For the majority of the summer, Arsenal fans had to deal with the same recurring theme: a meagre £45m budget.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League for a third straight season meant the budget was supposedly just £45m.
And then suddenly it wasn’t.
The £6m spent on Gabriel Martinelli early in the window was used as evidence that it was, and fans became frustrated with a failure to capitalise on further targets.
Right there in the shadows, the club were working diligently away to smash through that barrier – and Arsenal’s transfer record.
With the young Scottish left-back Kieran Tierney joining at the eleventh hour, Arsenal’s summer spend rose to £130million, more than half that figure coming from the £72million capture of Nicolas Pepe.
Teenage centre-back William Saliba, who won’t wear an Arsenal jersey until the summer of 2020, also blew in for almost £30million to cap a material window for the Gunners.
Yet the reality is Arsenal are not a Champions League side, and the tens of millions spent on fees (which several of the deals are to be paid in instalments) given the club’s current standing – will come hand in hand with another huge bump to Arsenal’s already creaking wage bill.
On the upside, Arsenal refused to offload any prize assets to help bankroll these signings, using instead, presumably, their own cash flow in place of profits generated from rumoured targets Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Cash flow is an issue for every side in the Premier League, and it’s very important when a club, like Arsenal, are running a Champions League budget while playing on Thursday nights.
This situation is worsened by the fact that Arsenal have an owner who won’t put a penny of his own cash in, on top of that absence of a significant injection of capital from players out.
That was until very late until deadline day, when reports emerged that Everton had agreed to pay £40m for Alex Iwobi, the academy graduate whose affiliation with the club stretches back to the Invincibles season.
The Nigerian international signed with the Gunners since 2003, aged 7 and was already considered by many fans as a “proper Gunner”.
How much of that cash is upfront, how much later, how much conditional, is anyone’s guess, but the point seems clear: for a player Arsenal weren’t particularly looking to sell, £40m was just too good of an offer to turn down.
It brings the price of Pepe down to a much more reasonable £32m, viewed at from one angle.
And, finally, around £100m was owed on transfers by the club from the summer of 2018 onwards, which may go a little way to explaining why it was the appropriate time to cash in on the young Nigerian.
As well as being a good chunk of capital to help smoothen Arsenal’s enormous operation, it’s also a savvy move from a Financial Fair Play standpoint, especially had Arsenal had previously been forecast to post a financial loss for the 2018/19 season.
Being an academy graduate means Iwobi has no value on Arsenal’s books, and as such, the club will be able to declare a clean profit on his sale.
Arsenal were not exactly looking to sell but at that price, the deal was impossible to reject; also considering the surplus of options Emery now has upfront.
The debate still remains whether it was the right time to sell a winger with a “promising” career.
However it may seem, his departure to Everton was a necessary ruthless move by the club.