Cast your mind back to the closing days of last summer’s transfer window.
As deadline day began to near it was clear that Arsenal were in the market for two players – Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar. Due to budgetary constraints though it was unlikely that they were going to be able to get both.
Effectively this left the Gunners with a choice. They could either go for the defence and dynamism of Partey, or the creativity and guile of Aouar.
It should be said that going for Partey was by no means a mistake. The Ghanaian, despite an injury-hit first campaign, is an excellent signing who immediately improved the Arsenal midfield. But not having a creative presence in the middle of the park went on to cost the Gunners almost immediately after.
By this point, the decision had been taken to exile Mesut Ozil from the Premier League and Europa League squads. While it was probably the right time to move on from the German, not replacing the undeniable creativity that he brought to the side was catastrophic.
Willian had been brought in from Chelsea, and despite an opening day brace of assists against Fulham, it quickly became clear that he was not going to be the man to fill the creative void.
And so Arsenal embarked upon a near two-month winles run just a few weeks after the transfer window closed in October.
By the end of it, they were 16th in the Premier League and had been outscored by every side in the division barring Burnley, Sheffield United and West Brom.
Throughout the run, the lack of a link between the midfield and the attack was painfully clear as Arteta’s side repeatedly pushed the ball out left to Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney to whip crosses into the aerially ineffective Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
It was no coincidence that once Emile Smith Rowe got fit and was thrown into the side that the Gunners’ fortunes began to improve and, following his Boxing Day introduction, they actually ended second in the Premier League form table.
By that point though – by Arteta’s own admission – it was way too late.
“That run in November was crucial and determined – even with how consistent we’ve been after Christmas – that it would not be enough to reach the objectives that we wanted,” the Spaniard said ahead of the penultimate game of the season against Crystal Palace.
Arsenal finished just six points off the top four and who’s to say how things might have turned out if they had acted differently in those fateful final days of the transfer window.
Fast forward to today and the Gunners find themselves in another tricky transfer predicament.
Despite Smith Rowe’s impressive adaptation at first-team level, there is an acceptance that he cannot carry the creative burden on his own.
It is for this reason that Arsenal signed Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid in January and why they are interested in doing so again this summer.
However, the target that they have focused their attentions on recently is Norwich City’s Emi Buendia.
football.london understands that the Gunners submitted a bid for the Argentinian this week but face serious competition from Aston Villa.
At the time of writing it is Villa who have the upper hand after putting forward a more impressive and appealing offer – and look set to seal his signature.
With all due respect to Aston Villa, though, should this even be a competition?
Arsenal are a side who, as per their owners Stan and Josh Kroenke, have designs on competing for football’s biggest trophies and getting back into the Champions League. Here in Buendia, they have a player capable of doing exactly that.
The Argentine scored 15 goals and made 16 assists last season in the Championship and created only fewer chances than Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jack Grealish during his maiden Premier League campaign two years ago.
And yet it is Villa who Arsenal have allowed to move ahead in the race.
If they were to lose out on Buendia to Dean Smith’s side, then what would that really say about those Champions League ambitions the club claim to have?
It would certainly be difficult to take their declarations of desire to be back dining at Europe’s top table seriously if they were to fumble the opportunity to sign someone as eminently gettable as the Norwich City man.
No other ‘big six’ sides were in for him and reports suggest that Villa could be close to signing the Argentinian for a fee in the region of £35m, which is surely a fee the Gunners would have been able to justify spending.
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It should be said that we don’t know yet what Arsenal’s next move is and at the time of writing the deal hasn’t been officially confirmed yet so this is all hypothetical.
But if the Gunners haven’t even matched Aston Villa’s offer and miss out on a player who has the potential to fix the issue that they themselves have identified as the thing that cost them in their bid for the top four last season, then they will have some serious questions to answer.