Possible Arsenal targets as we rebuild patiently for the future…

The re-building must begin and Arsenal fans must be patient by D$

I have not been on the ‘Wenger out’ bandwagon until recently but regardless of who the manager is going forward, the focus should be on re-building and development.

I have followed the progress of the players and the team closely and I could see our team evolving into a title-winning side as players who we brought through matured and our key signings had such a positive influence on the team. We finished 2nd in the 15/16 season. Admittedly, a lot of the other contenders were dreadful that year but if it were not for the remarkable, anomalous season of Leicester City, we would have been champions. If ever the cliché of “Arsenal need just two or three big signings” rang true, that was the moment.

Sadly, those two big signings were Mustafi and Xhaka… which have both turned out to be failures. Also, Santi Cazorla got injured early in the season, and has never returned. Our midfield became a liability rather than a strength. We lost the ability to retain possession and build attacks with confidence through the middle. Whilst Xhaka has the ability to hit long passes, he is often careless in possession and doesn’t foresee danger. In fairness to Xhaka, he is probably more suited to playing further upfield as an attacking midfielder, but we are well-stocked in that position. This season the wheels have come off as Mustafi’s poor decision-making is becoming more exposed as his defensive partner, Koscielny, has started to look his age and is plagued by a chronic achilles injury. The defensive cover of Chambers and Holding have shown some promise but I don’t believe they have the physical attributes to develop into world-class centre-backs.

Our opportunity to win the league with this group of players has closed and, to some extent, we need to throw in the cards and rebuild. We still have the nucleus of a strong side but I do not see us winning the league in the next few seasons and therefore I don’t really see the sense in recruiting Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan – They are great players but they are both in their late 20s and by the time our window opens to win the league again, they may have passed their peak. They may be able to help us secure 5th place, or even 4th (and Champions League status) but I would rather us work towards the long-term plan of actually challenging for the league again.

In general, our transfer policy should reflect an understanding of the new paradigm of transfer dynamics. If we are going to attempt to sign players in their peak (mid twenties) we will, for the most part, be recruiting 2nd rate players. The best ready-made players will be snapped up by clubs with greater economic resources – City, Utd, Real Madrid, PSG and so on. There may be some that fall through the net – we managed to sign Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla who would fit into almost any team – However, more often than not, if we try to recruit from this age-group we will be destined for mediocrity and Mustafi and Xhaka are testament to this theory.

Because of the squad issues highlighted above, the priorities for recruitment in the summer transfer window should be two central defenders and a holding midfielder. And we must prioritise quality and potential over experience. The requirements of a centre-back in the modern game are quite demanding and players of the highest quality in this position are very hard to come by. They need to be fast, big and strong; they need to have a good temperament and good judgment; and they also need to be able to bring the ball out from the back and contribute to attacks. I for one would rather see two young centre-backs, with genuine potential to develop into a world-class defensive unit rather than bringing in mediocre, more experienced players.

Young players are inconsistent and make mistakes and, as such, it is particularly difficult to develop young players in positions that have defensive responsibilities. But I would argue that there are quite a few interesting prospects out there right now and this transfer window is the opportunity to pounce and start the rebuilding. With all the above in mind, I have scouted a few players who I believe we should be competing to recruit this coming window.

There are two precocious players at Toulouse who have caught the eye as they have provided a reassurance to the backline of a very young side –Alban Lafont, a level-headed, athletic goal-keeper, and Issa Diop a brawny, determined centre back. Although they had a reasonable season last year finishing 13th in Ligue 1 with a very inexperienced team, Toulouse have not had a great season in 17/18 and are precariously positioned in 17th, just above the relegation zone. However, it seems that the inability to score goals may be a greater problem for them than their defence as they have only scored 29 goals this season; only two teams in the league, Troyes and Caen, have scored less. Their 44 goals conceded isn’t a disgrace when compared to other teams in the league – OGC Nice, who are 6th, have conceded more goals (45) and even Monaco in 2nd place have conceded 41. Therefore, I don’t think Toulouse’s poor form should have a bearing on the potential recruitment of their two best players.

