Mikel Arteta has been coaching for 4 years at the top level, starting his career as one of Pep Guardiola’s assistants at Manchester City. He even acted as the matchday manager during a Champions League game against Lyon in 2018. He’s been described by many as impressive, focused and authoritative – qualities that will likely serve him well as Arsenal’s head coach.
He will also need to be ruthless, in the mould of his mentor Guardiola, by knowing which players aren’t the right fit for his plans going forward. There are many bright prospects in the Arsenal squad that should be given a chance but also, there are players who have yet to realise their potential since breaking into the Arsenal first team. Players like Mesut Ozil and Alexander Lacazette might not be producing the quality enough when they do play, but the quality is clearly there for all to see – so those players don’t “need” to move on. Players like Pablo Mari and Cedric are also off the table as they were only signed in January, and still might come good. These players have been given opportunities and haven’t shown enough quality to be more than an emergency backup or a “cup game” player.
#5: David Luiz
The Brazillian center-back left Chelsea in 2019 after being told by Chelsea boss Frank Lampard that he wouldn’t be part of Chelsea’s future. He’s played 25 league games this season, and hasn’t been bad by any means – but he’s clearly past his prime now and once William Saliba returns from his loan spell, chances are that Luiz will fall further down the pecking order. Arteta appears to be looking to improve Arsenal’s defence further – with rumours linking the club with Dayot Upamecano in recent months. David Luiz will struggle to get minutes next season if this happens to be the case.
#4: Callum Chambers
Callum Chambers has had a mixed career since joining Arsenal in 2014. Initially deployed as a right-back, he and Arsene Wenger always saw his long term future at center-back. He struggled to get a run of games in an Arsenal shirt, and had loan spells at Middlesbrough and Fulham to get game time. He also found himself playing in various positions, something he has said that improved his game. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a clear pathway into the first team at Arsenal, and a transfer away from the club would likely be the best thing for his playing career at this point.
#3: Rob Holding
Another center-back, Rob Holding probably feels a bit hard done by at Arsenal. When he gets minutes he usually performs well and he actually got a lengthy run in the team during Emery’s first season. He was arguably Arsenal’s best defender at the time before suffering a long term knee injury that ruled him out for the rest of the season. He hasn’t managed to get a run of games since Arteta’s appointment, and this probably indicates that Arteta doesn’t view the young englishman as a part of Arsenal’s future.
#2: Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Arguably the most versatile squad player Arsenal have had, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is clearly a useful player and will always be able to fill in a number of roles whenever necessary. He has played as a wing-back on both sides of the pitch, a more conventional right back, a right sided midfielder and as a central midfielder, all in the space of 3 years for Arsenal. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been good enough in any of those roles to stake a claim for consistent first team football, something that becomes very clear when you realise he hasn’t played more than 50 games for the club despite being in the first team squad since 2016. Maitland-Niles is a useful player, but ultimately a player with no outstanding qualities that make for a first team regular at Arsenal.
#1: Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Sokratis signing for Arsenal in 2018 filled many Arsenal fans with optimism, as he came with a lot of experience at a top team and was viewed as someone who might solve Arsenal’s persistent defensive issues. Unfortunately, a combination of errors and a change in tactical style once Arteta joined has shown that Sokratis isn’t the profile, or calibre of defender that Arsenal need.
This isn’t to say that these players aren’t good, just not what Arsenal need to build on the current project. Are there other players that should be sold? Should these players stay?
Photo: Dave Pearce (2014)