Mikel Arteta’s first summer transfer window as Arsenal manager is set to take place in odd circumstances as the coronavirus crisis is expected to have massive repercussions on the football market at large.
The Spaniard’s plans to rebuild the squad will be put to the ultimate test as his transfer business will likely consist of loan arrangements or swap deals rather than expensive signings.
Furthermore, the Gunners’ extended absence from Champions League football continues to limit their budget for player signings.
The London giants spent around £140 million on new signings under Unai Emery last summer- including a club-record fee of £72 million for Nicolas Pepe– and recouped nearly £50 million in sales.
However, they are unlikely to sanction a similar spending spree in the upcoming transfer window and will have to be creative in their approach.
#1 Offer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a new contract
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has indisputably been Arsenal’s best player this season and the uncertainty surrounding his future at the Emirates should be a cause of worry for the club hierarchy.
There are many reasons to tie the former Borussia Dortmund man down to a new contract but the most important- and the most simple- logic is the range of his contributions on and off the pitch. The 30-year-old striker shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane last season and is in contention to win the prize for a second consecutive time, with 17 league goals to his name.
The Gabon international is the only Arsenal player with double figures in the English top flight, with Alexandre Lacazette next best with seven goals and Nicolas Pepe with four. His contributions amid the team’s broader struggles prove that the most widely-circulated statistic surrounding his tally- 17 goals that account for a total of 43% of all the goals scored by the Gunners- is viral for a reason.
Aubameyang will have one year remaining on his existing contract whenever the current season ends but has shown no signs of wanting an extension, with several reports in January claiming that the striker is disillusioned with the side’s lack of ambition.
Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are believed to be two of the European giants who are currently interested in acquiring his services and he will continue to be linked to them as long as he does not sign a contract extension.
While a new contract for their talisman will surely not come cheap, he is currently an irreplaceable cog in the Arsenal set-up and the club will do well to not repeat their transfer negotiation disaster with Aaron Ramsey last summer.
#2 Bolster their central midfield options
Arsenal’s midfield dilemma has arguably existed as long as its defensive crisis, with the club currently lacking players like Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, who were not afraid to do the dirty work in the middle of the park but who were also responsible in dictating play and distributing passes.
The young midfield duo of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi have shown signs of promise but they still have a long way to go to become the kind of players that a club of Arsenal’s stature demands.
Meanwhile, Granit Xhaka remains a divisive figure among the Gunners faithful as his performances remain inconsistent and his fallout with the supporters-that saw him lose the captain’s armband- certainly did not help his cause.
Declan Rice, Idrissa Gueye and Wilfried Ndidi currently serve as perfect examples of the kind of midfielder the London giants need at the moment.
They serve as the archetypal anchormen for their respective clubs and are always up for a challenge while being clinical in their tackles.
Given the fact that Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey is out of anyone’s radar given the current climate, Bayern Munich’s Angelo Stiller- who Arsenal have been linked to recently- could be a decent long-term backup option although he likely sits at the bottom of the pile in terms of priority.
#3 Put an end to the Mesut Ozil dilemma
Mesut Ozil’s seven-year stint at the Emirates has been divisive: while he is still considered one of Europe’s premier playmakers, he has appeared to be quite unsettled within the Arsenal squad, with lacklustre and inconsistent performances often overshadowing his brilliant moments.
The 31-year-old is the highest-earning player in the club, currently on a reported £350,000-a-week payout, making his uninspired displays even more unjustified in the eyes of the fans.
The midfielder has only registered a goal and an assist from 18 appearances in the Premier League this season, which is miles behind the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, who have contributed more goals and double-figure assists in the same amount of games.
Ozil has one year left on his contract and it is becoming more and more apparent that it would be best for both parties that he moves on.
While the player can see out the twilight years of his career elsewhere, Arsenal would be able to clear his exorbitant wage package and recoup a little this summer.
#4 Strengthen their defence
Arsenal’s longstanding defensive woes are predictably a priority for Mikel Arteta this summer as the London giants have continually suffered from the absence of solid partnerships in the back-line.
The likes of Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac and Bukayo Saka will offer enough depth in the full-back positions next term, allowing the Gunners to focus on strengthening the centre of their defence in a transfer window that will likely allow limited signings.
Pablo Mari, who arrived at the Emirates on an initial loan deal with an option to make it permanent for £12 million, could stake his claim in the centre-back position while the incoming William Saliba will also have the chance to prove his worth after a loan spell at St Etienne.
Calum Chambers, on the other hand, will have a similar opportunity when he returns from his long-term injury.
The likes of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi have been inconsistent, if not reckless and disappointing, while David Luiz has only started to improve under Arteta.
Arsenal ultimately suffer from a lack of trustworthy defensive choices and their manager will certainly be looking to improve upon this in the upcoming transfer window.