Where Do We Go From Here? by Steve Atkinson
So, fellow Arsenal fans, with the end of the season comes the excitement and expectation of a busy time in the transfer market, with players set to be on the move in both directions. What do you think of the squad we’ve got, where should we strengthen, what do we really need within the confines of our budget? This is my squad review, with a focus on what I think we should do, and where we should spend.
Goalkeepers; Ramsdale has been a fantastic addition, and I don’t see him losing his place. Despite rumblings that Leno plans to stay, even with the Europa League next time around I think we’ll sell him, and I’m looking forward to the introduction of Matt Turner. Runnarson will be on the move too, but I can’t imagine we’ll add anyone else.
Defence; More of a conundrum here. Gabriel for me has been outstanding this season, very consistent and reliable. I don’t believe the same can be said for Ben White, who arrived as a big signing with a reputation for cultured defending which would allow us to play out from the back. I’m yet to be convinced. Defensively, though quick, he’s often left wanting physically, and isn’t a defender who’ll win headers and battles under pressure. Playing out, his runs often peter out around the halfway line and possession is regularly turned over. Compare him to Newcastle United signing 30-year-old Dan Burn, a tall ball winner who changed their defence completely. Football isn’t always technical, sometimes it’s backs-to-the-wall, doggedly defending a 1-0 lead on a wet winter night away. White may come good, but the jury is out for me.
Tomi has really won the fans over and I rate him highly as a right back, who can cover centrally. Soares has his ups and downs but he works hard, and I see no reason to offload him as he provides an option. Yes, Tomi has had his injuries but of course the right back spot can also be covered by White – and Niles is heading back to the Emirates too. Saliba – get him in and let’s see the lad play. It’s not easy to achieve what he’s achieved already in France, I have high hopes for him. Tierney is in my opinion our main issue, and a left back should be on our shopping list. When Tierney is fit, I rate him as one of the top three in the Premiership. On the downside, he’s unavailable too often (almost 50 games missed in three seasons) and this causes us serious issues when the boss doesn’t trust Tavares. We can’t have Xhaka, Soares or Tomi deployed time and again out of their comfort zone if we have top four ambitions.
Midfield; This is the area where I see the biggest problems. From the day he signed, I’ve not rated Partey in any way. He flatters to deceive and this season he gave himself four out of ten in one article, so even he recognises his performances are poor. For his size, he has no strength and he can’t dominate the midfield. I’d have him out of the door in a shot. Xhaka, well, he is what he is. I love his heart and his passion, and his impressive forward passing stats, but he’s oh so slow and maybe the time has come for him to find a new challenge. Ask yourselves, would Partey or Xhaka be on City or Liverpool’s radar? Nah. Another who I think flatters to deceive is Odegaard. I was unsure during his loan period, but my opinion of him improved this season with some superb performances from the lad. Then I realised, every time we have a big game, he goes missing, every single time. We need big game players to match our ambition, he’s got time on his side and plenty of ability, let’s see how he kicks on next season, especially when the chips are down. On the other hand, for the last five games in a row I had Mo Elneny as man of the match. A guy who keeps smiling and working hard either in or out of the team is always worth having around, battling, tackling, safe in possession, I’d like to see him retained. Lokonga was a mixed bag, I rate his skills and passing range, but he definitely showed to be a lightweight when games turned physical, so he needs work and a year in the gym I’d say. A defensive midfielder is up there on the list of requirements, without a doubt. My choice – the forgotten transfer from last year, Yves Bissouma.
Attack: ESR had a fine season, he tailed off towards the end but we knew this young side had a lot on their shoulders. Last season, I was hoping for the boss to give him a contract and the Number 10 shirt, which he did amid silly murmurs from Villa. Emile repaid the faith shown in him and I hope he can improve again. During that saga, we were disappointed Villa beat us to Buendia last summer, however he’s been bang average at Villa all season and I suspect we dodged a bullet there. Saka, what a player, almost everything we do involves the lad, Martinelli has been immense this season and I think he’ll just get better, and I’d like to see Eddie stay around, although not as first choice. I was delighted to see the back of Auba, he’d given up. Laca is ready to go, we should see that as a positive, and it seems Pepe’s Gunner days are over, so who’s coming in? For me, I’d love it to be Jesus, he’ll lose game time at City unless Haaland has a major absence and I think he’d suit our style, plus I like us to sign players who know the league we’re in. I also think that a player like Jesus would bring goals from ESR, Martinelli, Saka and Eddie, rather than arrive as a 20 goal a season man, which he isn’t. Will he improve us? Of course he will. The other player I would like to see us chase, but I don’t see it becoming a reality, is Ivan Toney. His work rate alone would be worth the fee, he wins more corners in his own box than any of the defenders around him, and he’d give us a plan B, a target. I’d find room for him and Jesus in the team, Europa would help us do that. Wild card option would be Richarlison, another Brazilian who looks to be on the move – I really hate his rolling around antics, but he certainly delivers.
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