I do not subscribe to the common opinion that Petr Cech’s career is over. Undoubtedly, he has made some mistakes this season but the defence in front of him has been lackluster and have put him under unnecessary pressure. Whilst I think Cech can still do a job for another year or so, we do need to think about the long-term successor for the Arsenal number 1 and Lafont is a goalkeeper who I think may turn out to be more talented than other touted young ‘keepers such as Donnarumma, Arrizabalaga and Oblak. Whilst he is only 19, he has been playing in the first team at Toulouse since he was 16 and has accumulated over 90 first team caps. Although I don’t think a GK should be the priority, we may think of getting Lafont in before other clubs pounce. Ferguson took a risk by recruiting a very young De Gea (I think he debuted for Man Utd at the age of 20) and Man Utd are now reaping the rewards. I would be very happy to see Lafont recruited as backup to Cech for next season, especially if Ospina leaves.

Diop, a 6’4’’ 21 year old centre back, also has a lot of first team experience for such a young player (over 80 first team caps). Although it is his outstanding physical attributes that stand out as he is big, strong and fast, I am just as impressed by his defensive technique, temperament and leadership qualities. Whilst competent with the ball at his feet, he isn’t going to be a Hummels-like, ball-playing centre-back. His strength lies in his ability to stop all types of attackers – He is strong in the air, he can cover the ground, and he has great closing speed and tackling judgment. Moreover, he has been trusted with the armband on many occasions suggesting he has the leadership qualities that our backline has needed so desperately.

Another centre-back who we should consider is Dayot Upamecano who at just 19 has nearly 50 caps for RB Leipzip, a very succesful team in the Bundesliga, and he had nearly 30 first team appearances at RB Salzberg before he moved to Germany. To have played such a pivotal role at such a tender age in a team that is currently 5th in the Bundesliga and finished 2nd last year suggests that he is destined for greatness. Will RB Leipzip be willing to part with him? They will already be losing Naby Keita in the summer so they may not want to lose two important players in one window but I would hope that Arsenal would flash the chequebook if required. He ticks all the boxes.

Malang Sarr is another option. Still only 19, he debuted for OGC Nice in 2016 and has notched up over 50 first team caps. He was pivotal in OGC Nice finishing 3rd in Ligue 1 last year. His greatest strengths are his positioning, anticipation and ability to read the play – areas that our current, more experienced CBs seem quite deficient. He is not the tallest defender (just under 6 foot) but he rarely gets beaten in the air – he is strong, athletic and very fast. He is also very good with the ball at his feet and being left-footed is also an advantage, as he would feel more comfortable on the left of a centre-back pairing. Interestingly, Sarr has recently been left out of the side to make way for Santos Marlon, who is on loan from Barcelona, so this could be the window that Sarr decides to move on.

Another young French prospect is Clement Lenglet who, at the age of 22, is in his second year at Sevilla, having already played over 80 times for the first team at Nancy in Ligue 1 and 2. Like Sarr, Lenglet is a left-footer so he would give our backline more balance. He is a cultured centre-back with elite distribution and no obvious weaknesses.

Jonathon Tar of Leverkusen may also come into consideration but, as he has just signed a long-term contract, and the fact that he has already played 3 times for Germany, he may be too difficult to sign. If he were to be sold this window, he is a little further along the line of development than some of the others and he would probably already be out of our league.

There are a few other interesting prospective defensive re-enforcements out there such as Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Ruben Dias (Benfica) and there are two very good young centre-backs at SC Freiburg – Marc-Oliver Kempf and Çağlar Söyüncü – who I would have my eye on.

In shifting focus to the midfield, I want to emphasise a point that I have made on this blog before. I believe that technical ability and football intelligence are the most important attributes for midfielders. I think that many pundits and commentators wrongly prioritise physical attributes in this position. I acknowledge that we have lacked a physical presence in the midfield since Vieira left but that doesn’t mean that we should recruit meatheads! I have debated people on this blog who were adament that we should bring in the likes of Wanyama or Fellaini before they ended up at Spurs and Man Utd respectively and I feel I have been vindicated. Although both players undoubtedly add a physical presence to their teams, they don’t have the ball-retention ability, range of passing, and football intelligence to facilitate attacks. Fellaini’s deficiencies are perhaps more obvious but I think Spurs have struggled to break down teams with a midfielder who can only pass side-ways. If Eriksen isn’t in their side, there is a clear chink in the supply chain to their potent forward line.

