We have a lot of work to do in the summer by Max Roe
With the termination of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s contract, and the pending expiration of Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah’s contracts (with both not seeming likely to be extended) we are going to be left with no senior strikers – with Flo Balogun only just starting to play his first six months in competitive men’s football in the Championship – having yet to score a goal.
And Mika Biereth who only joined the club in the summer from Fulham, and despite being the top goalscorer in the Premier League Under 18s South, is only playing his first full season of under 23 football and has only made the first team bench a few times. So, it can safely be said a lot of work is needed to be done up front in the transfer market.
Yes, we are not losing much goals from the two of them, (with Lacazette only having 3 premier goals this season, and Eddie with the grand total of 0) but we are left with a gaping hole to fill.
As Aubameyang is back to form and having a great start to his new life in Barcelona under Xavi, after struggling for the past year and a half at the club. However, the pressing matter is that despite this apparent struggle, Aubameyang is still our joint third top goalscorer in the Prem – with 4 goals in the league, which for someone who played his last game for the club on the 6th of December against Everton – before being frozen out from this point until his move to Barca – is a worrying statistic.
This return to form for Auba, with him nearly matching his Premier League total already in La Liga, does beg to ask the question as to whether Mikel Arteta is the problem, and whether we have to be very specific on what strikers – and I emphasise the plural on that – we bring in over the summer, as his tactics, or persona and what he wants from his strikers has been shown to not work for all. But, currently at least, Auba is proving that when leaving to another good team, he can start scoring goals again. With four goals in four La Liga games, and another good finish in the Europa League against Napoli too.
Now, I understand you might argue that Aubameyang has actually only scored in two La Liga games, with his fortunate hat-trick and his goal last night, but in the game against Valencia, the first finish was certainly the sign of the old Auba, reminiscent of his combination with Laca in Europa League last time we played Valencia in the Mestalla. And if you’ve been watching him recently, he certainly looks like he has found some his pace again – and got his mojo back. But you have to bear in mind that this was Auba’s first start for Barca in the La Liga, so for him to core a hat-trick on his full debut is very impressive. As well as the fact that on his debut against Atletico Madrid, Auba was a 61st minute substitute, but after only being on the pitch for 8 minutes, Dani Alves got himself sent off so Barca was reduced to ten men – meaning Auba’s impact could not be felt on the game – as they sought to see out their lead.
Xhaka and Saka, as well as Nicolas Pepe and Cedric, all have 2 years on their contracts on the summer, so key discussions will need to be made, not just on incomings to bolster the pre-existing squad but also adding replacements with the potentiality that 3 of these 4 names (excluding Saka) could all leave. With Mourinho supposedly re-interested in Granit, and Pepe should just move on for the sake of his career and play for a team where he is wanted. And Cedric – despite coming into a purple patch of form recently – will be 31 at the end of August so should probably be moved on as well if we want to get a small fee for him before his price decreases to nothing.
So, if this is the case, we will need a new RW, as Omari Hutchinson – despite all the talent – can’t be expected to fill the gap of Pepe. A new back-up RB, potentially either Djed Spence or, hopefully the most likely choice, someone from the academy. As just like the England squad, we seem to be producing an abundance of RBs. E.g.: Brooke Norton-Cuffy, or a more experienced choice would be Zak Swanson, captain of the Under 23s. Who recently made the bench against Wolves? As well as the young Reull Walters who has just recently signed his first professional deal and been playing regularly for the Under 23s. And at least 3 probably 4 CMs, one to be a back CDM, for Partey – a replacement for Elneny when his contract expires and an upgrade on Xhaka. Which would then allow for rotation for Albert Sambi Lokonga and/or Charlie Patino and Mohamed Salah Eddine, unless they go out on loan.
It is obvious, a lot of work will need to be done in the summer – ignoring the fact that both William Saliba and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will have 1 year left on their contract (with Ainsley sure to leave) – and, ultimately, how much business can be done will depend on whether or not we receive the lavish financial boost in finishing 4th and qualifying for the Champions League.
With not only the attraction of players, as well as tying down players to new contracts for the long-term such as Saka, being greatly increased; by not only demonstrating potential and a ‘return’ to the elite – showing Arsenal can compete or get to compete (to be beaten) by the top clubs in Europe again. With the Champions League allowing for greater ammunition to go and buy the top players we are always without fail linked to (without any actual substance behind these rumours).
With the club last night announcing the loss of £107 million where we finish this season, will again, dictate massively for next year but also the future, as it seems this season is our last chance to finish in the top 4 before the Big 6 (plus more) allow Arsenal to fall further behind. As if we cannot make it this year, we won’t have the funds to make it anytime soon.
This summer is going to be an important one – hopefully for the right reasons!
Thanks for reading,
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