2 positions Arsenal need to strengthen to become title challengers
Mikel Arteta has brought a huge amount of optimism to the club right now. It finally feels clear to Arsenal fans that the club is on the up. It is difficult to tell how long it will take to get us back to the top, however one thing that fans feel more confident with is that is the trajectory we are on. Since really the move to the Emirates, Arsenal have been on a slow downward spiral which reached its climax in the autumn months of last season. Never before have I seen such toxicity around the club; it appeared clear to the fans that under Emery we either had no identity or at the very least the wrong one. We saw fans forcing him out, Xhaka disgracing himself and losing his captaincy and we were faced with a huge task to try and get any form of European football. The Gunners ended up 8th, but Arteta gave us an identity and style of play which suited the quality in our squad perfectly. In managing to win the FA cup, the Spaniard showed how we were no longer going to be so naïve against the top teams. However, I think every Arsenal fan can agree that Arteta will at some point wish to convert to a 4-3-3 to take Arsenal to the next level. Thomas Partey’s arrival will play a huge part in facilitating this transition, however I have identified 2 areas where Arsenal will need to strengthen in order for us to have a squad that can compete at the highest level over 38 games. I appreciate as well, that Arsenal have not historically been the biggest spenders, so I’m going to show you 3 players per position, each at a different price point.
It is no secret Arsenal fans are screaming out for a player who can carry the ball forward and create chance after chance for Aubameyang, as well as contributing a few goals themselves. This really needs to be the next signing, or I believe we are at risk of wasting Aubameyang as he enters the latter stages of his career with us. Here are 3 options
Dominik Szoboszlai – This guy is a hugely exciting young prospect plying his trade at RB Salzburg. He is only 19 years old and had 19 G/A in the Austrian Bundesliga last season. There have been a lot of rumours suggesting Edu is an admirer of the young talent and he would arguably be the most affordably of all options on this list with a value of £22.5 million. However, at his age and with his lack of experience, he would likely be no quick fix. Nonetheless he is an affordable alternative to our other targets.
Houssem Aouar – I don’t think I need to remind Arsenal fans of what this man could bring to our team. Most Arsenal fans had probably done a lot of research on the guy themselves, as for a long time he appeared destined for a move to the Emirates. In the window just gone, Arsenal could not meet the £54 million valuation that Lyon had for their main man. However, Arteta is clearly very fond of him and I’m sure if he gets the financial backing, Aouar will be his top priority.
Jack Grealish – As you are going to see later on, the final target in each position is perhaps a less realistic option, but one that fans could only dream of happening. Jack Grealish has shown his undeniable creative quality and as a premier league proven player, I believe he would be by far the best option on this list. He also offers the versatility of playing either centrally or out wide. The gossip in windows gone by would suggest we would need to shell out around £70 million or more; maybe (just maybe) if we can get a deal in installments, we could land the Villa talisman. We can only dream, right?
As much as Partey will help Arteta go to his desired 4 at the back formation, I think another part of the problem is that Arteta still does not have a centre-back partnership that he can trust week-in week-out. Gabriel has made a great start to life at Arsenal; however, it appears we fans may have to be patient for William Saliba to come of age. Meanwhile, centre-backs such as Rob Holding, Chambers, David Luiz or Mustafi are perhaps not quite at the level where you can expect them to take you to a league title. Here are 3 top options in this area.
Willy Boly – 29-year-old Frenchman Willy Boly has been a mainstay in the Wolves defence. He is 6’5 and very much used to the physicality of the league. The fact that he is one of the more experienced options out there right now is perfect for Arsenal. If we are operating on a budget, we need someone to come in and hit the ground running, but he does not need to have any long-term value (as hopefully Saliba in a few years’ time will be ready). The big man is also yet to commit his future to Wolves at may be available for a good price.
John Stones – This is a guy who really does divide opinion. He has shown glimpses of true quality during his time in Manchester, however has always had a mistake in him. As such, he has now dropped some-way down the pecking order at Manchester City and rumour has it could be available for around £20-25 million. If Arteta can bring him back to the form he showed in City’s 2017/18 campaign, this could represent good value.
Dayot Upamecano – Another man who I don’t really need to tell you about. All the talk last season was that Arsenal would meet his £54 million release clause either last January or in the summer window just gone. However, for whatever reason Arsenal’s pursuit of him just went cold and we opted to sign the cheaper Gabriel instead. However, do not rule out that Arsenal will return for this man. He recently signed a new contract and insisted upon a £38 million release which comes into force at the end of this season. No doubt for that price we would be competing with a number of top European clubs, but who’s to say that the youngster would not choose Arsenal. Again, this one’s optimistic but would really be a difference-maker for the club.
Photo Credit: Ben Sutherland, Flickr