Manchester United - Arsenal: Which side made better moves in the transfer market?

Manchester United - Arsenal: Which side made better moves in the transfer market?
Manchester United - Arsenal: Which side made better moves in the transfer market?
Manchester United - Arsenal: Which side made better moves in the transfer market?
Our TOP MATCH this Sunday is another edition in the much-storied rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford. In the lead-up to the game and amidst all the drama of the transfer window drawing to its conclusion on Thursday, let's consider the question - which side won in the transfer market this summer?

On the pitch, Arsenal have got off to a flying start, with a perfect record of five wins from five. They have started the season in an assured manner, continuing on from the positive foundations set last season. United, by contrast, had to overcome a disastrous start to this season but, notwithstanding a bit of chaos, have since steadied the ship quite well. 

Off the pitch, each club’s dealings in the transfer market bear some similarities to their fortunes on it. Arsenal’s window looked like it largely went to a pre-set plan; their business was marked by early-window signings that seemed to immediately address weaknesses in their squad. United looked comparatively more muddled in their dealings and, while there were some smart additions, they did appear to overspend, undersell and their late-window buys smelt of a lack of strategy. Despite all that, United’s window was far from a full-blown flop, though.

Both sides brought in considerable talent and both have been boosted by a bit of good-old Brazilian flair. Let’s dig a little deeper and compare each side's transfer window by looking at the TOP THREE arrivals for each side this summer.


Gabriel Jesus (25) for €52.2million from Manchester City

Certainly Arsenal’s marquee signing of the summer, Gabriel Jesus hit the ground running with impressive returns in the preseason before continuing that form into the opening rounds of the Premier League. The Gunners’ fans had been crying out for a new centre-forward after the increasingly underwhelming stints of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and then Alexandre Lacazette had seemingly run their course. In came Manchester City’s unwanted man with the prophetic name early in the transfer window. Often preferred as a wide forward in his time under Pep Guardiola, Jesus has been given the number nine at Arsenal in both a literal and positional sense. It’s fair to say he’s taken to the job like a duck to water with three goals and three assists in just five games. An awesome signing already, Jesus is destined for a big season.

Oleksandr Zinchenko (25) for €35million from Manchester City

Another one plucked for the Manchester City reserve list, Zinchenko followed Jesus to Arsenal and has just as seamlessly slotted in since arriving. Before picking up a knock against Fulham last weekend, he looked at ease as Arsenal’s left back, often seen gliding into central areas to become an auxiliary midfielder in much the same way that fullbacks are known to do at City. Zinchenko has proven over the years, at club and international level, that he is comfortable in various positions, and in this role as a left back-cum-midfielder he provides Mikel Arteta with a different option to Kieran Tierney who prefers a more marauding, overlapping style. Assured, technical and tactical adaptable, Zinchenko is an excellent addition to Arsenal’s squad.   

William Saliba (21) returned from loan at Marseille

Never has the term like a new signing seemed so apt as for the case of William Saliba, who returned to Arsenal from his loan spell at Marseille this summer. A prodigal son of sorts, a centre-back that the club had the highest of hopes pinned on, finally returned this season after two consecutive loan spells in Ligue 1 spanning 18 months and a whole three loan spells since first signing for the club. Saliba was immediately trusted by Mikel Arteta to start the season on the right side of the centre-back pairing next to Gabriel. He hasn't missed a Premier League match since and has looked confident, strong and extremely elegant to boot. He’s the kind of defender that makes the job look effortless, even balletic and he's even notched a goal already too. At only 21, the maturity of his play stands out even more. There had been a lot of talk about Saliba’s quality while he was out on loan, he’s very quickly justified that hype already.

Other Key Arrivals: 

Fabio Vieira €35million from Porto; Matt Turner €6.36million from New England Revolution; Marquinhos €3.50million from Sao Paulo

Key Departures: 

Matteo Guendouzi to Marseille for €11million; Lucas Torreira to Galatasaray €6million; Bernd Leno to Fulham €3.6million; Alexandre Lacazette to Lyon for free; Pablo Mari to Monza on loan; Nuno Tavares to Marseille on loan; Nicolas Pepe to Nice on loan

Reported net spend to date: €-108.26million

Manchester United 

Lisandro Martinez (24) for €57.37million from Ajax

Two games into the season and you might have been fooled into believing that Martinez was the worst signing of all time, such is the outlandish hyperbole of the sports punditry class  these days. After a very rocky start to life in Manchester of two defeats in two - including that demolition away at Brentford - many were specifically calling for Martinez’s head to roll. He was, allegedly, too short and too weak for the Premier League. But since then he’s been outstanding and he’s made the left-sided centre back berth his own. Erik ten Hag and his team identified Martinez as the left-footed centre back they wanted to fill that gap in United’s squad and they duly invested heavily to bring him in from Ajax - a bidding war with Arsenal, incidentally, pushing his price tag up along the way. It seems that sticking to his man has already paid off for ten Hag, those early cries of derision already turning into unanimous ripples of applause. This was a much-needed signing that plugs what was an apparent hole in United’s roster. 

Casemiro (30) for €70.65million from Real Madrid

You’d be forgiven for wondering if United actually had a transfer strategy at times. If all the rumours were to be believed, they were linked with every other midfielder and his dog. De Jong, Rabiot, Rice and everyone in between had been connected with United throughout the summer. The clamours for a high-class defensive midfielder amongst the United fans had been conspicuous for what felt like years and yet it seemed as if the club just weren’t responding to those calls. And then, suddenly, they go out and sign Casemiro as if they were planning to all along. It might have been a little rushed and hurried and it’s a lot to pay for a 30-year-old, but nonetheless United have signed one of the world’s elite players in his position. Is this the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing for so long? Well, it’s certainly an improvement to the side, that's for sure. 

Christian Eriksen (30) for free from Brentford

This is probably where you’d expect to see a paragraph written about Antony. But that’s too obvious. And, more importantly, there are more questions surrounding Antony’s signing than there are answers, for now. Why was he so expensive? Is he worth it? Will he succeed? Such is the nature of a huge money, late-window signing of a relatively unproven player. The polar opposite of that signing is the capture of Christian Eriksen on a free transfer after his short-term contract at Brentford expired. After joining the Bees halfway through last season, Eriksen quickly transformed the plucky side’s performances and ended the season with their third-highest assist tally (four in total) despite only starting 10 matches (11 appearances overall). Eriksen has proven himself to be a top-class performer in England and beyond and it was a truly savvy move to snap up the delicate Dane and add a little bit of guile to a United midfield that, for too long, looked fairly one-dimensional. 

Other key arrivals: 

Antony from Ajax for €95million; Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord for €15million

Key Departures: 

Andreas Pereira to Fulham for €9.5million; Eric Bailly to Marseille for €2million; Paul Pogba to Juventus for free; Jesse Lingard to Nottingham Forest for free; Nemanja Matic to Roma for free; Edinson Cavani to Valencia for free; Alex Telles to Sevilla on loan; Dean Henderson to Nottingham Forest on loan; Juan Mata released; Lee Grant retired

Reported net spend to date: -226.52million

The question at the top of the article was: which team won off the field in the transfer market this summer? And it’s still surely too early to say definitively as injuries, suspensions, form, and the simple fact that there is so much football yet to be played mean that a good answer to that question is obscured for now. But, if we take into account how each side’s respective arrivals have settled in, the money spent to get them and how well-planned their strategies seemed - it's safe to say that Arsenal is winning this bout on points. Could there be another late transfer in the works to change that calculation? We'll see. All that really matters, though, is what happens on Sunday afternoon when these two old enemies go to battle in the theatre of dreams.