The Gunners worst placed finish in the Premier League since 1995 was confirmed on Sunday afternoon, after a less than convincing win against a Watford side that were desperately fighting for survival meant Arteta’s side could only finish as high as 8th. Not many could have foreseen how tough this campaign would be for Arsenal, which saw us have three different managers and highlighted the fact that we need a change in personnel ahead of next season, however one thing I am positive about is that we have the right man in charge. We have seen significant changes in terms of the teams shape and tactics since he was appointed, a vast improve on the mess which was seen towards the end of Emery’s rein and with financial backing in the transfer market I believe he can bring us back to the top.
There is no doubt that this will be a process over many years as the gap between the top teams in the country is far too big to close within one transfer window, but we can definitely make huge strides if we invest correctly. The first step towards being able to do this is by beating Chelsea in the final on Saturday which will not only extend our record of the most FA Cup wins and mark a fine start to Arteta’s reign, but it will also secure Europa League football next season while bringing in roughly another 30 million to spend. In this article, I’ll be looking at Arsenal’s realistic aims for the 2020/21 season as Arteta will hope to implement more of his philosophy and guide his squad higher up the table.
Aims in the Transfer Market:
This season has clearly demonstrated that a lot of the current Arsenal squad are not up to the standard to play for this club, therefore we need to clear out the deadwood to free wages and raise funds for new signings. Doing this will be key during the first year of the rebuild, but Arteta won’t be able to change the squad by more than five players due to the players coming in having to adapt plus as we always seem to have a long injury list we will need squad depth, therefore I have decided on the five players I want Arsenal to move on this summer:
1) Sokratis – Has played one minute since the restart and clearly isn’t in Arteta’s plans, 31-years old and on high wages. Would have to get rid of at least one centre-back to bring anymore in.
2) Sead Kolasinac – As he was signed on a free transfer his wages are astronomical couple that with that fact he is injury and mistake prone I feel it’s a no brainier to try to move him on.
3) Matteo Guendouzi – Definitely has the potential to be world class, however his attitude lets him down. Arteta has shown he won’t tolerate that type of behaviour and it looks as if there is no way back for him. Would bring in more funds to spend.
4) Mohamed Elneny – Isn’t at the required level for our midfield and again is on too big of a contract hence why we are having trouble selling him.
5) Mesut Özil – Past his prime now, hasn’t been the same since Alexis left and when he signed his new deal. Appears to be frozen out and is taking up £350,000 of our weekly wage bill so hopefully we can find a solution for him to play or we can move him on.
As Arsenal fans I think we can all agree that the spine of our team desperately needs upgrading, as we are lacking a defender who is comfortable on the ball, strong in the air and a natural leader. A central midfielder who is defensive minded, but can keep our attacks ticking while being athletic enough to cover the ground and break up the play is also desired. Possibly the most important position to fill is a creative midfielder, as on multiple occasions this season we have been unable to create chances for our attacking players and as a result they have struggled to score goals, leading to one of our lowest scoring campaigns in the Premier League finding the net just 56 times. Most recently, this was evident against Spurs and Aston Villa who both played with deep blocks which we had no answer to and consequently went on to lose both times.
Here are the players which I would like Arsenal to sign this transfer window:
Centre-back: Dayot Upamecano
My first choice centre-back would be Dayot Upamecano as I have watched him on multiple occasions this season in the Bundesliga, one game in particular comes to mind when he played against arguable the best striker in the world in Lewandowski and managed to keep a clean sheet while being named Man of the Match. The 21-year old proved in this game that he has immense talent along with the physical capabilities to match as he bossed the defence, while playing alongside two full-backs in a makeshift back three. This display showed everything; pace, power, ability on the ball, aerial threat, composure and more importantly leadership which is everything we are crying out for at the heart of our defence.
As he is so young, fans would have to be patient with him as mistakes happen and Dayot is far from the finished article, however after a couple of years experience playing week in week out in the Premier League along with Arteta’s guidance, I believe he could be one of the best centre-backs in world football. Reports are suggesting that Dayot may have signed a new contract with Leipzig, if this is the case then I would like to see us go in for either Pau Torres or Gabriel Malgalhaes.
Defensive Midfielder: Thomas Partey
Thomas Partey is exactly what Arsenal need in the centre of midfield and possesses qualities that none of our current players in that position have. Having just turned 27-years old Partey is entering his prime and would bring energy and athleticism to help us at both ends of the pitch, as he is able to break up the play and start attacks himself.
