Arsenal: What needs to happen this summer
A look into next season and where we can improve
With the 2021/2022 Premier League season coming to an end, some eyes are looking towards next season to see what changes their respective clubs will make over the summer.
For my team, Arsenal, it’s been a tumultuous season which has ended in 5th position. With Spurs sitting in 4th and taking the coveted final Champions League spot. Arsenal will return to European football next season, but will have to settle for the Europa League. The young guns couldn’t get the team over the line, but should be proud of the work they achieved over the season. With a paper thin squad and the youngest average team in the league, they pushed for Chanpions League football when it seemed almost impossible. Especially after the disastrous start to the season.
However, Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy were aiming for 6th spot, so they’ve met the objective for the season. While some fans will wallow around in sorrow, others are optimistic for the future. With such a promising young core of players, there won’t be much work needed in order to improve the squad. So, I’ll take a look at a variety of aspects that Arsenal will address and give my own opinion of what should happen.
First things first, the squad need an assessment and areas need to be identified in which to improve. However, without any departures, incomings are unlikely. Despite the suggestion that the Arsenal board will be given a significant amount of funds to invest in the squad.
GK - Aaron Ramsdale, Bernd Leno, Arthur Okonkwo, Alex Runarsson
DEF - Gabriel, Ben White, Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding, Cedric Soares, Nuno Tavares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Hector Bellerin, William Saliba, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Austin Trusty, Pablo Mari
MID - Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe, Albert Sambi-Lokonga, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi
ATT - Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe, Reiss Nelson, Folarin Balogun
Notable Youth - Mika Biereth, Miguel Azeez, Marcelo Flores, Zak Swanson, Tyreece John-Jules, Omar Rekik, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Zach Awe, Daniel Ballard, Nikolaj Möller, Omari Hutchinson, Charlie Patino, Kido Taylor-Hart, Brooke Norton-Cuffy
For Arsenal, that’s the current squad available to keep, loan and sell as things stand. So, I’m going to go through those I think we should sell.
Alex Runarsson looked out of his depth whenever he played for the Gunners. Despite making a handful of appearances on loan, the signing of Ramsdale pushes him even further down the ranks.
Cedric Soares was a January 2021 signing to plug a whole, which wasn’t even particularly there. A series of below average performances, with only a flicker of his potential capabilities being shown in his tenure. Tomiyasu and the returning Bellerin, Maitland-Niles and Norton-Cuffy should spell the end for him.
Hector Bellerin, although mentioned recently, should also make his departure permanent. Having found form and love from Real Betis, it would be wise for him to return on a permanent transfer, should Betis want him. It’s a hard one to take considering his length of time at the club, but it’ll be good for all parties involved.
Pablo Mari was a similar acquisition to Cedric, only he arrived with more importance. However, Mari never truly found consistent game time and looked very ordinary whenever he did. With Ben White coming into the club, Mari should head for the exit.
Lucas Torreira arrived at a time when Arsenal were crying out for a true defensive midfielder, he seemed to fit the bill in his first few months. However, tactics have massively changed and Arteta has moved beyond the need for a pure defensive midfielder. Despite his obvious talent, Torreira should take any opportunity to leave.
Matteo Guendouzi divides the fan base like not many other players do. Half love him, half hate him. A truly marmite player. His talent and potential is obvious, and his loan to Marseille has proved that. However, his application to the game is worrying. Often stirring up opponents and even his own manager. I would personally keep him, but I feel like his days are marked. Arteta doesn’t want him.
Lacazette is a good player and I do believe that. His issue is that the way he plays his game doesn’t put him in goalscoring positions and that’s not what Arsenal need. Nketiah showed more in a few Premier League games than Lacazette has all season. Balogun is also returning, with Biereth knocking on the door. He’s served his time.
Pepe is another controversial player. But, we need to cut our losses with him. He has the potential to turn games on their head, but often cuts a forlorn figure. He doesn’t look like he’ll repay the huge price tag, so he may well end up being our expensive departure.
