As the 2018/19 season comes to a close, all footballing eyes focus on the summer transfer window with numerous rumours already brewing. No fans will be more interested in the movements at their club than followers of Arsenal. Another frustrating season peppered with inconsistency and poor away form spells the need for more change for the misfiring Gunners.
Not only this, but the departure of three experienced players from The Emirates leaves questions surrounding the state of the squad.
While the loss of these players will reportedly save the Arsenal wage bill about £325,000 per week, it highlights deeper issues. Petr Cech is retiring after a 15-year Premier League career, but Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck have been released for free. Allowing two talented players under the age of 30 leave with no money coming in represents the desperation to chip away at the £220m-plus per year wage bill.
What these departures also create is the glaring need for reinforcements in the squad. Without qualification to the Champions League, Arsenal have about £40 million to play with in the transfer window, leaving Unai Emery a difficult task at hand.
As it currently stands, William Hill has Arsenal at 25/1 to win the league in the 2019/20 season, with five teams attracting better odds than them. This represents the squad situation as it stands, with the odds stacked against Emery’s side to finish in the top four.
So which areas need attention?
Opening at midnight on 16 May and closing on 8 August at 5pm, Arsenal have just under three months to make some important adjustments in the summer transfer window. But what are the most pressing issues that need addressing?
With just one clean sheet away from home all season – against 10-man Watford – the defence is just one area the Gunners need to focus on. Out of action since sustaining his knee injury against Chelsea in mid-January, Hector Bellerin has been missed and will be an asset on his return.
However, Shkodran Mustafi, Carl Jenkinson, Stephan Lichtsteiner and possibly Nacho Monreal are all defenders that Arsenal should be considering to sell and replace.
Mustafi has proven himself to be error-prone and, while full of heart and effort, Jenkinson isn’t quite at the required standard for a club aiming for a top four position. Unfortunately, 35-year-old Lichtsteiner hit on the Premier League at the wrong time in his career and is off the pace, while Monreal is also starting to suffer with the speed of the top flight.
Moving attention to the midfield, the Gunners clearly need a suitable replacement for the versatile Aaron Ramsey. A difficult task to replace a box-to-box midfielder with a prolific scoring and assist record who can also play on either wing. This situation will be a real headache for the Spanish head coach to manage.
If wages are such a concern for the Arsenal purse strings then Ozil will certainly be on the list of players to look at. His suspected £350,000 per week salary also doesn’t seem fitting with his up and down season. He’s struggled to impress Emery and, while there’s no doubting his class, the inconsistency in Ozil’s performances will give the manager something to think about. The question is, can his wages be put to better use to strengthen the squad as a whole?
One huge positive for the Gunners to focus on is the blossoming young talent coming through the ranks. Future prospects Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson are plying their trade on loan in the Bundesliga and showing incredible promise. Back home, Arsenal’s under-23s are also benefiting from midfielder Joe Willock’s goal-scoring prowess. With time and investment in these dynamic youngsters, the future could certainly be bright.
Arsenal need to consider wide options and have done since Welbeck’s injury. Releasing an international forward who can play on the wing and also centrally means Emery could actually find it a struggle to replace Welbeck. Especially as the player in question will be coming in as a third choice striker behind Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
The Aubameyang/Lacazette combination is starting to flourish, with the pair developing a fantastic understanding, so Emery will be wanting to keep hold of both of those strikers. They will need support, though. All it takes is an injury or a suspension and it leaves Arsenal completely exposed.
Where do you think the squad needs strength the most? Whatever your opinion, the three months of May through to August will certainly pique the interest of Premier League fans all over the world.