‘Arsenal manager Unai Emery will have a transfer budget of only £45million to spend this summer,’ wrote the Daily Mail’s Sami Mokbel in February.
‘Having been told he could just make loan signings during the January transfer window, Sportsmail understands the Gunners boss will again be forced to work within stringent financial boundaries in the summer,’ he continued.
Then there was John Cross, who took a break from reporting on Arsenal ‘warchests’ in February to tell us of the ‘shockingly small’ financial backing Emery would receive this summer.
‘The restricted budget means the new Arsenal boss faces another transfer window operating on tight resources after the cash-strapped club did not have enough money to make any permanent signings in January,’ he wrote, placing the number at £40m.
So how have Arsenal managed to complete the most expensive Premier League signing of the summer? What kind of £45m budget allows for a £27m signing to be loaned straight back to his former club for a season? Just how have they stretched this meagre budget beyond £100m? Are they a real shout for the Premier League title considering their generous betting on soccer odds?
Nicolas Pepe – £72m (but £20m this year)
The statement signing, the club-record deal, one of the pieces in a potentially perfect jigsaw. Nicolas Pepe is Arsenal’s most expensive player ever – but will cost as much as Tyrone Mings this summer.
As Mokbel, who reported the initially low budget, wrote on July 29:
‘It is understood Arsenal will stay within budget by paying as little £20m up front for the Ivory Coast international, with the remaining £52m paid in instalments within five years.’
Dani Ceballos – loan (£3.6m fee)
The clever move, the Spanish midfielder temporarily joining from a La Liga giant to help forget Denis Suarez, the transfer that suits all parties. Dani Ceballos was valued as high as £45m by Real Madrid but Arsenal will get him, if only for a season, at just £3.6m.
Ramon Fuentes of Spanish newspaper Sport had the dirt last month:
‘Ceballos will wear the No 8 shirt at Arsenal. The English club are paying four million euros to Los Blancos for the midfielder.’
William Saliba – £27m (but £4.1m this year)
The plan for the future, one of the most expensive teenagers in football history, the fella Tottenham wanted. Arsenal made a mockery of those budgetary reports with this one in particular, with ostensibly the club’s eight-most expensive player returning to sender for 12 months.
But both David Ornstein (BBC Sport and memes) and James Olley (London Evening Standard) say Saliba’s £26m fee will be paid in instalments. It makes perfect sense.
It is difficult to find any concrete information surrounding particular figures. But if you believe Forbes, then Arsenal ‘will make an initial payment of $5M (£4.1m) for Saliba’. They also report Ceballos’ loan fee as $4.5m (£3.7m), which tallies with Spanish newspaper’s Sport’s claim rather than The Sun’s rather more salacious £11.9m.
Gabriel Martinell – £6m
The forgettable George Harrison of this particular foursome, Gabriel Martinelli is also the least complicated deal. He cost Arsenal £6m from Ituano, making him technically the club’s second most expensive signing of the summer so far.
REPORTED TOTAL: £105M
‘ACTUAL’ TOTAL: £33.7M
David Ospina – £3.15m
Arsenal thank Napoli for their kindness.
Takuma Asano – £900,000 (but £300,000 this year)
And Partizan Belgrade. According to Serbian news portal Mondo, Arsenal will receive their 1m euros ‘in instalments of three years’ – meaning they will probably get around £300,000 to Asano this summer.
Krystian Bielik – £10m (but £7.5m this year)
He signed for £2.4m from Legia Warsaw in January 2015, played two League Cup games for Arsenal in four and a half years, then left for up to £10m to become Derby’s record signing this month. But Sky Sports say the Gunners ‘will receive an initial fee worth £7.5m’.
Ismael Bennacer – £4.32m
And here’s the wildcard. Ismael Bennacer might have played for Arsenal just once, but his October 2015 appearance in a League Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday will be remembered fondly. He is their second biggest sale of the summer, despite having left permanently in 2017.
The midfielder’s move to AC Milan has boosted Arsenal’s funds even further. The Guardian say that the Gunners ‘opted against’ matching a £14.4m bid for Bennacer, with an added £1.8m in clauses.
Arsenal instead stand to receive 30% of the fee due to a clause they inserted into his initial sale. How strangely efficient.
REPORTED TOTAL: £14.05M
‘ACTUAL’ TOTAL: £15.27M
So with ‘actual’ signings equating to £33.7m, and ‘actual’ sales of £15.27m, Arsenal still have about £26.5m of their £45m budget left to spend this summer. Get rid of Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny for £38m then Kieran Tierney plus a centre-half is an eminent possibility.
Or they’ll just get Philippe Coutinho in for a bit.