One player who I think has all the necessary qualities of a world class midfielder and who has, to some extent, flown under the radar is Pablo Fornals. He is a well-rounded, versatile midfielder with fantastic quality on the ball. He has exquisite vision and range of passing, which has helped him acquire 8 assists this season (that is third in the La Liga behind Messi and Sisto). Although often used as an attacking midfielder, he is robust enough to play in that deeper-lying role – he has good positional sense and can tackle. At 22, he is at a great age to recruit and he would add class and intelligence to our flailing midfield.

Another bright star in the galaxy of La Liga is Dani Ceballos and although his trajectory has plateaued a bit this season, he would be a great addition to our squad. He showed fantastic quality at Betis but hasn’t been able to get much game time since signing for Real Madrid. Still only 21, if he decides he wants more first-team opportunities, I would welcome him at Arsenal.

I have also been impressed by what I have seen of Lucas Torreira. The nuggety Uruguayan has been a tenacious presence in the Sampdoria midfield this season and his recent inclusion in the Uruguyan team has coincided with a string of victories. His weakness is that he is only 5’6’’ but he is none-the-less a ferocious tackler and he has the agility and presence of mind to foil opposition attacks. He also has great quality on the ball and if he were on a team that had better speed and movement in the forward line, he would be able to use his passing ability to greater effect. When he plays for Uruguay, for example, he has the ability to use and showcase his full skill-set.

This may slightly contradict my earlier assesment of the qualities that we should be looking for in a midfielder, but I think we should also have a close look at the performance of Denis Zakaria for Switzerland in the world cup. His strengths are undoubtedly his physical attributes as he is 6’3″, fast and aggressive and his protection of the backline this season has helped propel Gladbach to a very respectable 8th position in the table. He doesn’t seem to have the passing range and technical ability of some of the other names that I have mentioned but he seems to play within himself at times. He rarely sprays long, hopeful balls and some might consider this a sign of discipline – he rarely gives the ball away. He does have the ability to run with ball and it is thrilling to watch him intercept an opposition pass and turn defence into offence so rapidly. He is one to watch.

What do you think of those possible recruits that could come at a reasonable price to help Arsenal challenge for the title in the future?



  1. Malcolm Townsend says:

    Fair play Declan we need to rebuild some of our players have had it too cushy for a long time a lot of what you say is very sensible thinking maybe the board should read your article they might learn something

  2. Counsel says:

    Anyone who has read a report on telegraph

  3. Nayr says:

    Widely researched article but very young players.
    if it was about rebuilding i would go for these players in the preference order i have given,first to third choice.


    A new centerback-KALIDOU KOULIBALY/JAN VERTONGHEN(has refused to sign a new deal)/JAMES TARKOWSKI



    1. Nayr says:

      Toby alderwierld not jan vettonghen.

      1. Arsene Out says:

        Oblak and Koulibally are first class, would they come from Atletico and Napoli? I’m not sure. Can we afford them if they do? Probably not.

        For a Dm I would go with Fabinho from Monaco or Jorginho from Napoli, again expensive choices.

        Allegri and Simeone are not coming. If Wenger leaves the most likely choice for me is Ancelotti.

    2. D$ says:

      I like the players that you and ‘Arsene Out’ mention.
      I still think Lafont will be better in the long term than all those ‘keepers, but I would be happy with any of them.
      It is unlikely that we will get Koulibaly or Alderweireld we would get outbid (and there’s a little rivalry between Arsenal and Spurs!)
      I think you are missing the point of my article a bit. Let’s say – best case scenario – we get 3 or 4 of those players (let’s say Oblak, Koulibaly and Nzonzi). We would be undoubtedly a better team but would we be better than Man City or Man Utd. Would any of those guys even get in a City or Utd side (you could make a case for Koulibaly at Utd I suppose)? We might be able to compete again for 4th but I’m not satisfied with that.

