These are testing times for football clubs across Europe right now. Arsenal are no different.
Despite no official club announcement as of yet, it’s widely believed that our new centre-back signing, Gabriel Magalhaes, is currently participating in a 14-day quarantine as we await confirmation of his move to Arsenal from Lille. Any further incomings from mainland Europe will likely also have to follow similar protocol. So, could these measures impact the first few weeks of our season?
As of tomorrow, if Arsenal sign a player from a French or Spanish side, he will not be able to play in our opening day fixture away at Fulham. This is due to current measures set in place by the UK government which aim to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It’s believed that if a club signs a player from a country on the quarantine list, they have to ask the government for special permission so the acquired individual can partake in a medical. Then, the player has to quarantine for 14 days.
Gabriel is said to be following this procedure at the moment. Nearing the official announcement of his roughly €30m move from Lille to Arsenal, he had to move into self-isolation. This means that our new central defender will not be able to join up with his new teammates up until a few days prior to his potential debut at Craven Cottage. In turn, he may not be quite ready to start games for us for a little while yet.
Not particularly ideal preparation for Mikel Arteta and his new defender. This means that if we stick with a 3-4-3 formation for our game at Fulham, Kieran Tierney will likely have to continue filling in at left centre-back, thus limiting his attacking potential. Despite the Scot being well suited to this role, this will no doubt disappoint Arteta. In a team which majorly lacks creativity, restricting Tierney’s offensive capabilities is less than ideal.
The issue surrounding creativity becomes even more worry-inducing due to the fact we are yet to sign an out and out midfielder. Yes, Willian should help us in this area, but he won’t nullify the issue. Our top midfield targets; Thomas Partey, Houssem Aouar and Dani Ceballos, are all currently situated in countries on the UK’s quarantine list and in consequence the idea of them appearing at Craven Cottage in an Arsenal shirt on the opening day is almost an impossibility.
Fulham, who’ve just been promoted back up to the Premier League from the Championship, are probably going to set up against us with a low block which could cause us issues. As our dismal away loss at Villa Park exemplified this at the end of the 2019/20 campaign, breaking down dogged defensive units is not something we currently specialise in. The task of breaking down Fulham’s rear guard will doubtless become more difficult if we start the game with a Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny midfield pairing.
So, it seems probable that we won’t see any major improvement on the opening day of the season from Arteta’s team. It is expected to be the case that a maximum of two new summer signings will be available to take on the Cottagers for Arsenal on September 12th, whilst the potential sales of Mattéo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles mean we could head in to that game with a notably weakened squad. Clearly, there’s still plenty of work to do for Arteta and his recruitment team in the transfer market.