Arsenal have their four core players to build a team around for next decade

A few weeks ago I ran an article that concluded to be a successful team you need a core of players running through the team, I wrote that Arsenal lacked that and until they do, success will be hard to come by.

The article did say that we currently have two of the four core players and the potential to have a couple more to complete the set but that would be short term, mainly because of the age of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

This article focusses on the potential for a quality core over the next decade.

The four players I feel will be that core for years to come are Bernd Leno, William Saliba, Matteo Guendouzi and Nicolas Pepe.

I do not include Dani Ceballos as I am doubtful he will be with Arsenal long term.

Pepe is not an out and out striker but he is of such quality that he more than compensates for that. Saliba needs a season to bed in once he joins and Guendouzi is not quite there yet.

But the three outfield players are young enough that in two years time they will at a level so much higher than they are now and the core in the Arsenal team will be well established.

Having that quality core means Arsenal can build around them with other highly talented players like a Kieran Tierney and so on but it is the core that is the critical element here.

Arsenal simply does not have that core right now, but the players they have bought, players arriving will form that core for years together.

Of course, Saliba has to prove he is a top-quality centre back, Guendouzi has to continue with his progress and Pepe has to live up to the hype and I am very confident all three will do just that.

Put it this way, do not be surprised if in years to come those these players are being compared to the likes of Lehmann, Campbell, Vieira and Henry.


  1. All we really need is
    2 top GK
    2 top LB
    2 top RB
    4 top CB
    2 top DM
    2 top CAM
    2 Top B2B
    2 top wingers
    2 Top AM
    2 Top strikers.
    Build a team around that core of 22 top class players.

  2. We’ve not seen much of william salliba to make him a core player for us but i have high hopes for him. Rob holding is much more qualified to be one of the core since we’ve seen enough of him and boy do i miss him!

    To be honest i’ve never really understood guendouzi’s playing style and as such never rated him really. But this year he looks different, as he’s more composed on the ball and aware of his surroundings. Every body talked about how he was great against tottenham which was obviously true but the liverpool game did it for me when he almost managed to lose position around our box but he just nicked it back to leno and jogged off like nothing happened and just carried on.i said to myself now that’s how a confident player looks like UNDER PRESSURE!

  3. A bit dubious about Leno.

    At best he’s EPL’s 6th or 7th best keeper and I haven’t seen any improvement in him the past few years – he’s still a liability every handful games just like in the Bundesliga.

    Is the 6th or 7th best keeper good enough for a team that wants to regularly be in the top 4 and eventually fight for the title?

    Perhaps, just about. But I think in a couple of years we can start paying multi-year instalments for a genuinely top keeper who is top 10 in the world and at least top 5 in the EPL.

    I agree about the other 3 being Pepe, Guendouzi, and Saliba. Tierney – we’ll have to wait for a while to see how good he is in a competitive league. The same (although to a lesser extent as Ligue 1 is miles better than Scottish Prem) could be said for Saliba, but to be starter as a CB in Ligue 1 as an 18-year old is amazing. Even if he only improves by 10 %, he’ll be enormous for us.

    1. Tierney is a quality young footballer don’t worry about him. Certainly more tested than the RB Utd paid £50m for and for half the money we paid we have 10 times the player he is.

    2. I disagree about Leno -top top keeper ,fantastic shopstopper ,amazing with the ball at his feet ,top 3 keepers in the league easy and best keeper I’ve seen at the club in a long time ,yes he makes mistakes but what keeper doesn’t , it’s just highlight more because of his position.Emerys best signing

      1. Have to disagree with you about Leno. He is a great stopper but he still lacks presence in his area and suspect on crosses. He is still error prone as he showed against Spurs. I personally felt more comfortable with Cech in goal who was a far superior keeper. I sincerely hope I am wrong but he looks like one of the worst signings in the Emery era

      2. Bayer Leverkusen didn’t sell him because he wasn’t a good shot stopper.It was because he makes a lot of mistakes.Indeed, he was voted as having the save of the season some seasons back in the Bundesliga.Hes a good keeper but not a top keeper

  4. @Jon Fox-in reply to your post on the thread yesterday. Who am I to question your principles? But I do honestly believe that it leaves too many avenues that could be mid-interpreted to any item you post in future. We all have principles to a point but this is an Arsenal Football Site not a Blog for the inner soul so I cannot reply other than to say if your passion in life is liberal values then it is totally different from mine.
    And to answer my own question to you-If Arsenal Football Club were to be bought tomorrow by an oil rich Sheik who pumped billions of his money into the Club then why would I not welcome that?
    Adidas Nike And every Sports manufacturer have been exposed for employing child labour to make their products.Do we start wearing a kit made from Marks and Spencer’s?
    There is an argument for any question.It just depends on how we interpret that question

    1. Well Phil, though it may, or may not, surprise you, I thank you for being totally honest about what you value and I don’t wish to give the impression to anyone that AFC is of less value to me , now that I am older ad more worldly wise about what is ultimately most important in life. More worldly wise than when I was younger, is what I mean. That is just the way I am made and we are all as we are and personally I am all for that wonderful human diversity of ways. Many on here misunderstand me. I am well aware of that.They appear to think, because I passionately believe in telling it straight and as it is(as I perceive it) that I am mean and spiteful. No one who knows me personally and properly could possible think that,I promise you. I am kind, empathetic, decent and helpful. I also have all the usual human faults and would not be human at all did I not have them. I have been hurt by things you wrote about me and have replied in most unkind way. I am sorry and admit I was wrong to do so. I acted out of haste. My human faults, you see Phil.

