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A Blueprint for Arsenal’s 2021/22 Summer Rebuild – Part One

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Big plans

They say that you can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice. If that’s anything to go by, then it appears the Arsenal hierarchy made their choice a while ago to take a back seat, and allow the club to slowly regress.

Just in the last 18 months alone, the Gunners clear lack of strategy on and off the pitch has led to a catalogue of impulse decisions, in a time where they needed stability and direction.

From questionable deals for ageing players to multiple sackings of backroom staff, it’s fair to say that life as a supporter of the club is somewhat unpredictable, but not always enjoyable. However, amiss the chaos there’s always been one common denominator, and that’s owner Stan Kroenke.

Ever since he became the majority shareholder in April 2011, his relationship with the fans has never been admired, with many sharing the feeling that he’s neglected the club in favour of his other business commitments in America.

Around this time, Arsenal were still meeting his expectations of competing for the top four along with a domestic trophy, however, the fans have always wanted to push on to win the biggest honours in the game. Perhaps that’s where the resentment originated from, as the person in total control has a distinct lack of ambition, which contrasts the true people who represent the club.

Fast forward 10 years and the situation couldn’t look any more dissimilar. Mikel Arteta’s side missed out on European football for the first time in 25 years, after falling to an eighth-place finish for the second consecutive season, and this would have been the case a season prior if it wasn’t for an incredible FA Cup run.

Of course, the circumstances which they find themselves in don’t start and end with the Kroenke’s, as some of the decisions made by high ranking board members have been equally as catastrophic, however, the owners are the ones who have sat back and overseen the disarray beneath them.

It’s this mentality that has engulfed the club and seeped down from the top all the way onto the pitch, which now means they have the arduous task of rectifying years of gross mismanagement within the next couple of seasons, to avoid falling into mid-table mediocrity.

The difference in vision was epitomised by Kroenke’s decision to join the other top six clubs in England in forming a breakaway European Super League towards the back end of last season. The announcement only confirmed what Arsenal fans already knew, that they currently have an owner only interested in personal financial gain, without having to put a penny back into the club which he represents.

Fortunately, the plans were stunted by the outrage amongst the fans, therefore just a couple of days after the announcement most teams including Arsenal had pulled out.

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However, the people who truly care about the club tried to use this situation as a way of forcing the Kroenke’s to sell up, by organising protests at the final few fixtures of the season. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t change the American’s stance, but a potential new buyer happened to express their interest in making an offer.

Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek planned on teaming up with Arsenal legends Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira in a possible takeover, but he saw bids in the region of £1.8 and £2 billion turned down in recent weeks.

With the situation very unlikely to change in the near future, Kroenke, Arteta and his team face a huge task in covering all bases before they kick off their season against Brentford on 13th August, so where would be the best place for them to start?

The first step to any rebuild is clearing out the deadwood. Perhaps for Arsenal, this will prove to be the most taxing aspect of their summer transfer market, as with just over four weeks left they have an abundance of players which need to be cashed in on.

It’s vital for the ambience around the club to move on anyone that isn’t 100% behind the cause and putting in maximum effort in order to achieve the targets set out by the manager. In addition, without any commitments in midweek, their schedule will be a lot less demanding, therefore they can afford to be ruthless when trimming the players deemed surplus to requirements.

In defence, they have a number of players whose futures are far from secure, with the likes of Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari and Hector Bellerin all being linked to other clubs. The latter has been a part of the first team for the past eight years, but it’s thought that he would like a new challenge after struggling with injuries in the last couple of years.

Kolasinac spent the second half of last season on loan at Schalke, even though it meant Arteta was without a backup left-back for just over six months. The decision proves to be a strong indicator of the club’s intentions with the Bosnian and Herzegovina international, as they will be pushing to get him off the wage books before now and the end of the window.

It’s fair to say that Mari has exceeded expectations since his arrival in 2020, as he continues to push for a starting place in the squad with some consistent performances, after being tipped as a backup when he first signed. However, with at least one new signing imminent in this position, it’s been reported that his game time could be limited and Turkish side Besiktas are willing to take him off Arsenal’s hands.

Onto the midfield and this is where the biggest overhaul is needed. For much of last season, Arteta failed to find the correct balance, with much of it being pinned on not having the correct personnel, but at times his system wasn’t helping to find the solution either.

This meant they struggled to create chances and consequently didn’t find the back of the net as much as they would have wanted. If they are to compete for the top four next season, this area will need to be addressed with a matter of urgency in order to allow the other components of the squad to flourish as well.

Possibly the most important future to resolve is that of Granit Xhaka, as although he divides the opinion of the fan base more than any other player, there’s no denying that he’s better than the rest Arsenal have in that position. Prior to the European Championships, it was reported that Roma were close to signing him for €17 million, however, links have gone quiet on that front since then.

The 28-year-old would need replacing and with someone of the correct profile to compliment Thomas Partey in the middle of the pitch, whether that be a more progressive forward passer or a proper defensive-minded player to help win the ball back.

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Next, there’s Hale End academy graduates Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock, both of which spent time on loan at West Brom and Newcastle respectively since the turn of the year. It remains unknown whether Arteta sees them as part of his long-term plans, but with a clear lack of athleticism and goals coming from the midfield, it would be ignorant of him not to give them a chance.

Lucas Torreira and Mohamed Elneny are another two who could easily be lining up for another team come the start of the season. The pair have endured many ups and downs in an Arsenal shirt, with many feeling that they aren’t the right calibre of player to take the club forward, therefore this transfer window could spell the end for them both.

Last on the list is Willian. The Brazilian winger was signed last summer on a three-year deal at the age of 32, causing many fans to question not only what his arrival meant for the talented youngsters in his position, but why Chelsea weren’t willing to offer him the same deal.

His first campaign in North London certainly didn’t go to plan, as he was unable to make an immediate impact on the team, and was eventually dropped to the bench after a string of inconsistent performances. So far there hasn’t been copious amounts of offers on the table for him, with his high wages thought to be a stumbling block in negotiations.

Many hope that Arsenal have finally learnt to stop buying players known as ‘stop gaps’, which are ageing players on big contracts, but time will only tell if that is truly the case.

So with the amount the club need to do before the start of the season, will the Arsenal hierarchy show their incompetence again or can they achieve everything which they have set out to ensure they have a successful year?

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