A major problem in our midfield is ball progression, whether it’s by dribbling, an attribute Partey has in abundance as he has the highest dribble success rate in Europe’s top 5 leagues with 88.6% or by moving the ball with accurate forward passes into our creative players. The Ghanaian international would solve this almost single-handedly and alongside Xhaka or Ceballos and a creative player in a three man midfield it would be very exciting. He has a release clause of £43 million which is a bargain price for a player of his quality.
Attacking Midfielder: Dominik Szoboszlai
In my opinion, if we were to sign the other two targets I have mentioned we wouldn’t have loads to spend on an already world class attacking midfielder, however Szoboszlai has shown a lot of promise in his breakthrough season for Red Bull Salzburg and when I have watched him in the Champions League he looks to be a real talent at the age of just 19. The Hungarian is a completely different type of playmaker to the traditional number 10 as he is 6ft 1 and a very powerful dribbler, as he tends to run with it before looking for a pass.
He is also a major goal threat from midfield scoring 12 goals this season along with 18 assists which is very impressive for someone so young. There may be question marks about the quality of the league that he is currently in, as the standard of the Premier League is a big step up, but I believe he would adapt quickly due to being able to cope with the physical side of the game. Not only this, but the fact he is available for around €20-25 million is definitely worth the risk for one of the best youngsters in his position.
Implementing Arteta’s formation and tactics
It’s been roughly 7 months since Mikel Arteta took over as Arsenal Head coach, however we are yet to see him play his favoured 4-3-3 formation for a consistent run of games due to the Spaniard not having the correct players available to match his system. As a result, he has had to adapt and work with what he has got, finding joy in the 3-4-3 formation which is effective when defending deep and counter attacking, however it has struggled at times when we are the team who is expected to control the ball and take the game to the opposition due to not having a creative player to pick out a pass and break them down.
If he is able to bring in players such as the ones stated above, it would only be a matter of time before we see him move to a 4-3-3 as the defence would be more trusted and our midfielder would no longer be dysfunctional, therefore they would be able to contribute defensively while also being a threat going forward, which in turn should help our forward players as they will be in scoring positions more frequently. I believe players such as Nicolas Pepe will benefit the most from the change in formation due to the fact that he will no longer be one of our only creators, which should see him get the ball in dangerous areas more often and finding the net on a regular basis.
One element of Mikel’s coaching that is clear to see is that he wants to play with high pressing tactics, we saw that under Emery the players weren’t working hard enough due to not being fit, therefore when Arteta was appointed he was unable to play with the tactics he wanted to for the whole game and subsequently meant we didn’t get the result we desired in certain matches. This was particular evident in the game against Chelsea at home as it appeared Arteta had pulled off a genius game plan which saw us press them high up the pitch, winning the ball and countering fast, but in the last 20 minutes we ran out of steam and got punished.
Since then, he has done a great job at getting the players fit enough to keep up the intensity for the whole game and this has reflected in the results, with games such as against Manchester City and Liverpool being a prime example. Games of this nature where we had little of the ball can be extremely draining, however they were fit enough to sit back and counter attack at the correct times hence why we won on both occasions.
Where should we be aiming to finish?
At this moment in time it is difficult to tell what a realistic target for Arsenal is next season, due to not knowing whether we are in the Europa League and how that will affected our ability in the transfer market. This will become clearer on Saturday when we can hopefully replicate the last FA Cup final against Chelsea, however if we don’t get the result we are looking for and aren’t in Europe, there is a sliver lining as we will have a lot less games which may help us around Christmas when the schedule is packed and perhaps mean we get less injuries as well. It will also allow us to take the Carabao and FA Cup seriously again, giving us a better chance at competing for both.
Regardless of the result at the weekend, I believe we need to be aiming for Champions League football because that is where this club belongs and with a shake up within the squad Arteta is more than capable of guiding us to it.
I’m a 20 year-old Arsenal fanatic and aspiring Sports Journalist, who will be studying how to write about the Beautiful Game at Solent University from September in an attempt to make my dream into a reality.
Since the age of 8 I have played academy football, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out – therefore I decided to pursue the next best career for me.
I am aiming to write honest and interesting articles about the club I love, and to share my opinion (one from the younger generation of Arsenal supporters) with as many other fans as possible!