The 2020/2021 Premier League season concluded with Arsenal ending up settled at the middle of the domestic competition table.
Gunners fans scattered across the globe will have been fuming as the club’s 8th place final day finish ensured that they would miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years.
Today’s article is written by our guest contributor – Samuel Waihenya – and he’ll be telling us exactly why the North London side needs transfer reinforcements this summer.
He shares an immense passion for the game through his own football-based blog and, with manager Mikel Arteta under increased pressure to turn the team’s fortunes around next season, he’ll also be suggesting the areas where the club needs to get the ball rolling with regard to player departures.
That said, let’s check out what he has to say to the ongoing conundrum at the Emirates stadium:
Three main factors have contributed to the state of disarray that the club currently finds itself muddled in with each factors covered in turn, starting with…
As a so-called “disciple” of legendary manager Pep Guardiola, Arteta’s tactical ideas revolve around patient ball possession and progressive build-up that begins with the man between the posts.
However, it can be argued that Arsenal lacks the necessary player makeup that can execute the manager’s tactical ideas on the field.
First of all, the club sold Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa. A goalkeeper renowned for his composure and ability to accurately pass the ball with either foot. Imagine that!
This is in stark contrast to the current number one option at the helm – Bernd Leno – who doesn’t possess the aforementioned traits as much as the former and tends to rely on using his goalie gloves through shot-stopping ability as opposed to being a commanding presence amongst members of the defence.
Just take a look at the following metrics for the recently concluded campaign:
|Emiliano Martinez||Bernd Leno|
|Errors leading to goal||1||1|
|Passes per match||29.84||28.49|
|Accurate long balls||265||111|
Although Martinez played three more games than Leno, the numbers give a decent indication as to why the Argentinian was more suitable for Arteta’s style.
Ultimately, with the current crop of players that Arteta has at his disposal, a strong case can be made for the squad missing the following pieces:
- A goalkeeper comfortable at both short and long ball distribution.
- A central midfielder who efficiently recycles possession, creates chances through passing and movement and drives the ball forward with incisive dribbling.
- A right-sided full-back that can slot into midfield and has great attacking output.
Ultimately, the manager currently looks to have his hands tied. This is because Arteta lacks the necessary personnel that would contribute greatly towards making the club a competitive force within the league and Europe once again.
Although this can likely be rectified by dipping into the summer transfer market.
Rotten squad culture
It’s safe to say that from a mental perspective, the Arsenal team is also devoid of the grit and determination that sees sides win domestic and intercontinental titles.
Quite astoundingly, certain members of the team were reported to have openly mocked former manager Unai Emery on the bus home after surrendering a one-goal advantage to draw against Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League.
The Gunners also picked up only 12 points from losing positions this season (3 wins, 3 draws and 13 losses out of 19 deficits) which puts them 5th on a list that is topped by title challengers Manchester United with 31 points.
Admittedly, their record here is not as telling but it still paints a picture of a side that is generally incapable of pulling themselves together once the going gets tough.
All this points to a team needing some fresh faces to dilute the negativity and complacency within the dressing room and re-invigorate the few players who manage to perform well despite the current setup.
High wage bill
In hindsight, the Mesut Ozil contract extension damaged the sporting health of the club in more ways than one.
The former German international ended up on an undeserved 350,000 pound a week deal because the club was desperate to keep the fans onside after the loss of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United.
Consequentially, it hiked up the club’s overall wage bill and made it harder for the negotiating team to tie up deals for external talent.
Look at the wage figures for 2019/20 below, and you’ll see that Arsenal come in 5th place with a total amounting to 225 million pounds a year.
Following this growth, #LFC £326m wages are now second highest in the Premier League, only below #MCFC £351m. They overtook #MUFC £284m last season and are also ahead of #CFC £283m, #AFC £225m, #THFC £181m and #EFC £165m. Should fall this season, due to lower performance bonuses. pic.twitter.com/tdl3GFuBhJ
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) April 28, 2021
The aforementioned final standing doesn’t correlate to their league position of 8th, which suggests that the club is underperforming since they are paying more money for less output on the pitch.
It’s quite clear that changes need to be made to kickstart the transformation of the team’s fortunes on the field.
So which players need to go?
Well, here are the three names that I’ve put forward:
The Swiss international symbolises the sporting decline that Arsenal has had over the last few years.
Since the start of the 2016/2017 season, no player who has committed more errors leading to goals than Xhaka, as he leads the pack with a total of 8.
Just take a look at this goal conceded against Burnley for example:
A defensive-minded midfielder having such frequent lapses in concentration is a recipe for disaster, and many fans will agree that his time as a starting player has run its course.
Hector Bellerin was once tipped to become one of the best right-backs in the world.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, a series of major injuries – including an anterior cruciate ligament rupture – have curtailed his progress and he’s now viewed by many football observers as nothing more than a serviceable player.
At 26 years of age, this would be a prime opportunity for Arsenal to cash in on the remaining value that the defender commands and get a player more suited to Arteta’s tactical approach, as his contract is set to expire in 2023.
It must be said that the time to ship out Lacazette has probably passed, as last season the striker could have fetched a larger transfer fee with two years remaining on his contract.
The 30-year-old has failed to manage more than 20 goals in all competitions since joining the club in 2017, which best exemplifies his inability to provide the offensive output needed for a team of Arsenal’s historic stature.
With his teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having signed a new long-term contract and the likes of Martinelli and Balogun waiting in the wings for first-team minutes, it might be best for Arsenal to let the Frenchman leave for a small fee.
Although he’s not a bad fit for Arteta’s system in his own right – as he does a good job of dropping into pockets of space in front of the opposition defence and linking up play – by doing this the club will likely recoup some funds that can be used to finance incoming appointments, as well as free up some space on the bloated wage bill.
One thing’s for sure, Arsenal has a lot of squad holes that need filling and the revamp needs to happen fast because pre-season edges closer each day.
But whether Mikel Arteta is the right man to lead them through this significant rebuild is another talking point in and of itself, as he doesn’t inspire much confidence based on his responses in pre- and post-match interviews as well as the team’s league results in the last two years.