While Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff will be focusing all their efforts on the forthcoming tie with Benfica and trying to manage their rather turbulent run of fixtures, behind the scenes, Technical Director Edu will be looking to the recruitment side of things.
While Arsenal have managed to shift an impressive £700,000-a-week off their wage bill, there will still likely be departures from the senior squad to accommodate some new blood.
But what exactly do Arsenal need in the upcoming summer window?
Arsenal spent most of the 2020 summer transfer window chasing Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, however, Brentford’s unwillingness to sell forced Arsenal to look elsewhere.
Following the recommendation of goalkeeping coach Iñaki Caña Pavón, Arsenal instead opted for FC Dijon’s Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, who was signed for £1.8m.
The Iceland international’s time at Arsenal has not been the calamity that many on social media have professed it to be, however, it has not been a roaring success either. Some decent showings in the Europa League have been usurped by a calamitous performance at home to Manchester City in the League Cup, in which the goalkeeper looked increasingly frail with each shot on target the visitors had.
It seems as though Rúnarsson was always preferred as a third-choice goalkeeper, specifically to take over the mantle from Matt Macey, who looks unlikely to remain at Arsenal much longer.
It seems as though Raya will continue to be Arsenal’s long-term target (another recommendation from Pavón), however, Brentford are unlikely to entertain offers before the summer, especially given their promotion push.
It is unlikely that Raya is Arsenal’s only target, however, other targets have not been mentioned in the press, though this seems to be a position fairly low down on Arsenal’s priority list.
It is possible that Arsenal will look to make Maty Ryan’s loan move from Brighton a permanent deal, but it depends on the Australian’s cost and his performances for the club before the end of the season.
Héctor Bellerín seems undroppable under Arteta thus far, regardless of his form and though the recent resurgence in form of Cédric Soares has given Arteta something of a selection headache, it seems unlikely that Cédric is seen as the ideal right-back cover for the long-term, despite his whopping four-year deal.
Arsenal do have the exciting Jordi Osei-Tutu (currently on loan at Cardiff City) to consider for the position, however, given that he has yet to make a single appearance for the senior side, it seems Arsenal may look elsewhere.
In terms of internal solutions, both Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers look unlikely to survive the prophesied harrying of the Arsenal squad this summer. Chambers has yet to make an appearance for the club since returning from his most recent injury and Maitland-Niles seems to see his future in the middle of the park, rather than in defence, something that proved to be a point of contention with both Arsène Wenger and Unai Emery as well.
Again, potential targets have been scarce, but there are plenty of youngsters in and around Europe who are likely to catch the eye of the Arsenal recruitment team.
Emerson at Real Betis has impressed so far this season, as has Celtic’s Jeremie Frimpong, while Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest is also likely to have a number of suitors, especially given the Spanish club’s precarious financial position. Another option could present itself in the form of Tariq Lamptey at Brighton & Hove Albion, who seem resigned to lose the talented youngster, amid interest from abroad and domestically and Lamptey seemingly keen on a potential move.
It has also been noted of Arsenal’s interest in Achraf Hakimi, at Inter Milan, with Arsenal seemingly interested in a potential £40m deal for the defender in the summer, however, the payment structure caused significant issues with Arsenal’s COVID-affected budget and the player moved to Inter; despite this, Arsenal still hold him in high regard.
The recent performances of Kieran Tierney have certainly paid credence to the idea that Arsenal have arguably one of, if not the best left-back in the Premier League, however, despite the Scotland international’s spectacular form, Arsenal are in dire need of cover.
Even without taking the former Celtic man’s appalling injury-record into account, Arsenal do seem to lack a decent left-back in general. With Sead Kolašinac currently on loan at Schalke until the end of the season and Maitland-Niles on loan at West Brom, the onus of left-back cover has fallen largely on the shoulders of Cédric Soares. Though Cédric seems to be coping fairly well int he position, it is clear that he cannot be considered a long-term solution or indeed cover for Tierney during his annual injury crisis.
