ANOTHER year, another Arsenal post-February meltdown. However, this year is a little bit different.
All those fans who complain year on year when we finish third or fourth (or second in the case of last year), will really have something to complain about should we fail to even qualify for Europe this season.
The fighting between our fans is embarrassing and quite frankly poisoning our reputation and status as one of England’s biggest clubs.
Regardless of all that nonesense though, I feel that there’s a HUGE summer ahead for our club, whether Arsenal Wenger stays or goes.
So who leaves?
Honestly, at the moment, I think the majority of this squad don’t deserve to wear the red and white of Arsenal. Ask yourself this; would they get into the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City or dare I say it, Tottenham’s starting XI’s?
Aaron Ramsey for me is a player who has outstanding talent, but very rarely shows it – being a Welshman I’ve seen what he can do for his country, but for club it’s mostly a different story. He usually cuts a very frustrating figure for Arsenal in the centre of the park, misplacing passes left, right and centre and fans have began to turn on him in recent months. Verdict – Time to say goodbye.
When we first signed David Ospina for just £4 million, I thought “what a bargain, he’ll make a great back up goalkeeper” and at first he was decent. However, this season he’s been dreadful. His performance against West Brom the other week was embarrassing and he looks rusty. Verdict – cash in on him while we can and bring Szczesny back, he’ll give his all for the club and learn from Cech either as our number one or back up.
Mathieu Debuchy is another player who has overstayed his welcome in my opinion. Of course he’s a decent right back on his day, but injuries have stalled his career and seen Bellerin progress in his place. Verdict – au revoir Mathieu.
Others who I think should leave – Emiliano Martinez and Yaya Sanogo (both will never be good enough for our first team), Jack Wilshere and Carl Jenkinson (yeah they’re big Arsenal fans and living the dream, but I still feel as though they will never reach the potential Wenger once thought they had).
I also feel that although Per Mertesacker’s leadership is valued, he’s not going to be a starting centre back for us anymore and I feel that he needs to leave if we want to move forward. Gabriel Paulista should also be replaced as he has proved to be complacent in some games.
We’ve also got to face the very likely possibility that Alexis Sanchez will leave so we must look for some sort of replacement for him, however hard that may be. Their is no doubt in my mind, that he has made his mind up: he’s a goner not a Gooner!
That of course, leaves a thin squad, that’s lacking in depth (even more so than it already is). So, I guess the next question would be … who comes in?
First off, let’s look at the defensive side of things.
If Debuchy, Jenkinson, Gabriel and Mertesacker were all to leave in the summer, then it would leave a lot of room for re-building in our defensive positions. Ideally we’d need one or two right-back’s and one or two centre-back’s to replace them.
One right back who I would love to see competing with Bellerin for that first team spot would be Serge Aurier. The 24-year-old Ivorian is quite a controversial figure, having been dropped from the first team at PSG this season following bust-ups with the Police, however, there’s no denying his footballing talent. He’s a quick player, just like Bellerin, but in my opinion is an even better defender than him. He would probably cost within the region of £15-20 million, so he’s affordable.
Other than him, I’d go for outside contenders like Alessandro Florenzi (Roma) or Elsaid Hysaj (Napoli), who would both come relatively cheap and are pretty good players, with Florenzi being able to play out on the wing too.
Centre back wise we’d have to look for someone who is either going to provide cover for when (because it will no doubt happen) Mustafi or Koscielny are out due to injury or suspension or challenge them for a place in the starting line-up. The good news is there are quite a few decent centre back’s out there, but the bad news is they’ll almost certainly all be overpriced.
Aymeric Laporte (Atheltic Bilbao) is a fantastic candidate for the role. He’s young and French, just how Wenger likes them, and is a strong and commanding centre back who could potentially be France’s main man at the back in years to come. Chelsea and Man. City are both after his signature and with a price of around £40-£50 million on his head, it looks unlikely that we will land him.
Kostas Manolas (Roma) is a man that Arsenal have previously been chasing and in fact, came close to landing if reports are to be trusted. The Greek defender is another star who would slot right in to our team, as he’s not afraid to put in a good challenge, he has the playing style of an old fashioned centre half in a way – no nonsense – I’d like to see him join, as he’d add steel to our side which is severely lacking in it at the moment.
Other outside contenders to consider would be Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), although his price tag is set at around £50 million too, Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal) as we have previously been linked with him, Omer Toprak (Bayer Leverkusen), as he is someone who has really progressed in the Bundesliga in recent years and also Virgil Van Dijk (Southampton) as he’s developed into one of the Premier League’s finest defenders over the past two seasons.
Now, if Wilshere and Ramsey are to be sold, then the centre of the park needs filling. I like the sound of somebody like Radja Nainggolan (Roma once again) and Marco Verratti (PSG) who both have attacking and defensive qualities, but I have no doubt that those two would be far too expensive for us to go for.
We could instead, try going for PSG’s Adrien Rabiot, who has shown his class when playing for them this season, displaying such confidence and vision, but also defensive abilities, as he wins the ball back often for his side. Leon Goretzka (Schalke) is another young player who could become a sensation in a couple of years and may be worth taking a punt on.
