Arsenal ended the season in much better shape than many would have expected back in October or November when they were floudering. Unai Emery’s days were numbered, there had been a very acrimonious and public falling-out between the captain and the fans, and results were dire. Mikel Arteta has managed to stabilize the ship, reintegrating Granit Xhaka into the side to the extent that he is now a vital part of Arteta’s on-pitch vision, and winning the FA Cup has allowed the team to end the season on a high. Now is the time that the board must back him in the transfer market, because Arsenal are still short of quality in many key areas. Most bookies have Arsenal as favourites to finish outside the top four, which would be galling for a club of their stature, and work needs to be done to repair this.
The Gunners need to improve their options in midfield, and retaining Dani Ceballos has to be the first item to tick with regard to that particular problem. Ceballos’ influence increased as the season wore on, and he formed a very effective double pivot with Xhaka. With the Spaniard able to play in a more advanced role, he must be secured to the Emirates, at least on loan for another season from Real Madrid if Arsenal do not have the funds for a permanent transfer at the moment. Arteta wants a ball-winning midfielder who is comfortable in possession as well, and Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey ticks all the boxes. He will not come cheap, though, and there is a need to clear out some of the deadwood to make space on the wage bill as well as in the squad. The likelihood of this deal taking place still remains high though, based on Betway bookies and other operators, who still make the Emirates as the likeliest destination for the Ghanaian.
Frenchman Matteo Guendouzi has no future at the club under Arteta, and will be offloaded immediately if the club can find buyers. With the exception of David Luiz, Pablo Mari and new arrival William Saliba, arguably all the other centre-backs are up for sale. Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi may be retained, though, with Calum Chambers and Sokratis being sold. Mesut Ozil is still a big problem for the hierarchy – he has publicly stated that he does not intend on leaving before the end of his contract, which means that Arsenal will have to pay his £350,000/week wages for one more year, unless they can find someone to take him off their hands, as he does not look like being in Arteta’s plans any longer. At the same time, it is vital that they agree a new deal with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabon striker is the one world-class player they possess, and his goalscoring exploits over the last two seasons are a major reason for Arsenal not finishing even lower than they have in that time. It will cost a huge sum of money to replace Aubameyang with a finisher at his level, and so the Gunners need to bite the bullet and give him the wages he deserves, since they cannot offer him trophies at the moment. He is their best bet to be able to compete again, as long as he is backed up with some investment all over the pitch as well. Arteta will need to be able to get the most out of the players at his disposal, since it looks unlikely that Arsenal can go big in the transfer window.