  4. #Yo Iwobi - you wanna go away from here? says:

    The damage done to our midfield was not the carzorla injury. It was Wenger’s misguided belief that he could make Iwobi into the next Yaya Toure. That in turn led to a sharp rise in backward passing to the goalkeeper and completely destroying the midfield.

    Unfortunately this isn’t really an issue that can be fixed as the damage done is deep and irreversible. Tearing down the Emirates and starting again is the only option.

    1. D$ says:

      Iwobi has mainly been used as a wide player and sometimes as a 10. I would argue that it is the deeper lying position that we have struggled to fill. Cazorla was great when he dropped deep, got on the ball, and got things moving forward. Xhaka hasn’t been up to it.

  5. Counsel says:

    According to the telegraph arsenal hierarchy is split over the next manager to replace Wenger.Raul favors Enrike while Sven is eying Tedesco and the schalke coach who is 30 yrs.Guzidis wants one of either Arteta,Jardim or Rodgers.All I can say is this rubbish the telegraph is a very unreliable newspaper they can write all they want at the end of the day these newspapers will be used to wrap meat

    1. RSH says:

      all these reports know nothing. All done to sell papers. Daily Mail (haha!) reports say Vieira is coming 2019 and AW wont be sacked. Telegraph saying their stuff. Twitter journos saying theirs. Truth is we all have to sit and wait to see what ends up happening.

  6. Counsel says:

    The future is bright and patient pays our target is Europa league and we can do it

    1. John0711 says:

      You’ve been rumbled Click bait

  7. Innit says:

    Rebuilding requires a strong foundation with competent builders or it all collapses.

    In order to rebuild propely we need Wenger Out! If Kroenke stays we need an intelligent creative manager who can use the money in our “war chest” and sale of “deadwood” to get quality players

  8. Sue says:

    Christ Atletico lost 3-0 tonight!

    1. ThirdManJW says:

      Don’t worry, we’ll make them look like Real Madrid!

    2. TH14-TW14 says:

      Is it not Arsenal “fans” and the Arsnal/Arsene hating media that make them look invincible? Athletico, I repeat for the umpteenth time, has not been great this season despite being second in La Liga. Eliminated in the group stage of UCL (failing to beat lowly Qarabag home and away). The have been defensively disciplined but do not score enough. When I hear people say they would wipe the floor with Arsenal, I just laugh. They struggled against Sporting Lisbon but for the haters, they would disgrace Arsenal. Let’s wait and see.

  9. Kenny Rolfe says:

    I’ve never even heard of 95% of the players you’ve stuck up Declan. Maybe your the European scout for Melchester Rovers, are you the person who found Roy Race? Some of the rubbish you came out with astonished me. Cech’s ok for another couple of seasons, Chambers and Holding look promising, you’d prefer to see Xhaka in forward (10) position, Aubameyang and Mikhi were bad buys, we haven’t got the economic resources to compete,snap up a couple of Toulouse defenders even though their near the bottom of the French league, buy a player who has 80 first team caps, hilarious and best of all, sign Fellaini.

    1. D$ says:

      Mate, it’s fine if you disagree but please provide a justified counter-argument so we can have a debate. Just saying my opinion is crap is pointless.
      Maybe pick up on some of these:
      1. I do believe that Xhaka is more of an attacking midfielder, but my overall assessment was that he isn’t good enough in any position if we are serious about competing for the league. Would he get into a city or utd side? I doubt he would even make the bench. Do you think he is good enough?
      2. I think Auba and Mhkhi are great players but I was questioning the wisdom of bringing in players who are 29 years old. I believe that most players, especially forwards start to deteriorate physically by the time they get into their early 30s. I don’t think we will be able to realistically challenge for the title in the next two or three seasons, so by the time we have rebuilt they will be waning. If we finished 2nd last year then I could see why we would recruit two experienced players like that. Do you think we can win the league in the next two seasons?
      3. If read the article more closely, I argue against signing players like Fellaini. What sort of qualities do you think are important for possible midfield recruit? Big physical destroyer? Or more of a technician? It would be great to have a combo of both but I argue that the latter is more important.