If we want somebody with a little more experience though, I’ve always said that Marek Hamsik (Napoli) would be a class singing. The Slovakian is now in his tenth year of being quietly effective at the Serie A side and has made nearly 400 appearances for the club, so who better to turn to if you’re looking for a player who knows how to play for a top club? It would be hard to steal him away of course, because of his loyalties to Napoli, as he’s been linked with a move to the Prem before, but he would be a brilliant player to add to almost any squad in my opinion.
The last suggestion I have is a slightly controversial one, but I’m going to roll with it anyway … Cesc Fabregas. Yes, I said it, because I just can’t help the guy. Unlike, Van Persie, it was us who turned Cesc away at the first refusal and he went to Stamford Bridge and won the league. He’s a legend in my eyes and I have no doubt that if we were to come in for him again at some point, he wouldn’t refuse a move, especially as he has fallen out of favour since Conte arrived at Chelsea. It would be a dream scenario having him back at Arsenal in my opinion. Fabregas, Cazorla and Ozil all in midfield playing balls through? Then add a striker WHO CAN ACTUALLY FINISH and we might be onto something special.
The hardest task of all though, will be to replace Sanchez. But I guess if we can wave Thierry Henry off to Barca then getting rid of him shouldn’t be too much of a problem now should it? I think there’s very few players out there who could have the same impact as Sanchez has on Arsenal in just three seasons at the club, however, I also think we may just have to be brave and take a gamble on a slightly lesser known name.
Bernardo Silva has been on fire for Monaco this season, bamboozling defenders with his pace and trickery. He’s scored six goals and nine assists in Ligue 1 and two goals in seven Champions League matches, as he has helped his club reach the quarter finals of the competition. Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid) is another exciting winger, who’s scored 12 goals in all comps for them this season.
I think the number one affordable winger who may be able to offer along the lines of what Sanchez does is Mohamed Salah (Roma again, sorry guys!). The “Egyptian Messi” as he’s called by his die-hard fans of his home country, Salah was on the books of Chelsea a couple of years ago, but didn’t really get the chance to shine there. He then moved on loan to Fiorentina and on loan (before a permanent move) to Roma, where he has been tearing Serie A apart ever since. Ten goals and nine assists in 23 matches this season have seen some of the biggest clubs in the world chase after his signature. For me, having watched him on several occasions this season, he’s definitely worth signing, as he likes to run at defenders and dribble past them, just like Sanchez does. I’m not saying he’d have as much of an impact as the Chilean has, but I think he’d be a very shrewd signing to make, despite the £35 to £50 million price tag.
Finally, there’s the small matter of finding a decent bloody striker who will score us twenty to thirty goals a season. Again, they won’t come cheap of course, but their are a few options available.
Alexandre Lacazette’s incredible form of 23 goals in 25 Ligue 1 games for Lyon this season have certainly not gone unnoticed as Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and nearly every man and his dog are attempting to sign him before next season arrives. No chance are we going to compete with the likes of some of Europe’s giants. Same goes for Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), brilliant player who I would absolutely love to see at the Emirates, but we have to be realistic.
The most obvious candidate for me, and there has been rumors of us putting in a bid for him, is Andrea Belotti (Torino) who has been in fine goal scoring form this season, with 23 goals in 27 Serie A appearances. Let’s face it, if Sanchez does leave, then goals are going to be hard to come by, and with Italian forward Belotti knowing just how to find the net at the moment, the move makes total sense to me. Torino recently slapped a £50 million price on his head, but if we are to show that we’re serious in getting back to where we belong, that’s the price we have to pay for a half decent striker in this day and age. A cool finisher, I think he’d make the perfect lone striker for our side next season.
Therefore, my ideal Arsenal squad for 2017/18 season, is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Petr Cech and Wojciech Szczesny.
Defenders: Laurent Koscielny (C), Shkodran Mustafi, Kieran Gibbs, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers. NEW: Serge Aurier and Kostas Manolas.
Midfielders: Granit Xhaka, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla, Alex Iwobi, Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Mesut Ozil. NEW: Adrien Rabiot, Mohamed Salah and Cesc Fabregas.
Forwards: Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, Lucas Perez, Joel Campbell. NEW: Andrea Bellotti.
Out on loan: Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Takuma Asano, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Chris Willock, Krystian Bielik and Rob Holding.
Called up to first team squad from academy: Eddie Nketiah (Striker) and Gedion Zelalem (Midfielder).
GONE: Emiliano Martinez, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Gabriel Paulista, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Jon Toral, Yaya Sanogo, Chuba Akpom and Alexis Sanchez.
Starting line-up: Szczesny (Cech’s getting old), Aurier (offers more defensively than Bellerin), Manolas and Koscielny, Monreal, Rabiot, Fabregas, Cazorla, Ozil, Perez, Belotti.
Now I’m well aware of course that we’re not going to get rid of all (and possibly not any) of these players, or even sign any of these players above, but this is just my opinion on what the ideal situation would be for us to move forward and progress as a club. I may be living in fantasy land, but who knows? We shall see what the summer holds I suppose.
What are your thoughts on this article, agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments section below!