Next Season’s Arsenal: ruthlessly balancing the team, while carefully balancing the books


Next Season’s Arsenal 

Better for Nothing

How do you improve Arsenal’s team for the 20/21 season?

Can you do it and end up with a zero balance?

This wasn’t my goal, but this is what has happened.

Read on…..

I’m a bit of a dreamer.

I love to wonder.

Being a football fan my wonderings wander to how Arsenal’s squad will look during the 20/21 season. Whenever that is.

With so much up in the air this was hard to figure out.

Will we have CL money? Will we have EL money? Will we have any European competition money?

Will we have any extra money at all?

Will there be a recession and will that impact the market?

I decided to go a little more conservatively as even if we get in an influx of unexpected money, we are far from being an established CL club again so I’m not convinced we’d spend big even if we had it.

I think we’d spend more but try to think long term and hold some back.

As you will see, I have us breaking even, but I hope you will agree, we would have a far better and balanced squad.

So, here we go….

This is who I would sell and buy this Summer/Autumn and why.

********  SELL********


lacazette burnley 2020-758x404-1

Alex Lacazette £40M

With many of these players I’ve tried to step outside of my Arsenal self to be real.

Is Lacazette the best a EL team should expect? Will he rebound and is he capable of having an 18/19 type season?


I’ve decided to sell however, as I feel  that Arsenal are on the precipice of having a generation of top class strikers who looking at current trends, won’t hang around.

Nketiah may or may not work out but the ingredients are pretty tasty. Balogun is raw but looks like a self created, idealistic video game player that doesn’t exist in the real world except, he actually may.

Balogun is a two footed, electric, 5 ft 10 consistent goal machine.

If we don’t make space, there will be many Bundesliga teams that will offer this to him.

Martinelli is on the precipice. Auba is of course an obvious option at CF, like I believe Martinelli is too.

Granit Xhaka £35M

This wasn’t an easy decision as to his great credit he has proved that he is valuable to this team.

I’d add to that he is playing very close to his ceiling.

My decision is based on that exact statement though. 

At his ceiling he still lacks qualities that greatly affect the structure of our team. His lack of pace and athleticism prohibits us from playing certain ways and with certain other players, in a league where the single biggest shift in the last three years has been to pressing and the need for a two way athletic player in midfield.

As an example, I strongly believe that we’d see Ceballos add attacking flair to his game and get closer to his ceiling if he wasn’t playing with Xhaka.

If I was Granit Xhaka I wouldn’t spend my best years in a league that doesn’t compliment my style. I’d go to Italy.

Hector Bellerin £25M

This was hard. I’m still not sure about this.

Should my appreciation for Bellerin as a young man be enough to allow him to try to rediscover his form. Is this part of Arteta’s ruthlessness that we await?

I decided to sell as I’ve never been content with HB at RB for Arsenal.

I think he was blessed with so many natural talents and he hasn’t come close to his ceiling as, in my opinion, he is content with being popular with the fans and doesn’t want to risk being a villain.

He is good at defending, good at attacking but could be very good at both. My biggest gripe over the years is that much like Theo, he is a buck-passer. So often finds himself one on one on the wing and blessed with pace and years as a Right Midfielder as a youth, almost always stops and passes backwards.

Twenty five million is low for a player of his age and ceiling but realistic for where he is currently at.

Because I love Arsenal and I believe Hector does, this is still hard.

Sead Kolasinac£15M

Like many, Kola has stepped up his game since the arrival of Arteta.

The reason I’d sell is because of who I’d bring in (both RB’s have played LB) and the emergence of Saka at LB.

From the little sample size I’ve seen, I prefer Saka at LB than the way Arteta is playing our left wingers currently. That could change based on personnel.

Emi Martinez: £12M

I’d like to keep Martinez but I’m being real. The guy has stuck around, is in his late 20’s and in the Argentina squad.

I don’t think there is any chance he stays so I’m reluctantly letting go.

Henrik Mkhitaryan: £10M

I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that he will return to Arsenal, impress and stay.

I’d move on as he seemed uninterested in fulfilling his potential.

Mo ElNeny: £10M

I will happily admit that I like/d ElNeny. I saw great value in having a squad player who always offered consistency and never hid from wanting to circulate the ball. He unfortunately passed on the award for ‘The Absolutely Worse Header of the ball in the history of football’ to Guendouzi.