Now, I’m going to mention a few names of those I’d sell if an extortionate amount of money was received for them. Bernd Leno, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Nuno Tavares and Reiss Nelson.
Now I’m going to look at who we should loan for next season.
Austin Trusty is a name that I’m not sure many of Arsenal fans have heard, but he’s a player that was signed and immediately loaned back to his parent club, Colorado Rapids. I don’t know anything about this player either, so I feel like a loan to a domestic club would suit him very well. The likes of Southampton, Everton, Brentford could all do with adding a promising young centre back to their ranks. I’m aware he’s 23 though, so young is a stretch.
Folarin Balogun is very exciting as a player. A consistent scorer in the youth ranks and has even notched a couple out on loan. Touted for the main striker role at Arsenal, I feel like Premier League experience would be ideal for him to continue his development.
Nuno Tavares had two very different half seasons. In the first half he seemed destined to take Tierney’s spot as the starting left back. In the second half he played like a deer in headlights. I think a solid loan move could harness that raw talent and gives us back a considerable force of a full back.
Seeing the success that Chelsea gained from sending the likes of Armando Broja and Conor Gallagher on loan, I personally think our young stars could have the same effect. Biereth, Flores, John-Jules and Azeez could all greatly benefit from Premier League/Championship loans.
Everyone else falls into the keep category. For some readers this may not seem like enough are being moved on, but with European football returning next season and midweek games becoming a thing again, we’ll need a beefy squad to counter any injuries or tired legs. Our squad this season barely got through a campaign of pretty much weekend football, so keeping some seniority and periperhal players could be beneficial. Elneny, Nketiah, Holding and Leno can all find minutes in cup competitions.
When talking about players to keep, it’s also interesting and necessary to discuss any players that could be promoted from the youth squads, as well as those returning from loan spells.
Reiss Nelson could’ve had the same impact as Saka, but he just couldn’t find that impactful form. But, he does show promise when out on loan and could quite easily take Pepe’s role of an impact substitution for the next campaign, or even star in the Europa League games in order to rest Saka.
Brooke Norton-Cuffy has flown under the radar in terms of prospective full backs. However, his most recent loan spell has garnered significant attention due to his marauding performances. Quite often turning in some impressive displays. He seems to take a lot in his stride and he could be the one to challenge Tomiyasu to that right back role.
Omari Hutchinson has been named on the bench on numerous occasions and it’s clear to see why when you look at his glittering youth career. Scoring some eye-catching goals and generally being a menace to opponents. I think he deserves a good crack at the first team.
Charlie Patino featured and scored on his debut this season, so it seems an obvious jump to include him more in the upcoming campaign. With how light Arsenal have been in midfield, Patino’s rise might have to come a little sooner.
Salah-Eddine is also a fairly recognisable name on the Arsenal bench as he shares the same excitement that Patino and Hutchinson both receive. Like Hutchinson, Salah has scored some dazzling goals since arriving at the Arsenal youth setup. Big things are expected of him and I think he should showcase what he can do next season.
With the current squad dealt with, I think it’s time I look at the incomings and what Arsenal should be hoping for in the market. There are suggestions that the Arsenal hierarchy already know who they want and have laid out plans to get them, with further reports suggesting that the signings they make will be expensive, but very few of them. So I’ll first look at those who have been heavily linked.
Gabriel Jesus was a surprise name to emerge, but with Manchester City securing Erling Haaland for next season, it seems as though Jesus could look elsewhere for regular game time. He’s obviously very talented and can score goals, however, it’ll be interesting to see how he’d perform in a team where he’d effectively be the star of it. At City, it was all about Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and others. Jesus will instantly add more threat up top, so I hope this one goes through.
Aaron Hickey is a name that also seemingly came out of nowhere, but could have been identified after Arsenal raided Bologna last summer for Tomiyasu. Another full back, who can play both left and right due to his capabilities with both feet. He’d be able to provide ample cover for the injury prone Tierney and Tomiyasu.
