As Mikel Arteta got his feet under the table at London Colney ahead of his first summer at Arsenal, the Spaniard had innumerable problems to contend with. In complete honesty, the Gunners' playing squad wasn't at the previous standard once seen.
Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December 2019 with the north Londoners lurking in 11th in the Premier League table. Eight wins in the second half of the season, including victories over Manchester United, Liverpool, West Ham and Newcastle, helped drag the Gunners to an eighth-placed finish and FA Cup win.
Work to mould Arteta's squad had started well before the 2019/20 season had ended with Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhaes, Willian and Martin Odegaard all arriving. However, supporters will remember Arsenal's attempt at signing Chris Smalling.
The centre-back had revived his career after struggles at Manchester United with a successful loan spell at AS Roma. His pace and strength made him a perfect fit to Italian football and Arteta was obviously a fan.
Months of speculation came to nothing with AS Roma making the move permanently for a deal worth £18million. Fast forward three years and the Gunners are among the elite in the Premier League with two of the best central defenders in the league.
Now, ahead of the January transfer window, Smalling is being tipped to leave Roma after four years. Clubs in the Saudi Pro League are keeping tabs, though reports have claimed he could look to make a return to England.
Now Arsenal haven't been linked or even remotely mentioned in running to sign the 33-year-old. But should Arteta and Edu Gaspar like the idea of bringing an experienced defender in to bolster the depth behind William Saliba and Gabriel, there's a reason why they should completely avoid it.
After playing 85 games in the last two seasons, helping Roma win the first-ever UEFA Conference League - Smalling has been forced to watch from the sidelines for the majority of this campaign.
Smalling, or 'Smalldini' as he's been known in Italy, has suffered with tendonitis in his knee since the third game of the season. It's understood that the defender's reluctance to try various therapeutic methods to aid his recovery means he could be out until the new year.
Arsenal's transfer strategy will be heavily focused on avoiding players with a track record of injuries after their horrid luck with setbacks. As many will remember, Arteta and the club were denied their first Premier League title since 2004 courtesy of a long-term injury to Saliba last campaign.
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