The second step to any successful rebuild is identifying the areas of the squad that need improving and bringing in the correct personnel in order to do so.
For Arsenal, this hasn’t always been straight forward, for a number of reasons. Although large sums have been spent, investment has often been put into positions that could have been classed as lower on the list of priorities, and as a result shortcuts had been made with the real pressing issues in the team.
This led to the club exploring other options to fix the problem, such as free agents or ageing players coming towards the end of their careers, which in turn was prolonging the issues and is one of the main factors as to why they find themselves in this position.
However, the Gunners have endured a positive start to the window and there appears to be a clear change in mentality when it comes to bringing new players in.
Two positions which desperately needed reinforcements coming into the summer were left-back and central midfield. Across the season, Kieran Tierney is unlikely to stay fully fit for its entirety, therefore it was important for them to target a player who is of the same quality to deputise in his absence while also creating some much needed competition for the Scot.
Portuguese youngster Nuno Tavares was earmarked as the perfect candidate, as his strong physical attributes and age, should allow him to seamlessly adapt to life in the Premier League. The 21-year-old could turn out to be a productive purchase, after showcasing his ability by scoring on his debut, and taking up just £8.5 million of the transfer budget.
With midfield trio Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka on their way out, this was another area which needed attention. Again, another young player with plenty of potential has been brought in, for a reasonable fee of around €17 million plus add ons.
Albert Sambi Lokonga had been playing under Vincent Kompany at R.S.C Anderlecht and made a lasting impression on the former Manchester City man. As a result, he was made captain of the club at the age of 21, which bodes well for Arsenal as leadership is a quality which is often lacking from the midfield.
Reports also suggest that the signing of Ben White from Brighton is agreed in principle, with only a medical to be completed before the announcement later this week. The Englishman is the epitome of a modern day centre-back, as he’s very comfortable in possession and boasts strong physical capabilities.
Couple that with the fact that he has the possibility to improve drastically in the years to come, and counts as homegrown due to his nationality, this has the likelihood to become an astute deal for the club.
Edu Gaspar has frequently come under question as to whether he is the right man for the job but his recent business has been somewhat shrewd. Away from the new incomings, in the last six months he’s been able to tie down a number of young players to new contracts, to avoid potentially losing them for low fees.
Bukayo Saka, Florian Balogun, Tierney, Gabriel Martinelli and most recently Emile Smith Rowe have all committed their long-term futures and if they are able to fulfil their potential having them all at the club in the future could be an exciting prospect.
Although the general consensus amongst the fans is that the start of the transfer window has been positive, in order to be competing for Champions League football next season, most feel that more players capable of producing an instant impact on the first-team will be required.
So with that in mind, who seems to be on the club’s radar?
Perhaps the most exciting link is to Leicester City’s James Maddison, who again perfectly fits the quota for all potential signings this summer. Having already spent multiple years in the Premier League, he wouldn’t require any period of adaptation, which significantly reduces the risk for Arsenal compared to other targets and should help avoid another slow start to the new campaign if they were to secure his services.
Despite only being 24-years-old, Maddison already possess a well-rounded skillset, with plenty of time on his side to improve upon that before entering his prime. Instantly, he would help rectify their issue of creativity and reduce the burden on Smith Rowe, who is still at an early stage in his development.
Last season, he averaged 3.2 shots per 90 minutes in the league which saw him find the net on eight occasions, double the amount of Arsenal’s whole midfield put together. Martin Ødegaard was the next best in this category with 1.6 per game, however a return from Real Madrid looks unlikely at the moment, therefore Maddison could prove to be the perfect candidate to improve them in this aspect.
Another player linked with a move to North London for the second year running is Houssem Aouar, but this time there’s one major difference. Lyon are seemingly willing to let him go for around €25 million, which is almost half of what was quoted a year ago, due to the French outfit’s financial troubles caused by the pandemic.
Despite Aouar wanting to move away from Lyon last summer, he still had a productive campaign scoring eight times and assisting a further four in 33 appearances, to help his side qualify for the Europa League. The 23-year-old has also shown he can do it on one of the biggest stages, as his performances in the Champions League helped Les Gones to the semi-finals in 2020, for only the second time in the club’s history.
Finding a new partner for Thomas Partey has also been harder than expected so far, as pursuits for Italian midfielder Manuel Locatelli have been halted by the player’s desire to join Juventus. There have been other links to Ruben Neves and Renato Sanches, but they have gone quiet as well in the mean time.
With Partey having the quality to slot in at the base of the midfield or in a box-to-box role, it opens up many more possibilities for the club to secure someone to play alongside him. If the Ghanaian was to play slightly deeper, perhaps someone with the profile of Renato Sanches would be opted for, as he would have the licence to push forward forward to link the attacks while also making late runs into the box in order to help contribute to goals.
However, if Arteta sees Partey as more advanced then there would be no better signings than Yves Bissouma from Brighton. The 24-year-old is one of the most effective in the league at breaking up attacks, finishing on 104 tackles last season, which was bettered only by Luke Ayling of Leeds United. He also ranked 4th for most interceptions with 64 and would provide the perfect protection to the Arsenal backline before progressing the ball onto the more attacking players.
Back-up goalkeeper is another position that the club are looking to strengthen with the main target being Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United. With a reported fee of £32 million, most fans would prefer that money to be prioritised on signings that will come straight into the starting eleven, with other options such as Andre Onana looking more feasible.
Lastly, with Hector Bellerin likely to be on the move this summer, right-back is an area which needs to be addressed. Full-backs are becoming ever more important to sides in modern football and the impact they can have is personified by Tierney on the left-flank in Arteta’s system, therefore it’s imperative that he is replaced with the correct calibre of player.
So far there hasn’t been any concrete links to any right-backs, however this could depend on finding a suitor for Bellerin before any potential move materialises.
With just over four weeks until the transfer window slams shut, will Arsenal be able to address all the key areas in the squad to push for a top four finish in the Premier League next season?
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!