Paulo Dybala has long been on the wish list of fellow North Londoners, Tottenham, but has personally rejected their advances. However, Juventus seem more open to selling and Dybala now looks to be pushing for it. He’s a star player that could add that extra bit of quality to the team. He can score goals as much as create them and that’s the output that Arteta desires. This is one is more of a dream than a reality at this stage, but you know never know.
Cody Gakpo has shone in the Eredivisie as an inverted forward. With 36 goal contributions in 47 games, he certainly will add that extra firepower the Arsenal attack desperately needs. Him and Martinelli could battle it out over a starting position, but both are no strangers to a more central role. However, that would be called upon in a more extreme scenario, but the flexibility is always crucial in the modern game.
Marquinhos, not the Brazilian centre back who plays for PSG, rather the young attacking maestro from Sao Paulo. Nothing is known about the player outside of his home country of Brazil, but talk over there suggests he could be as big as Vinicius Jr. Arsenal do have a talented Brazilian already in the ranks in the way of Martinelli, so it’s clear the Arsenal board fancy the idea of adding more Martinelli type players. It’s a very specific pool to choose from, so it’ll be interesting to see if Marquinhos can have a similar impact.
A few other names have been thrown around, as they’re likely to, but these have been the most talked about names to crop up. My concern is the lack of attention the central midfield spot is getting, as we’ve seen how much we struggle without Partey in the team.
Once extra piece of information is the arrival of Matt Turner from New England Revolution. He isn’t part of the squad at the moment, but will join in July. He’ll provide competition for the goalkeeping position, which could have a knock on effect for Leno. However, I think that Turner should head out on loan for the upcoming season so he can experience English football.
My Final Squad for 2022/23 campaign
This is my opinion on what the squad should look like come the start of the season. This list won’t include the names of those I feel should go out on loan.
GK - Aaron Ramsdale, Bernd Leno, Arthur Okonkwo
DEF - William Saliba, Gabriel, Ben White, Kieran Tierney, Brooke Norton-Cuffy, Aaron Hickey, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Zak Swanson, Omar Rekik
MID - Mohamed Elneny, Albert Sambi-Lokonga, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe, Charlie Patino
ATT - Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Jesus, Marquinhos, Reiss Nelson, Cody Gakpo, Salah-Eddine, Omari Hutchinson
I’d say the squad still looks quite light given the Europa League to contend with. But, there is a couple of dream signings I’d like us to make, emphasis on the dream part.
Aurelien Tchouameni is highly rated central midfielder that has attracted interest from almost every single big club. Liverpool seem to be the closest to the player, but he’s someone who would be perfect in Xhaka’s role. The presence of both Partey and Tchouameni in the midfield would be nothing short of intimidating. Both possess huge capabilities on the ball, so they’d win any physical and technical battles.
Jacob Ramsey is someone who I’ve been hugely impressed with this season. Aston Villa have had a rocky year, but the form of Ramsey has been a diamond in the rough at times. Capable of getting up and down the pitch and contributing at both ends, earning similarities to another Ramsey that used to ply his trade in North London.
Christopher Nkunku is an exceptional talent and has crushed the numbers this season in terms of goal contributions. Similar in style to Kai Havertz, as not playing in the out and out striker role, but in and around the box when he needs to be. With 55 goal contributions in 52 games across all competitions in a RB Leipzig squad that have underperformed in the league, is nothing short of incredible. He’d add the much needed firepower, but I’d still want a true striker to be bought.
Lucas Paqueta would be more of a wildcard signing, but I’d love him the new Granit Xhaka role. Similar to Jacob Ramsey, but with a touch more flair. He’s shown was he’s capable of this season and I think he’d make an exciting addition to the squad.
To summarise, Arsenal have improved upon last season with a weak and paper thin squad. A lot of deadwood was cleared in January, with more to come in the summer. If we play our cards right and sign the right players, we’ll be strong next season. If we can add one of my ‘dream’ signings then I’ll feel very confident. But, time can only tell and opinions will shift over the next few months. With one eye on the winter World Cup, next season will unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed in the modern era.