As soon as the January Transfer Window closes, the speculation about summer business begins. None more so than for Arsenal, who surprised all of us by not strengthening the squad, whilst allowing many to leave, permanently or on loan. I am sure that like me, all Gunners feel the club has taken a huge gamble by leaving the first team core very slim, hoping those players can fire the team back into Europe. At which, point the club would be in a very strong position, having massively trimmed the wage bill, to ‘go big’ in the summer.
Of course, which European competition Arteta is able to steer his skeleton crew to, will in part determine which players he might attract. That said, we are still ‘The Arsenal’, we are in the capital, and we will be offering top dollar for the identified players. The questions are, therefore: in which areas of the pitch will the team need strengthening? and who might the targets be?
It is evident that the recent Edu/Arteta era has seen a shift toward younger players, identified to fit a style and ripe to be taken to the next level, and reach their peaks at Arsenal. I certainly like this new approach and would add ‘Premier League ready’ as a possible additional criterion. This does not necessarily have to mean the targets must be from – or have played in – the league, although I see it as a bonus, but they must have the right attributes to adapt swiftly – Tomiyasu would be a prime example of the latter.
With Lacazette and current back-up Nketiah, hardly inspiring confidence that they can score regularly, and both out of contract this June, the central striking area we know is priority number one. The club, having failed to woo Vlahovic, is being linked to many strikers, most notably Isak from Real Sociedad and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Barring a few glimpses of the Swede’s talent at the Euros. I have seen or read little to justify the high buy-out clause and I am sure this is why the club dithered in January. It might seem less exciting or glamourous but a fit and firing Calvert-Lewin is a no-brainer for me. We know he can deliver consistent goal threat and he is a striker that fits Arsenal’s 4231. DCL can play with his back to goal, can hold up and link well, but – unlike Lacazette – he also has the mobility and pace to get on the end of the moves. He also offers an aerial prowess we lack, which is so evident currently as we fail to convert Tierney’s constant left wing supply line.
The question as to who the club will bring in as a second striker or back up, I suspect will depend on two things. Firstly, whether Arteta is at all tempted to again tweak the system to try Martinelli as the main striker, between now and May, and secondly, how Balogun fares on loan at Middlesbrough. So, it is a case of watch this space on that one…
The next priority I am sure will be to sign a top-level long-term central midfield partner for Thomas Partey. Granit Xhaka flirted with Roma last summer and is linked to them again already for this one coming. Whilst he has been an admirable servant to Arsenal and Arteta, he is at the wrong end of his career now and young blood is needed. Sambi Lokonga is popular and enthusiastic, but I am not sure whether he is a box-to-box player or a defensive midfielder. The fact that he can fulfil both roles, probably at this stage makes him a first change player and not the first choice, yet.
At present Arteta seems to be playing Xhaka in advance of Partey but I still believe that he wants a more purposed build defensive midfielder, which will allow the Ghanaian more freedom to support Arsenal’s attacking play. Obviously. I know many Arsenal fans would like to see Bissouma at the Emirates, but for me the ideal and most realistic candidate is Douglas Luiz. Manchester City really did not want to lose the player and his form for Aston Villa has shown us why. Luiz is a full international for Brazil, which in itself should be a kitemark of quality and this summer he has only a year remaining on his current deal. Arteta will know Luiz well and will have worked with him as a youngster at City, in between loans. I hope this link to our manager and the fact that Edu is Brazilian might assist Arsenal in stealing the player, (aged 23, so our profile), from Villa.
With Elneny and Maitland Niles expected to be away from North London this summer, even with the arrival of a first-choice defensive midfielder, I would still anticipate Arteta wanting a fourth senior central midfielder, while Charlie Patino earns his stripes. Knowing that our manager likes balance, I suspect he will want a left footer to call upon, so the surprise package signing I would like to see is Philip Billing, currently instrumental in Bournemouth’s promotion push and learning from Scott Parker. Twice relegated, like Ramsdale, is no indication of the player’s quality. He can operate in front of the defense, with telescopic Vieira -like legs, assisting tackles and interceptions and he can also play a more attacking role, as his 8 goals in the Championship will evidence. His height and resulting aerial prowess is an asset in both penalty areas and the player will be hungry to get back in to Denmark’s squad ahead of the World Cup.
This is the unedited version of yesterday’s Sun Football Arsenal Fan’s View column
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.