Arsenal fans across the globe will be breathing a sigh of relief when the season draws to a close in less than two weeks, in a disappointing campaign from a season that promised so much.
On the back of FA Cup glory last season, the Gunners looked to have found some rhythm under Mikel Arteta but it quickly became clear that the ship at the Emirates Stadium hadn’t quite broken into calm waters.
A sequence of disappointing results have been the story of the campaign, with the final nail in the coffin being the defeat to Villarreal in the semi-finals of the Europa League.
In truth, there has been little to suggest this season that Arsenal could have gone to Gdansk and beaten Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United but the fact the Old Trafford side have come from their own struggles to pull away from Arsenal is reason for further frustration.
Off the field, the ownership situation rumbles on. Swedish Spotify supremo Daniel Ek is keen to take over but Stan Kroenke is seemingly not willing to sell, despite growing pressure from supporters, and there is pressure upon the American owners to put their hands into their pockets.
As reported by Football.London, Arsenal are set for their biggest squad shake-up in a decade, with lots of moving parts and scenarios to encounter – all of which make up for a challenging period.
Things aren’t made easier by the continued coronavirus pandemic and the European Championships, which leaves a lot of pressure upon the clubs. With such a fine balance, finding the right rhythm in the market will be crucial – so we’ve taken a look at the best and worst-case scenarios for the Gunners.
With the Kroenkes making promises on internal staff calls that they will back Arteta in the market and the club looking to raise around £60m from sales in the market, there should be money to spend to land new acquisitions.
Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma is the leading candidate to come into midfield as the long-term partner for Thomas Partey and, crucially, he has close ties with Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Magalhaes from their time together at French side Lille – and he shares the same agent with the former.
Another area of focus will be at left-back, a position Arsenal were unable to strengthen in January and then found themselves exposed due to Kieran Tierney’s injury issues – while Hector Bellerin’s departure opens up the potential of a similar signing on the opposite side.
Indeed, it’s in defence where the biggest shake-up could be. Bernd Leno, Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac are set to be available in the market, while David Luiz’s contract in north London is months away from it’s expiration.
Finding suitors for those players will be crucial to opening up new funds for additional signings but the European Championships could delay some activity in the market.
Bissouma may not be the only midfield target pursued though as Arsenal are open to selling Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira permanently following their loan spells, while Dani Ceballos is due to return to Real Madrid after spending two years in north London.
Inconsistent performances from Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny mean there is a significant lack of depth in this area, although the return of Joe Willock from Newcastle United and a promotion for Miguel Azeez could alleviate those issues.
In attack, a lot hinges on the future of Alexandre Lacazette – a player who is approaching the final 12 months of his contract but, to the surprise of many, has out-performed club-captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this season.
Discussions regarding an extension are yet to begin and Arsenal will surely be wary of handing out a lucrative new deal to the forward, who turns 30 at the end of the month, having witnessed significant declines for Mesut Ozil and Aubameyang following their new deals.
Eddie Nketiah is in a similar situation and would likely be sold to the right suitor, with Folarin Balogun likely to rise into the first-team fold following his new deal but there could still be movement for a new forward – particularly if Lacazette and Nketiah were to leave.
Moussa Dembele, on loan at Atletico Madrid from Lyon, has been linked with a move, while the Gunners hold long-term interest in Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard – both of whom could be solid additions to make an immediate impression as well as shining in the long-term.
Closer to home, tying Emile Smith Rowe down to a long-term contract is crucial following his excellent displays this season.
One benefit from a woeful campaign is that there is not many players who will be targeted by rival clubs, so losing key performers isn’t much of a concern – though there could be sweaty palms around Bukayo Saka and Smith Rowe, particularly if the latter isn’t signed to a new deal.
While the fear of losing players isn’t as great as it has been in previous years, the biggest concern is the sheer amount of work that needs to be done and the ramifications if deals are not completed – highlighted by the inability to sign a left-back in the mid-season window, where Arsenal would then struggle in the final months of the campaign.
Offloading players to balance the books is crucial and Arsenal showed in January that they were willing to make big decisions, agreeing to mutual terminations with fringe players that, while it resulted in an upfront cost, has made space in the wage department.
Should there be no suitors for the players up for sale, similar situations may occur – although that’s only likely to be the case for players who have little value in the market, with Kolasinac being a leading contender for this sort of departure.
Another possible issue could come in the form of securing targets. With a limited budget and a squad that requires a number of additions, shrewd spending is an absolute necessity – so if the price isn’t right, it’d be wise to move on.
The downside to that, however, is potentially missing out on key targets. Arsenal have done well in recent years to identify the likes of Partey and Pepe as the men they want, then pushing to get the deal across the line.
With so many moving parts, being flexible and having back-up plans is vital. With Arteta stressing that work for the summer begun months ago, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem but, until the deals are done, fans will likely be sweating.
Source by Football London