Arsenal’s season isn’t quite going to plan – at the time of writing, they’re in 10th place (tenth) and are three points closer to the relegation zone than the top four.
Mind you, most people didn’t expect Unai Emery to expose every flaw in the squad to the point where he’d get fired – the Gunners managed to squeeze every penny in the summer in order to improve the team.
Yet it’s now more obvious than ever that they’re in need of an overhaul. With players on expiring contracts and huge wages getting significant minutes while a bright generation of young players are trying to prove themselves, the club need to do all they can to help Mikel Arteta build a team for the long-term in his vision.
But with the likelihood being that Arsenal will be without Champions League football and maybe out of Europe altogether, what moves can they make to get themselves out of this rut? 90min has a look.
THE CURRENT SQUAD
For the sake of everyone at Arsenal Football Club, Shkodran Mustafi has to be shifted in the summer, particularly with his contract up in 2021. Don’t even need to do anymore analysis about this, either. Sokratis‘ deal is also expiring at the end of next season and has been declining, so it would be wise to get a fee for him while they can if a replacement can be found.
With William Saliba returning from his loan at Saint-Etienne, it’d wouldn’t be the worst idea to start giving him minutes – hey, the current options aren’t much better.
While Granit Xhaka appears to have won back the confidence of the head coach and maybe even the fans, he’s showed he can’t be trusted as a regular starter. By all means keep for the squad, particularly because his fitness record is great.
Further up the pitch, academy products Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson have looked a little rough around the edges so far. That’s fine for a team in 10th place, but Arsenal clearly aspire to be better than that – a pair of top flight loans are needed.
And now to the big boys. Hold onto your hats, Gooners.
Mesut Ozil – sell. Alexandre Lacazette – sell. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – keep.
Ozil’s £350,000-a-week wages have hamstrung the club’s operations, and you feel the current management would never have handed him such a deal. For a cut-price fee, for some wage contribution, for a Snickers and a can of Cherry Coke, there has to be a way found to move him on and ease that burden.
Picking between the two strikers is a trickier task, and in an ideal world both would be moved on and replaced, but there’s such little quality in the forward market at the moment that only one can be allowed to leave with their contracts running out in 2021.
Aubameyang will guarantee you far more goals than Lacazette, so he has to stay even if it means he leaves for free next summer – getting a decent a fee for the latter is still a possibility and he hasn’t shown enough at Arsenal that he’s worth keeping around over the Gabon international.
Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe should be the starting wingers barring some ridiculous turnover in the market.
WHO TO TARGET
There’s a good chance that Arsenal will make a move for Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi, because that’s just something they’d do. A player needing to be shifted at a potentially good price will always interest the current setup regardless of how good that player actually is.
In case you need to be told – don’t sign Otamendi.
At centre-back, the player Arsenal (and most other sides in desperate need of a dominant defender) should be eyeing up is Wolves’ Willy Boly. It might be hard to get him out of Molineux, particularly if they end up qualifying for the Champions League, but he’s far too often overlooked when discussing the best players outside of England’s big six.
But Boly would probably cost a fair bit more than they’d hope. Y’know, ‘Premier League tax’ and all that. Should it prove too difficult to iron out a deal, then Arsenal should enquire about Ajax’s Latin American duo – Lisandro Martinez and Edson Alvarez.
Both capable of playing in defence and midfield, they’ve both been in and out of an Ajax side trying to cope with the loss of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong. Alvarez in particular has had some settlement issues off the pitch, but if Ajax are listening to offers, there’s definitely potential for a low-risk high-reward deal.
Arsenal are well stocked in midfield profiles – a pure box-to-box in Matteo Guendouzi, a destroyer and engine in Lucas Torreira, a (pretty adequate) playmaker in Xhaka. What they lack is a ball carrier, and that leads them down two avenues.
If they’re feeling ambitious/if the money’s right and Aston Villa are relegated, then Jack Grealish has to be right at the top of their shopping list. Where the other big sides may not be able to guarantee him a key role, Arsenal should be in a position to build around him – though agent links with
A much more cost effective solution would be to re-sign Josh Dasilva from Brentford, who’s cemented his place as a key man in one of the Championship’s leading sides at the age of 21. Not a glamorous signing, but one that’d give Arsenal a little insurance over their youth policy, with the added option of choosing which prospects to loan out.
By this point it seems like Arsenal are just picking up the best assets of smaller teams – well, they don’t have the budget to go after those from the bigger ones, welcome to the real world. Speaking of smaller teams, Norwich are looking a pretty safe bet for relegation, would Gooners be satisfied with a plucky Emi Buendia? You’d better be.
The Argentine has created 68 chances, a remarkable 31% of Norwich’s in total (more than anyone outside the big six). While improving wide areas isn’t a priority, it’d give Arsenal flexibility with a player proven in the Premier League and settled in England.
By no means would this version of Arsenal be perfect, but it’d be more fun and suited to the ideas Mikel Arteta is trying to implement on the team. The weird squad makeup of Unai Emery’s tenure and that under Raul Sanllehi to this point needs to be dispersed if the club are to return to where they want to be – philosophically and tangibly.