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Arsenal Letting Aubameyang Leave For Free, Signs American CB As Replacement

American defender Auston Trusty is joining Arsenal! He joins a team with no apparent plan.

When Arsenal returns from a 2.5-week break on Feb. 10, Mikel Arteta’s side will focus solely on finishing in the Top 4 in the Premier League. Out of every other competition this season, the Gunners’ only goal now is returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17, or at the very least making it back into the Europa League. 

Currently sitting sixth amid a four-way race for fourth, Arsenal can see this spring as its best opportunity to finish in the top four since Arsène Wenger was coach. The January transfer window offered greater opportunity to bolster a thin squad for the remainder of the season. 

So what did the venerable club go out and do in the transfer market? The Gunners let their captain and best player join Barcelona for free and replaced him with 23-year-old American center back Auston Trusty, who was immediately sent back to MLS on loan. 

As the January transfer window closed Monday night, Arsenal fans must have been wondering if Stan Kroenke was too drunk celebrating his Rams getting to the Super Bowl to oversee a coherent transfer strategy. Though there’s a slight chance deals are announced after the deadline, currently it appears as though the Gunners have significantly decreased their depth without any meaningful replacements.

What is going on in North London?

Arsenal January 2022 Transfer Window

Though it has yet to be officially announced, it appears Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is on his way out, the latest in a long line of departing Arsenal captains, many of whom have ended up at Barcelona (Cesc Fàbregas, Thomas Vermaelen, now Aubameyang). 

On the face of it, allowing a player for which you paid $71.5 million to leave for free looks bad. And that’s because it is. 

Arteta stripped Aubameyang of the captaincy and dropped him from the squad in December, and it became increasingly clear his time in Arsenal red was over. With 1.5 years still on his hefty contract, selling him looked to be a priority. By the end of the January transfer window, the only real suitor was Barcelona, who couldn’t afford an actual transfer fee. Worry not, Arsenal let Barça have him for free.

With Aubameyang gone, Arsenal’s only two strikers are Alexandre Lacazette and 22-year-old Eddie Nketiah. Lacazette is a decent forward and was superb in December when Aubemeyang was dropped (two goals, three assists in four games). Though Nketiah has five goals this season, all of them came in the Carabao Cup; the young England striker has five goals in 42 career Premier League appearances. Oh and both Lacazette and Nketiah are out of contract at the end of the season. Gabriel Martinelli could be used as a striker, but then there would be a dearth at winger.

Surely Arteta has a replacement in mind after losing one of the club’s most influential players of the last few years, right?

On Monday, Kroenke’s other club announced Arsenal’s first (and so far only) official acquisition of 2022: Colorado Rapids defender Auston Trusty. The Gunners immediately sent Trusty back on loan to the Rapids until the start of the 2022-23 campaign on July 17. 

Auston Trusty Arsenal Deal

Trusty is a good MLS defender. A Philadelphia Union homegrown product, the 23-year-old has spent his last two seasons in Commerce City. He’s yet to make his senior USMNT debut, but he was a part of Gregg Berhalter’s 2022 January camp. Perhaps his greatest attribute is as a left-footed center back with good distribution, though it’s hard to see him unseating Gabriel for the starting role. I’d be shocked if Trusty makes a single Premier League appearance with the club.

For those keeping score at home, that’s five players out this January — Aubameyang, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (loan to Roma), Calum Chambers (free transfer to Aston Villa), Sead Kolasinac (free transfer to Marseille), Pablo Marí (loan to Udinese) — and none in for Arsenal, with two MLS players joining in the summer.

Matt Turner is reportedly signing with the Gunners from the New England Revolution, set to join the club in the summer like Trusty. With Bernd Leno leaving Arsenal, Turner will be the backup to Aaron Ramsdale, a keeper four years younger than him. It’s a move clearly meant as a business decision to add American fans for jersey sales with no impact on the regular lineup, and it’s not a great look for the USMNT to have its two best goalkeepers as backups heading into a World Cup.

There was no deal made to replace the goals lost with Aubameyang’s departure, no move to bolster a weakened midfield, no signing to provide cover at right back. 

Former midfielder Aaron Ramsey was available but instead went to Rangers. American Tyler Adams has been rumored as a long-term Arteta target, but he remained in Leipzig. Juventus beat out the Gunners for Serbian striker Dušan Vlahović.

To be fair, losing Aubameyang for free isn’t the end of the world. If he wasn’t going to play, you may as well let Barcelona pay his large contract. You just expect Arsenal to have some sort of backup plan.

After such a meek January in which the Arsenal men scored one goal, you’d think Arteta, Kroenke and technical director Edu would’ve made some meaningful positive moves. Instead fans were left smashing F5 on r/Gunners and the Twitter accounts of David Ornstein and Fabrizio Romano to no avail on Monday night. 

Not that the Arsenal women have been much better lately. January saw the women’s team lose to Birmingham City and Manchester United, need a late Tobin Heath equalizer to draw Manchester City and barely scrape by second-tier London City 1-0. Their leading scorer, Vivianne Miedema, is being courted by the best team in the world, Barcelona. (Sound familiar?) But at least they scored more than one goal in January and actually won a couple games. 

It’s possible another move is announced after the window, though reports have yet to suggest such a move is likely. Unless Arsenal announces a deal to bring Erling Haaland to the Emirates, it’s hard to imagine anything the team does quelling a fanbase that’s growing increasingly frustrated, one that could turn apathetic if improvements aren’t made soon.

While this Arsenal squad may have enough depth to play in one competition, it doesn’t have the look of a Top 4 Premier League club. Kroenke’s NFL team might be playing for the Super Bowl in two weeks, but his Premier League club is far from super. 

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