Trying to figure out what is going to happen at Arsenal next season is one-half mind-reading, the other, reading into every single bit of information that Arsène Wenger dishes out at his pre-match press conferences.
On Thursday, we got another hint towards the Frenchman staying at the Emirates beyond the summer.
First, he was trying to explain why the campaign had not been a disaster, but we were also given a truthful view that everything was not well.
“It’s a strange season because we played 20 games unbeaten,” Wenger said. “But I cannot sit here and say we have no flaws in our team, because we have.”
Then came the big reveal.
“It (the squad) is a very strong basis, but the team needs to be strengthened, of course.”
Now, that’s not to say that he will be the one that organises the recruitments, as a coach who deeply cares for the club and will obviously want the Gunners to do well whenever he does move on, yet you got a sense that the 67-year-old will be in charge for a little longer.
Arsenal squad overhaul
“As far as I know, there is already an agreement between the club and Wenger to be announced in the coming weeks, or at the end of the season,” former Arsenal defender Lauren told press.
“Hopefully, Wenger will stay and build a stronger team and sign better players during the transfer window.”
Big changes are expected.
The ongoing saga surrounds Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez. They are out of contract in 2018 and the club will want to extend or sell this summer so they aren’t allowed to leave for free. However, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker and Carl Jenkinson are all in the same boat.
With one big last push from the former Monaco manager, the team that lines up at the Emirates next term could be very different when the transfer window closes in September.
The players linked are never-ending and forever changing, but we’ve scoured the rumours and gossip columns and run them through our algorithm to rate the possibility of who could join Arsenal in the summer and what they would bring to the club.
Replacements for Petr Cech
Joe Hart – index rating 1.1 – has enjoyed an up and down season on loan from Manchester City at Torino. His numbers show a ‘keeper capable of making an excellent amount of saves, but he still has mistakes in him. The Serie A club won’t be able to meet the £15-20million valuation, opening up the door for English clubs.
Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland have also been mentioned, the Stoke City No.1 would be a forward-thinking move, yet Wenger would look for more experience between the posts.
Injuries and mistakes have cast a spotlight on Petr Cech and a number of goalkeepers have been linked.
Kasper Schmeichel is now a Premier League champion and his heroics in the Champions League have proven his quality at the highest level. Contracted until 2021, it would take a huge offer to tempt Leicester City, but he would be a very good addition – index rating 2.2.
— Zesty Arsenal FC (@zesty_arsenal) March 28, 2017
French radio station RMC recently suggested that the Gunners were eyeing up a £13million bid for Sporting’s Rui Patrício in the summer – index rating 2.8. He helped win Euro 2016 with Portugal and was listed in the annual Ballon D’Or list. He ticks every box that Wenger would have and would add an authority to the Arsenal back-line.
Best Option: Rui Patrício – cheaper, more experience, tested at the highest level.
Case of the Arsenal defence
Doubts over Shkodhan Mustafi’s ability have surfaced over the past few months, but he and Laurent Koscielny will be Arsenal’s centre-backs going into the new campaign. Any upgrades are going to come down the channels.
First priority is a left-back. Nacho Monreal, at 31 years old, just isn’t up to the task anymore and Kieran Gibbs has never quite reached his potential.
Someone who seems to have the world at his feet is Celtic’s Kieran Tierney – index rating 2.0. The 19-year-old full-back is already a star in his homeland and showed for Scotland that he can play on the right too. Manchester United are also linked with a move. It won’t come cheap, with 12 assists in all competitions and a contract until 2021, the Glasgow club will be looking for over £10million.
Valencia’s José Gayá – index rating 1.0 – has long been admired by the Arsenal staff, and it’s easy to see why. He’s got similar qualities as Monreal and Héctor Bellerín and is only 21 years old.
A regular in La Liga, like the Arsenal right-back, he’s a Spanish Under-21 international. As good at the back as he is in attack, Gayá is an excellent young player, but the Celtic defender would be cheaper and looks to have the higher potential at this stage.
Best Option: Kieran Tierney – British, European experience, high potential
Could Bellerín Leave Arsenal?
On the opposite flank, the only reason Arsenal would need to do any business is if Bellerín is tempted with a move to either Manchester City or Barcelona.
Luckily, right-back is a much easier position to find than a left-footer. FC Porto’s Ricardo Pereira – index rating 1.6 – on loan at Nice, has been a revelation in Ligue 1 over the last two seasons and was mentioned as a possible signing in January, but with the agreement of his deal at Nice, nothing could happen until the summer. Although currently injured, it’s no surprise his absence has coincided with a rough patch of form. Able to burst up and down the flank with ease, he’s a great option further forward and can play on the left.
Sometimes players can look a much better prospect than what their actual ability shows. France international Djibril Sidibé is very lucky that he plays for Monaco this season. The Monegasque club play a very swash-bucking style. The defenders are allowed to bomb forward, it’s heavily encouraged they play a huge part in the attack. That said, when asked to cover and guard his position, Sidibé can be found wanting in the defensive areas.
— The Gib Show ? (@Gibney_A) March 23, 2017
Exposed time and time again against Manchester City. He is more of a winger than a right-back. He played at left-back for Lille due to the fact he wasn’t the best option on the right – that’s Sebastien Corchia. Now, Monaco’s tactics and superb central midfielders, help protect his huge downside.
Although he has three goals and five assists this term, you would worry about the gaps he would leave with the increased level of competition, week in, week out.
Monaco have young Almamy Toure waiting in the wings, so Arsenal would be able to land the 24-year-old for around £15-17million – index rating 2.0.
Best Option: Ricardo Pereira – As good going forward as he is at the back.
Losing to Liverpool was not a disaster, but the 3-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion highlighted the huge flaws at the club, especially the defence.
There is a danger that signing young players will mean that it takes a few seasons for the best to come from them, that’s why you need a mixture of potential and experience and signing a number of these players would definitely give the Gunners a face-lift in the summer.