Arsenal show steady growth however 2022/2023 season could be pivotal in the Gunners’ long-term strategy and vision by Tony
Let me begin by saying that whilst I was disappointed with the performances towards the tail end of the season especially given champions league qualification was in our hands, I’m proud of the performance of the team throughout the season, all things considered. This was a very young (I believe the youngest in the league), rejuvenated and much changed group of players under a manager who seems to have the right ideas and crucially the backing from the Board.
There is always a learning curve and supporters need to be prepared to back the team when they see positive changes. To me, most of what has happened over the last 24 months has been positive and, in my view, Mikel Arteta and his boys will have learned a lot from the experience gained this past year, which should stand them in good stead moving forward.
I’m also of the view that we might have had a bit of setback in terms of performances next season, had we qualified for Champions League especially given the strength in terms of quality and quantity in our squad. It would then have meant needing a substantial amount of investment to have a group of 18-20 players that can play competitively both in the PL and CL.
Whilst playing on Thursdays in Europa could be demanding physically, we will have another year to build a squad of talented footballers and be ready to compete and compete well in the CL in 2023 or 2024. I strongly believe that with right planning, backing and performances, Arsenal could be setting up a team that could consistently be in the top 4, but this process takes time and I’m all for it. This should also have happened when Wenger left but better late than never.
This transfer window is crucial in our endeavour to continue the rebuild. Last year’s signings especially Ramsdale, White, Tomiyasu and Odegaard were top drawer, and whilst the likes of Tavares and Lokonga did not have raving seasons they are young, and the experience will serve them better. Let’s not forget the huge task Arsenal had in letting some high wage, senior hitters go – the likes of Aubameyang, Ozil etc.
So where do we need to strengthen and what is the budget we might have? Let’s start with the budget. I would imagine it would be hard to believe Edu and Arteta would be given anything more than 100m. Funds from player sales might add to that chest, but anything more and I’d be surprised. With Lacazette going on a free, I can only imagine Pepe and Leno commanding any sort of fees. Clearly the investment in Pepe hasn’t materialised and I’d rather Arsenal cut their losses, and whilst Leno was good Ramsdale is our number 1. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think we can get 35mil for both of them combined. There are other potential permanent outgoings like Bellerin, Mari, Guendouzi, Torreira, Mavropanos (already agreed for 4.5m) etc. In my view the players currently on loan might have a future at the club are Saliba, Maitland Niles, Nelson and Balogun. Collectively I think Arsenal will probably get a further 30mil for the loan players leaving permanently, thus enhancing our total potential transfer kitty to 165mil.
Let’s look at the squad at the moment
GK – Ramsdale, Turner
CB – Gabriel, White, Holding, Saliba
LB/RB – Tomiyasu, Tierney, Cedric, Tavares
CM/DM – Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Lokonga, Elneny
RM/LM – Saka, Martinelli, ESR, Pepe
ST – Nketiah
I personally think our defence including goalkeeping have adequate players and cover. Cedric and Tavares provide adequate back up whilst Saliba adds lot of quality. We are however short on quality rest of the pitch. I’d love to see us prioritize two key positions – a solid out and out striker and a strong ball winning midfielder. Mikel Arteta plays a 4-3-2-1 of which I think Partey and Odegaard are certainty in that diamond. Odegaard plays as a Mezzala whilst I think Partey’s best role is a box-to-box midfielder. If we can get a strong DM, that would really strengthen the team. Xhaka, Elneny and Lokonga can provide cover.
I think we are looking to find another CM having been heavily linked with Tielemans who I’m a big fan of, and if that is the case then we might see Partey moving to a ball playing defensive midfielder role with Tielemans and Odegaard completing the diamond. However, if it was my money, I would buy someone like a Bissouma or Neves to take on that DM role. Let’s not forget that Maitland Niles returning will provide competition and cover both at the middle of the pitch and wing backs. His versatility cannot be understated.
Up front I feel Saka has made the RM position his own and whilst Martinelli and ESR have rapidly grown and shown they are capable; I do feel they are a year or two away from regularly playing in the XI. I would love for Arsenal to show intent and buy a top-class winger who can play LM, with Martinelli and ESR providing back up to Saka and a new LM. I hear we are linked with Serge Gnabry, and what a return that would be. I would also take Marcus Rashford in a heartbeat, if he is available and is willing to come to the Emirates.
Last and probably the most important slot we need to fill is that of a striker and it seems we have strongly been linked with Gabriel Jesus. Whilst I think he would be a good signing and can see the rationale given the way we play; I’d love for us to buy a pure striker – someone that has attributes of a Haaland or a Kane. Dusan Vlahovic would’ve been that guy but among the options available I’d like to see Victor Osimhen or Darwin Nunez. If they are overpriced, then I’d rather go for someone like Dominic Calvert Lewin over Gabriel Jesus. Dominic to me has tremendous ability and will prove people wrong with the right level of opportunities just like Aaron Ramsdale did.
So, there you have it – I’d like to prioritize a minimum of 3 key players to fill DM, RM and ST positions. And if we can get from the pool of Bissouma/Neves/Tielemans, Gnabry/Rashford, Osimhen/Nunez/DCL, then I think we will have strengthened the squad very well. I think 165m budget (discussed above) should be sufficient to bring the required 3/4 players.
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