      As to AFC and the wider subject of all Prem football BUSINESS,(as opposed to the actual playing of the game itself), I DO harbour grave concerns and have for many years past, about HOW the Prem and top level football BUSINESS is going. And I dislike it intensely. This is a major reason I can not longer stomach the ludicrous salaries awarded to players just because they have playing talent. Unless they are decent people too, and many certainly are, including a certain MESUT OZIL, then I have deep loathing of them as people. I detest greed and what fleeces ordinary hard pressed but devoted fans, many of whom can ill afford to attend at all. Or who have to make huge family sacrifices to feed their “habit”. And yes, ALL we devoted fans well understand it is a drug! It ONCE WAS a healthy drug . But, thanks to the corporate greed, it has become unhealthy. Not the actual game but the whole of everything else that surrounds it business wise. That is how I see it and have to be honest. PERHAPS NOW WE MAY BETTER UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER. I retain enormous respect for all devoted and passionate fans everywhere and wish I could do something to help rescue them from the cancerous owners and corporate greed that harms then so much. I wish you well, please believe me Phil.

      1. Jon- I too regret our recent “spat”. We must have come across as a pair of old codgers and brought a smile to a few faces I’m sure.
        So let’s just agree to disagree where we do and enjoy our inclusion on this site as before.

  5. I actually think we have a solid team of young players to set ourselves up for the next decade.

    Bellerin Salilba Holding Tierney
    Willock Guendozi Smith-Rowe
    Pepe Nketiah Saka

    Martinelli, Nelson, and more coming up through the academy as well.

  6. Haven’t seen enough of Pepe to be confident he’s not going to justify his price tag never mind be in the core 4 players. If I were coach I would make Lacazette captain and my 4 youth core would be Guendouzi Holding Tierney and ESR. A midfield 3 of Guendouzi Ceballos ESR gives us the quality on the ball similar to that of Manchester City without the physical element or Fernandiho.

    1. @Liam Gallagher
      People need to stop overhyping ESR. He’s like a younger version of Ramsey, and halfway decent going forward, but but not too interested in tracking back. He also is find of invading other players space, eager to get on the ball instead of maintaining positional discipline, just like Aaron. Willock brings more to the table and is streets ahead. Ceballos is a loan deal, so you can’t build around him…

  7. There is no long term core anymore in football. Look at Spurs, they have Erickson, Vertongen and Aldeweird on the last year of their contract. Next season, they may lose all 3 whom you’ld have considered as a long term core only a season or two ago.

    These days, players run down their contracts to the last year and it’s happening across clubs. Chelsea (Hazard, Hudson-Odoi); Man U (Herrera, De Gea, Martial, Pobga approaching); Liverpool (Emre Can). I don’t have to list Arsenal’s.

    Players do so to get bumper contracts and it has come to stay. Clubs who can’t afford to bump contracts will definitely lose the player. We know Arsenal will not pay those wages. Should these players turn out great, and following current trends, I feel it wouldn’t be too unrealistic to say that they would unlikely be at Arsenal for that long.

    Modern football is no longer about love, family and passion. It’s about money, fame and glory. The now trumps the future and no other group understands it more than the players themselves.

    Wenger did exactly say that this was the future of contracts. I have seen people talk about clubs being “ruthless” with players who don’t want to extend their contracts but truth is that there’s little clubs can do. Let’s take Spurs for instance, we know how much reputation Levi has as a tough negotiator and dealer but what can he do about the 3 I earlier mentioned? Banish them to the reserves? That’s 3 of your best 11 and high wage earners. Who takes their place? Do you want to finish mid table? It’s always good in theory but in practice, “ruthlessness” is just a fantasy.

      1. Ingleby and Th14-Tw14 (great post by the way), that last paragraph shows just how much insight AW had into the game of football – trouble was, he couldn’t stop it happening to his players either!!!

        The power is in the hands of the players and there is no doubt about that.

        The only sign of being remotely “ruthless”that I have witnessed in the last few years, has been Abramovitch as the chelsea owner…but even then, he has to give enormous golden handshakes out.

        1. Of course, Wenger’s knowledge and insight, as well as his humanity, is one in a generation. I have watched the game long enough (and as a doctoral candidate in sports science researching on football) to know the truly greats in football. The knowledge Wenger has, both on and off the pitch may not be replicated in our life time.

          Modern fans have changed but they do not understand that the game (footballers and other actors) have also changed. They set themselves up for a heartbreak everyday. Long term core is an unrealistic fantasy but they keep on building that in their imaginations. The exit of Nasir and Fabregas (the very first core post invincibles) was instructive. All the factors that led to their exit have even become more endemic yet fans still live in the past failing to evolve with the times. Part of the reason is because at Arsenal, many believed that Wenger was the problem, but truth is that those were external factors outside of not just Arsenal, but every club. The difference then was that the other big clubs had the resources to, at least temporarily, weather the challenge from the emerging order or were even responsible for the order. As a result, it appeared like Arsenal was the issue. With time, the discerning would recognize that the game they followed in the last or early part of this century has undergone remarkable transformations while the were cheering.

          Football is part of the postmodern world which in the words of British Sociologist is a “runaway world”.

        2. Yes, agreed. He was/is a considerable force when analysing the football world. My biggest gripe about AW was that he repeatedly withheld the truth from us supporters while at the same time he had clearly done a ‘top four deal’ with the owners, ie a free hand in exchange for top four. It got to a point where his post match comments and news re injured player recovery times were repetitive and laughable. I ceased bothering to listen eventually.

      1. That makes him a dead cert Arsenal player then Durand!!!

        At least we haven’t got to pay his wages and foot the bill for his treatment.

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