Targets for the position will likely be high-priority in the summer, with Arsenal keen to rectify the issue in the January window, though no moves materialised. Though Crystal Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt and Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand were discussed as temporary solutions in the aforementioned January window, neither were ever under serious consideration.
Several other names have been mentioned in the press since the January window closed, with Hibernian’s Josh Doig and Genoa’s Luca Pellegrini both reportedly of interest to the scouting team. Other potential targets include Bologna’s Aaron Hickey, who has impressed most of Europe and Norwich’s Max Aarons, who was very close to joining Liverpool in the summer.
A creative midfielder has been on the agenda at Arsenal for a while, with the summer window seeing Arsenal come within a hair’s breadth of signing Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, however, Lyon were unwilling to play ball and Arsenal were unwilling to match the French club’s £60m price tag.
Since then, a number of names have been mentioned in the press, such as Julian Brandt, Emiliano Buendía, Dominik Szoboszlai and Christian Eriksen, though it seems as though Arsenal are scouting other targets besides these.
With the Dante-esque exile of Mesut Özil, followed by his subsequent departure to Fenerbahçe and the hapless performances of summer signing Willian, Arsenal struggled a lot in terms of creativity throughout much of the early season.
Following the introduction of Emile Smith Rowe into the starting eleven in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Chelsea, it seems as though Arsenal do have a ready-made creative midfielder to come in and inject some much needed creativity. He along with Bukayo Saka, have not only introduced some much needed flair and creativity but also served as a testament to the amazing work that Per Mertesacker is currently doing with the Hale End academy.
In January, Arsenal brought in Real Madrid midfielder Martin Ødegaard, who, like his Real Madrid teammate Dani Ceballos, serves as a temporary solution, though if his situation pleases both parties, then there is no reason that Arsenal cannot make the change permanent in the summer.
Ødegaard’s potential mesmeric form notwithstanding, Arsenal will likely still look to add a creative midfielder to their ranks in the summer window alongside him. It seems that Arsenal have cooled their interest in Aouar and a move for Brandt seems unlikely, though a move Buendía could be in the offing, with Arsenal long-term admirers of the Argentinian’s profile.
The future of Alexandre Lacazette remains uncertain. While Mikel Arteta has intermitted that he would like to keep the Frenchman at the club in the long-run, it seems that many behind the scenes are not as convinced that Lacazette cannot fulfil the role that Arteta has ear-marked for him.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has struggled for form this season, but given Aubameyang’s history and excellent returns, not to mention his captain status, make it unlikely that Arsenal will look to replace him anytime soon.
As for Eddie Nketiah, its a struggle to see just where the England striker fits in at the club at the moment. Neither Lacazette or Aubameyang seem to be squandering the chances that they are given by Arteta at the moment and the youngster seems to lack the physicality needed for the Premier League.
The future of Folarian Balogun is still a very touchy subject around London Colney, with the youngster still yet to put pen to paper on a brand new deal, but the youngster could find first-team opportunities easier to come by next season, if his long-term future is tied down.
As for potential incomings, it has long been rumoured that Arsenal hold a vested interest in Celtic forward Odsonne Édouard, as well as Lille striker Jonathan David, both of which seem to fit the bill of a pressing forward and would likely be available for a reasonable sum.
Top quality strikers maybe difficult for Arsenal to come across in the long-run, especially since most of Europe’s most coveted strikers are tied down to long-term deals. Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Håland has a release clause in his contract that will activate soon, but more attractive clubs are circling the in-form striker. Meanwhile, Rodrygo at Real Madrid and Francisco Trincão at Barcelona could prove to be useful back-ups.
It remains to be seen as to what Arsenal’s summer business will look like. Since the departure of Arsène Wenger, the issue of attracting top players has seemed like something of a non-issue, especially since the club have managed to convince Nicolas Pépé, Gabriel Magalhães, Willian, Gabriel Martinelli and Thomas Partey to join the club despite better offers from elsewhere.
Whether it is a marquee signing or a more financially-efficient solution also remains to be seen, but whomever Arsenal pick, needs to pick Arteta’s dream of a fluid 4-3-3 and must be used to a high pressing game, given how far up the field Arsenal like to press.