It’s no secret that Leandro Trossard was Arsenal’s second transfer target in January. The main priority was Mykhailo Mudryk, who instead joined Chelsea, and there was great disappointment in north London when Arsenal missed out on the Ukrainian winger.
Arsenal executives didn’t spend too much time feeling sorry for themselves, though, as they quickly turned on Trossard, agreeing a deal with Brighton just days later. The Belgium international is older, cheaper and less exciting as a long-term prospect than Mudryk, but more importantly, he boasted something the new Chelsea signing didn’t: Premier League experience.
As with Jorginho, Arsenal’s other major arrival in January, Trossard knows the league. He understands the pace and physicality of the English game and the nature of Arsenal’s opponents. He didn’t need time to adapt and he has already shown, in just a few weeks, how important he will be for his new team this season.
The signings of Jorginho and Trossard, who recorded three assists in Arsenal’s demolition of Fulham on Sunday, continued a theme that has defined Mikel Arteta’s rebuild at the Emirates Stadium. Since the Spaniard was appointed and sporting director Edu took the lead in recruiting, Arsenal have routinely signed players who were already thriving in English football.
With Arteta there have been seven transfer windows, from January 2020 to now. In that time, Arsenal have made 21 first-team signings, nine of which were from Premier League clubs. Forty-three percent of all his arrivals under Arteta, therefore, have been players drawn from the league.
Compared to his ‘Big Six’ rivals in that same time period, he is comfortably the highest percentage. The next highest is 25 percent, for Manchester City and Manchester United. Meanwhile, of Liverpool’s signings since January 2020, only eight per cent have come from other Premier League clubs.
How much does this matter? Well, consider this: In the seven windows prior to Arteta’s appointment, Arsenal had signed just two players (out of 22 first-team signings) from Premier League sides. It’s a drastic change in transfer policy and has laid the foundation for their title fight this season.
At various points in Sunday’s thrashing of Fulham, Arsenal had the following players on the field: Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Trossard and Gabriel Jesus. Jorginho, this time, stayed on the bench. All of these stars are central to Arsenal’s title fight, and they all joined the club from rival Premier League teams.
Arteta knows the value of Premier League experience, of course, because he has that experience himself. The Spaniard was playing in this division in 2016, which cannot be said of any other manager in the league apart from Bournemouth’s Gary O’Neil. Arteta has felt the ferocity of the modern Premier League, doing it every week until just a few years ago, and he knows how difficult it can be for newcomers to find his place in this country.
It cannot be claimed that Arsenal’s recruitment strategy is a completely original idea. Liverpool built much of their success under Jurgen Klopp on a similar model, targeting Premier League players with the necessary physical and mental strength. Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andy Robertson, all key pillars of Liverpool’s renaissance under Klopp, have been bought from other Premier League teams.
In fact, in the seven transfer windows leading up to Arteta’s appointment at Arsenal, 47 per cent of Liverpool’s transfers came from Premier League clubs, by far the highest percentage of the ‘Big Six’.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were also in the habit of fortifying themselves with players from the league. The likes of Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar joined the Premier League teams.
Arsenal, of course, have not only focused on signing players with Premier League experience. Crucially, they have also bought two players with experience winning the competition: Jesus and Zinchenko.
The importance of these two additions cannot be overstated, and their influence could be seen once again at Craven Cottage, where Jesus made his long-awaited return from injury. If Arsenal go on to win the title, these Premier League signings, with their mental knowledge and physical strength, will have been essential to that triumph.