      1. Prof says:

        Condemning and negatifying Aubameyang’s and Mhiktaryan’s age stances is tactically equivalent to telling us that current form of 28 -30+ attackers like Lewandowski, David Silva, CR7, Dzeko, Aguero, Mertens etc is badly regressing. ADMIN or D$ pls think twice before attempting to blindfold us all with your self-understood assessment of Arsenal FC and its way forward.

        1. D$ says:

          It’s a little hard to follow your thought process, Prof. And I think you are making up words. All those players you mentioned are in sides competing for trophies. We are clinging on to 6th. Do you think we can overtake the 5 teams above us in the next two years? If not, I think we should be aiming at the next generation

          1. Prof says:

            And what gives u the foreseeable impression that Auba and Mikky are not in a team that “CAN STILL” or “SHALL STILL” compete for trophies? Or do we agree you’re allergic to champion-related resurrection?

  10. DANDY GUNNER says:

    Wenger is going anywhere he will still be th Arsenal Manager next season and more. Wenger is already making excuses about buying players during the Summer transfer window. He said the Wold Cup is going to make it hard to buy. So here we go again EXcuses Excuses EXcuses nothing new here. I am sick to death of this Man.

  11. Rob says:

    Only problem in this article is saying Lacazette will be past it in 2 or 3 years. He only just turned 26

    1. D$ says:

      I think I only questioned the recruitment of Aubameyang (turning 29 in 2 months) and Mkhitaryan (29)

  12. D$ says:

    I only actually mention changing the manager in the first line – maybe that is as far as people got! It is a bit strange that there are so many comments about this, I’m sure there are many other blogposts to vent on that topic.
    The central theme of this article is about the philosophy of the transfer policy, regardless of who the manager is going forward.

    1. Sal says:

      Great article and you have a good eye at spotting talent. All the player you mentioned are a welcome addition to the club. Haven’t heard of the Turkish kid from Freiburg and haven’t watched much of Zakaria to pass judgment but all players you have stated are future stars in the making. With lafont and Dani topping my list. I would add de ligt as another option in defense and kimpede from PSG if they need to sell players to qualify for FFP. But I take nothing from the article great scouting and assessment of our situation and where we should be looking to buy, should be sent to our scouting network!

      I also agree with the miki assessment I don’t think he was a smart purchase we are definitely his last pay check, player on the decline, but auba if he keeps his pace for at least another 2-3 years he will be a deciding factor in many games, so happy to see him torment defenders from now on! I still think we need a winger but that s not a priority at the moment.

      So to summarize fantastic article and to all the wenger out and
      wenger in fans including myself to unite and support the team the rebuilding has started and we should all be excited about it! Also the timing could not be better, it made my weekend !!

      1. D$ says:

        Thanks, mate. Yeah Kimpembe especially is a great player

  13. Break-on-through says:

    Mustafi last season seemed promising, he made mistakes but nothing like this season. I think Mustafi is definitely gone with all that Inter business on deadline day, (he covered himself in a bad light) we had to hold onto him and it was just unprofessional for him to even entertain the idea after only one season. So he’s gone even if we have to bite the bullet on his price tag. Xhaka I think should be gone but I don’t think he will go. Xhaka is full of mistakes in both seasons but Wenger made the mistake in the first place by seeing him as a CDM, and before that he even said he could be a box to box player. I think someone could be brought in to compete with Xhaka and see if that makes Xhaka concentrate better and try to give more all round (passing/defending). Cazorla, I couldn’t believe it when I heard there is possibly a new contract for him. We are a joke if we’re entertaining this idea with him out for two seasons and given his age. Even if he did make it back sure how long would it be before match fitness, and with the seriousness of his injury he could end up with a limp or worse if we put him back out there. Am sick of all the chances everyone gets at Arsenal. I don’t mind being fair to players but they’re the first to understand that fans have expectations, (most players are fans themselves) if we’re not reaching our goals then we have to ask, which players are doing enough.

    1. D$ says:

      I agree with you to some extent. I also didn’t want to judge Mustafi and Xhaka too early – they aren’t terrible but they aren’t at the elite level

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