Sokratis: £8M

Much like ElNeny, Sokratis always seems to play close to his best.

I just prefer Chambers and others as back up and see plenty of experience in this area.

Mesut Ozil: 1 yr loan or Free

Ozil is like a beautiful girl that you know is not good for you.

She won’t let go after break up number 11 and says all the right things and you let her back. As she’s beautiful and you remember the past you keep flirting with a past that’s not coming back.

The truth for me lies in three areas.

One is that he is playing well right now but still is providing inconsistent or low numbers of attacking help.

Secondly, he is holding the club back both by our midfield being one man short (current options) and by being the number one option where others could be given the chance to produce better output.

Finally and simply, Mesut Ozil is undoubtedly an elegant player but even when in current form there are more efficient players out there and the one I’ve chosen would fit our budget, is on the up and proved himself in the PL as a bright light.

Perhaps, most importantly in the modern game, you need a creator who isn’t just willing to run (Ozil), but press at high speed.


********  LOAN********


Willock, John-Jules and Mavropanos:

High hopes for all in time.

*********** TOTAL SALES: 155M ***********


That’s a lot of money for a group of players where only two to three of them are current first team regulars. In my opinion, none are a huge loss. In our current situation this is quite impressive.


********  BUY********



Wilfried N’didi: £60M

Many seem to prefer Thomas Partey and I don’t necessarily disagree. I’d be thrilled with Partey.

I’ve gone for N’didi because I’m trying to return Arsenal to CL football as quickly as possible. Most of my signings are PL players that would have very little adaption time. We’ve been ‘adapting’ for years.

N’didi has consistent high defensive numbers both in the PL and compared with other DM’s in Europe. Not only is he winning balls that others don’t even try for but he has the athleticism and pace that would make him arguably the most important signing at Arsenal in years.

For what it’s worth, if we had CL money I’d buy N’didi to destroy and Partey to both destroy and create.

Achraf Hakimi: £40M

Everything I wish Bellerin was.

As quick as Bellerin was. Significantly bolder when attacking and two footed. Played a whole season at left back too.

After being first choice at Dortmund for years, he is not considered to be an automatic first choice at his parent club, Real Madrid.

Snatch him. Right back for 7 years.

Dani Ceballos: £25M

I was thrilled when he signed. Even more thrilled when he started playing and we started singing.

Confused when he dropped off. Frustrated as I watched him play the game as if it was keep away with no goals and then thrilled again as he decided to change.

Before he came on loan I thought he was the best young midfielder in Europe.

That would naturally give you the thought that he could one day have the potential to become the best midfielder in Europe.

Just saying.

Emiliano Buendia: 25M

In this age it is rare to find a player with all the necessary qualities for a top club at the price of £25M.

I think he’s worth at least double this but assuming Norwich get relegated his value will drop.

For those that haven’t seen much of him he reminds me of a cross between a younger Cazorla with his ability to frequently shift the ball around opponents with both feet and slide others in, and Michael Laudrup.

Laudrup was one of my boyhood favourites with his ability to beat players over the first 5 yards and have defenders bounce off him.

Buendia is the chance creator

Arsenal need this and Buendia could play AMid, Wide Forward or box you box in a three man midfield.

If you excel as an attacking player in the weakest team in the league, can you imagine what he could create for an attacking team with so much more of the ball!?

Can’t pretend that Grealish isn’t a fantastic option but trying to be real as Grealish will cost at least £35M more.

Pablo Mari: 5M more

It’s probably strange to you why an expensive top quality Centre Back isn’t on this list.

Upamecano, Ake and Mings are all tempting me.

The reality is though that we’ve essentially signed two new CB’s for the new season in Mari and Saliba.

We have also given CPR to Luiz and Mustafi and have strong back ups in Holding and Chambers.

The other reality is that Saliba will be 19 next season and will most likely need time to adapt. Mikel Arteta has found a run of clean sheets out of defenders that others think are not good enough and so I think we might be underestimating the potential change in our defensive numbers next season.

The other piece that many are not considering is that if we were to go with Dayot Upamecano then he would no doubt be partnered with Saliba, right? Are we sure we want two new, inexperienced and very young CB’s as a pair? Their athletic profiles and upside are quite amazing but as a pair?? I think the reality is that it’s David Luiz plus one for right now and that’s probably the smart solution.

