The first article in our Premier League series focuses on the famous North London club: Arsenal. Formed in the late 1800s by Woolwich munitions workers, the club has grown exponentially from the small collection of workers it once was. Arsenal is also the only club in Premier League history that finished a season without a single loss in the league, […]
The first article in our Premier League series focuses on the famous North London club: Arsenal.
Formed in the late 1800s by Woolwich munitions workers, the club has grown exponentially from the small collection of workers it once was. Arsenal is also the only club in Premier League history that finished a season without a single loss in the league, in 2003-2004. The Arsenal we know today is a multi-billion dollar giant, with lucrative deals from Fly Emirates and household names playing on the pitch. Even with several international players on the current roster, the Gunners are in a rebuilding stage.
Let’s start with the manager. Unai Emery joined Arsenal only last summer but has a massive task in shaping the squad into the mold he wants to play. A positive is he led the club to win 21 games in the 2018-2019 campaign. 21 wins last season is tied for 4th in the league with Chelsea. However, with the Gunners finished 5th place, they narrowly miss out on The Champion’s League place for this season. The Gunners scored 73 goals in 38 games while conceding 51. That means the issue is the defense and the midfield isn’t much better. The lack of pace from their starters makes it easy to pass around the players and a few players are lacking in the defensive output that saw Emery’s Sevilla side win three consecutive Europa League titles only a few years ago.
The Gunner’s defense was pretty poor during the last campaign. 51 goals conceded is a ridiculous amount for a top 6 club. Injuries were a big factor for this. Hector Bellerin, their starting right back, was injured most of the season. Rob Holding and Laurent Koscielny both missed significant time. Hopefully, the fitness issues will be resolved over the summer.
Moving on to the midfield, where do we start?
Granit Xhaka is, for lack of a better word, slow. The lack of pace between him and Mesut Ozil is a major crutch. Watching the Gunner’s midfield last season could be summed up in one word: indecisive. At some times, there was no urgency, especially in the 3-0 loss to Leicester City. Matteo Guendouzi was a bright spot, but at 20 years old, he will require time to develop. This side seems to require a major overhaul in this department.
So, how does Emery fix these problems? Unfortunately, to sell players that were underwhelming means less money received than maybe what their value is. Shkodran Mustafi didn’t play well, so that could be a potential move. Mesut Ozil was criticized for his work rate and at 30 years of age, he isn’t getting any younger. Selling these two could possibly get Arsenal 25-35 million Euros to add to their budget, as well as free up some of the wage bills.
Because of all the recurring injury issues, I would buy some defenders. Definitely someone ready to jump into the first team, such as a Fabian Schar from Newcastle. Probably an 11$-17$ million signing, he could provide some defensive cover. Another option could be Kevin Mbabu from BSC Young Boys. A Right Back, who impressed in the UEFA Nations League Finals, could provide some valuable rotation minutes to Bellerin. Another Center Back is crucial. Eliaquim Mangala, on loan from Manchester City, would be financially a good move, even if he is a bit reckless. If Arsenal could somehow get a bargain buy for Willy Boly from Wolves, his massive stature and decent ability on the ball would be worth anything under 20$ million. As for a Left Back, Arsenal has been linked with a move for Celtic’s Kieran Tierney. He has that type of electric pace that could help Emery’s counter-attacking style and at 22 years of age, would be a long term investment for the club.
The midfield reinforcements are a bit tricky. Hakim Ziyech has a relatively low release clause of roughly 25 million Euros. A midfield creator for Champion’s League semi-finalists Ajax, his quickness and ability to find a pass would fit perfectly in behind the strike partnership of top scorer Aubameyang and Lacazette. Florian Grillitsch would be a more defensive midfield signing from Hoffenheim, perfect to play with Guendouzi or Xhaka. Since this is a project for Emery, it is going to take a few transfer windows to find the correct players for their system.
The Gunners have a long road to get back to “The Invincibles” days of 2003-2004, but some key bargain signings could do the trick. My prediction is that Arsenal finishes 6th place and will end up selling one of their key forwards to maximize the funds they can get for their rebuild. Sixth means a step back for the Gunners but in such a competitive league and playing in Europe, I think it is totally in the realm of possibility.