with a few friends.
Mesut Ozil (Fenerbahce, free)
In the summer of 2013, Arsenal broke their transfer record to sign Mesut Ozil for £42.5m.
Fast forward seven-and-a-half years and the playmaker was allowed to join Fenerbahce on a free transfer after reaching an agreement with the Gunners to terminate his contract.
This is another deal during Arteta’s reign that has caused fans to be divided as some were adamant Ozil still had the quality to solve Arsenal’s creative issues that saw them struggle during the first half of the season.
Whereas others believed the former Germany international’s level had dropped significantly so allowing him to leave was the right decision.
Whilst Ozil is yet to reach those levels set at Real Madrid, Arsenal or for the national team, there has been somewhat of a revival in Turkey.
Trusted with the captain’s armband at times, the 32-year-old has four goal involvements (3g,1a) in nine appearances across all competitions so far this season.
Shkodran Mustafi (Schalke, free)
The central defender joined Schalke on deadline day following his Arsenal release, but it’s safe to say it has not been a smooth ride since leaving the Emirates Stadium.
Having only signed a short-term contract with the club, he was let go following their relegation from the Bundesliga and is now back in Spain with Levante.
And last weekend, Shkodran Mustafi handed Arteta and Edu a timely reminder – if they needed one – about why taking the decision to reach an agreement to terminate his deal in January was the right one.
The German remains susceptible to the odd error as he was at fault for Luuk De Jong’s opener as Barcelona beat Levante 3-0 in La Liga.
Instead of following the Dutchman’s run, Mustafi allowed the Barca striker to peel into space and couldn’t get back in time to block the shot which found the back of the net.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (AS Roma, free)
Part of the swap that saw Alexis Sanchez join Manchester United in January 2018, and the deal that ultimately did not benefit any party.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was still on Arsenal’s books when Arteta was appointed, although he was on loan at AS Roma and completed a permanent move to the Serie A side without making an appearance for the Spaniard.
He has since been reunited with Jose Mourinho – the man who sold him to the Gunners from Man United – but things are going well for the attacking midfielder in Italy.c
The 32-year-old has two goals and three assists across all competitions this season and has been ever-present in the league under Mourinho so far.
Overall there’s one interesting factor about these nine deals.
And it’s that Arsenal only received a transfer fee for two as selling Martinez and Willock to Aston Villa and Newcastle respectively pocketed the club a cool £45m.
Although it’s fair to say that Martinez aside, there are no real regrets on the Gunners’ part – except maybe getting a decent fee for the likes of Ozil in particular.
Source by Football London