Oh, and I really like what I’ve seen of Pablo Mari so I want him to stay 🙂

Long term I think it’s Mari and Saliba.

Santi Cazorla: Free

I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t resist:)

This is not simply heartstrings being pulled.

If I’m selling two of the teams leaders I can’t ignore that their leadership has to be replaced. That’s undeniably important behind the scenes.

Look at it this way….

If I told you that I could bring to Arsenal the following;

a) leadership from a beloved player.

b) a press resistant, two footed central midfielder.

c) a player whose form has earned him a place in the national team that still boasts the most technical midfield in World Football.

d) a highly motivated player who yearns to play for Arsenal again.

e) happy to be a rotational option.

f) no fee and short term contract so no hindrance to others development.

g) a player who is so popular that his mere presence would automatically lift the fanbase and fill the stadium again,


g) a player so popular and admired that he could take up the captaincy in a club where 3 of the captains just left…..

….. Why would you say no?

If we don’t sign him, I think he shortly joins the coaching staff anyway 🙂


Willian: Free

One of the best ‘footballers’ in England.

Interestingly, he is similar to Cazorla with his ability to play with both feet,  started career wide, can play at ‘10,’ and can operate anywhere in midfield.

Wants to stay in London. Adds experience to a very young forward line. Free.

Regardless of what I think, I believe that Willian will sign for Arsenal anyway.

Cedric Soares: Free

I think that due to Arsenal’s situation that they will sign Cedric, and I think they are right to do so.

Proven at PL, CL and international level and with a point to prove.

I think as a back up he will prove to be better than folks think.

I have a sneaky suspicion that we may try to go bigger in other areas and save at RB, giving Cedric the very real possibility to be our first choice. Don’t be too surprised.

Claudio Bravo: Free

I’d rather keep Martinez but I can’t believe he will stay.

Do we want a younger, upcoming challenger or someone like Bravo who may be happier to be second choice (as proven for many years at City) and offer huge experience at all levels.

I think the price tag and experience may dictate.

This signing is one where I’m trying to be intelligent rather than excited.

I was very close to selling AMN and buying another athletic midfield option (Sangare), but I can never shake the feeling that AMN could become the line breaking midfield option we lack.


*********** TOTAL COST: 155M ***********


I wasn’t intending to break even.

I do however think that this team would be better AND better balanced. 

I believe that Arsenal need PL ready players in order to shorten the recovery period. The focus needs to be the League first, and all but one of these signings has already played in the PL.

It was hard for my wonderings to not get over excited and conclude that we aren’t likely to be in for Jaden Sancho or Adama Traore. I think that Jaden Sancho offers both the goals and assists that we clearly lack. Adama Traore is different but currently playing the same position. The coach in me would love to buy him and make an ‘Henry type shift’ and play him at Centre Forward.

Here is my first choice line up:

First Team

It offers a balance between needed experience and our hugely exciting and talented youth.

It offers the speed and athleticism that our back four and midfield has been desperate for.

It offers a playmaker or two with high technical levels and potential for higher numbers of both assists and goals.

Crucially, it retains both our best players and our future.

You may want ‘shinier’ names than I’ve gone for. Who doesn’t!

I’m trying to be realistic though.

Very impressive alternatives……

Second Team


…and there’s more….

Third Team


This group of players, under Mikel Arteta, makes me very excited for the future.

For what it’s worth, I have a strong feeling that Arsenal’s big signing will actually be Gabriel Jesus.

Who would you sell and buy and why?


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3 Responses to Next Season’s Arsenal: ruthlessly balancing the team, while carefully balancing the books

  1. Lukasz March 20, 2020 at 1:33 pm #

    I am afraid the transfer market will never be the same after covid19. There was an interesting interview with Szczesny recently where he said that 40% of lesser clubs are struggling financially (see Bundesliga reports saying 60% could face bankruptcy) because of the impact of the epidemic and they will be forced to sell players to balance the books, hence bigger clubs will take advantage of it. This might be an interesting transfer window, that’s for sure.

    • Dave Seager March 20, 2020 at 2:20 pm #

      Depressing indeed

  2. Martin Wengrow March 20, 2020 at 8:46 pm #

    Sorry Mike.
    I’m struggling to get my head around football at the moment.
    Enjoyed the read though.

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