In what bodes to be a long and difficult season ahead, Gooners need potential bright-spots to look forward to. With the transfer market closing in less than a month, Arsenal have signed only Gabriel Martinelli and while there remains some time, it would be wise not to be too optimistic about a whirlwind last few weeks in the transfer window. Its time to have realistic expectations about what we can achieve.
On paper, Arsenal arguably have a better squad than both Chelsea and United, but capitalizing on the same is another issue altogether. Another worry is the rise of Everton, Leicester and Wolves who have recruited intelligently and could pose a real test to the other top four sides. Here are a few positives to look out for this season.
Freddie Ljungberg’s elevation to assistant-coach is a smart move on Arsenal’s part. The Swede oversaw an impressive campaign as head coach of the U-23 side last year and has a stint at Wolfsburg as an assistant coach as well. Ljungberg’s tactical acumen cannot be ignored and he offers a significant upgrade on Steve Bould who is reported to be a mute spectator in most training sessions. Ljungberg’s main role as assistant coach will not be to aid Unai Emery tactically but rather to facilitate the integration of youth prospects into the main team.
This represents a positive step towards involving more of our former players in the day-to-day operations of the club as well, something which would definitely boost the morale of players and fans alike at a time of uncertainty. Members of the U-23 and other youth sides have spoken highly of Ljungberg’s influence on the side and his presence on the bench is certainly a prospect to look forward to.
Integration of academy graduates
The Europa League is a terrible tournament but one positive that has arisen from it is the number of youngsters who have had an opportunity to make appearances for the senior side. For the upcoming season, Joe Willock, Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah have been promoted to the senior side and all three will be exciting to watch. Willock has been touted as a potential replacement in midfield for Aaron Ramsey and the Englishman certainly has the potential to make it at the highest level.
Smith-Rowe is another player who is rated highly by people in and around the club and its pretty obvious why. The Englishman perhaps possesses the highest ceiling among his fellow Hale-End graduates. Mesut Ozil is unreliable as is Mkhitaryan so there would be no harm in gradually blooding Smith-Rowe into the first team.
Personally, I would love to see more of our academy graduates who play in defence make it into the side. Zech Medley is one such player. A menacing, ball-playing defender, Medley definitely deserves the chance to prove himself considering our lack of options in defence. There is no better time than now for both Emery and Ljungberg to make active efforts to integrate the younger players into the main squad.
Collaboration between Edu and Raul
Edu’s appointment finally put an end to the search for a technical director at Arsenal and whether the Brazilian is the right man for the role moving forward remains to be seen. However, the prospect of Edu, with all his Brazilian connections, working with Raul Sanllehi, a key figure in European football, is something to look at positively. Edu is likely to have had an influence on the deal for Martinelli and given the links to Everton Soares, looks like he has arrived with a list of potential players the club should be looking to sign.
The Brazilian market is one that Arsenal have not tapped into much and given the sheer amount of raw talent that Brazil produces, Edu would be really important in harnessing this moving forward. The duo have a mammoth task ahead of them to rebuild the side, remove the deadwood from the club while finishing in competitive positions.
In conclusion, Arsenal fans need to be patient and realistic in what they expect Arsenal to compete for this year. Finishing in the top-four is bound to be a struggle and the Europa League is a risky prospect in the knockout stages. However, a few positives along the way would go a long way towards instilling some confidence into the operations at Arsenal.