The Arsenal squad is a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, they have a world-class attack boasting the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Özil. On the other, they have an embarrassing defensive record, having made more errors leading to goals (15) than any other club in the Premiership.
Just what could make this Arsenal team competitive again? Here are their three biggest needs.
What The Arsenal Squad Needs to Compete
The Arsenal squad is deep between the sticks, although they are short on talent. Petr Cech leads the club with six errors leading to goals and also tops the league in this statistic. Additionally, the Czech shot-stopper just can’t string together a few passes.
Meanwhile, David Ospina, a solid second choice, continues to frustrate fans. The Colombian has great reflexes and good positioning but lacks the physical attributes to become a top ‘keeper. Simply, he is too short.
On top of that, both players’ contracts are due to expire in the summer of 2019.
As far as up-and-coming choices go, the pickings are again slim. Emiliano Martinez has not impressed while on loan at Getafe this season, while Matt Macey featured since well before Christmas.
Simply put, this team needs a new number one. Ospina can do the job in a pinch, but two things preclude him from the permanent job. First, he just doesn’t have the body for it. Second, he has stayed at the club for years now and still hasn’t gotten the job. He almost left the club last summer and should see the writing on the wall again this transfer season.
Petr Cech’s contract may mean he is going nowhere this summer. No doubt few if any clubs would want to put their goalie on huge wages and see the performances he has been committing. Expect him to stay in a blended role; part-time cup ‘keeper, part-time mentor.
Emi Martinez turns 26 in September. Surely it is time to accept the fact he is not Arsenal quality.
Finally, Matt Macey could well turn into the first-choice ‘keeper one day. However, it won’t be next season. The club should make sure he gets plenty of minutes next season, be it at the club or away on loan.
The Arsenal squad is again relatively deep at this position, but similarly to goalie, they are short on top talent.
No doubt you’ve already heard; Laurent Koscielny will miss the rest of the season, the World Cup and likely the first half of next season after his Achilles ruptured against Atlètico Madrid.
The Frenchman was once among the Premier League’s best defenders. However, mostly due to injuries and his advancing age, Koscielny is now but a shadow of his former self. Meanwhile, Shkodran Mustafi continues to divide opinion.
While the German international is very capable of putting together an 8/10 performance, he is just as susceptible to 4/10 displays. Far from talentless, Mustafi is frustratingly inconsistent; a trait not associated with top defenders.
Per Mertesacker is two years removed from being a real influence at the club, aside from a fearless display in the 2017 FA Cup final, and retiring at the end of this season.
There are three promising young talents in the heart of defense, however, in Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos. Of course, they each have their own short-comings.
Chambers has the most experience of the trio, having suited up for both Southampton and Middlesbrough in addition to Arsenal. However, despite that experience, he has yet to make the jump to a regular starter in the league.
Rob Holding, just like Mertesacker, made a splash in the FA Cup final last spring. However, since then the young man has lost what confidence he once had, and can’t seem to win minutes for the first-team anymore.
Finally, Mavropanos looked solid in both his matches with the Arsenal squad so far. But, those are his only top-flight appearances in England, so let’s not judge this book by its cover.
Out of the three areas most in need of reinforcement, central defense requires the most cunning to fill. The club does have three youngsters in this area who each have high ceilings. However, it would be foolish to assume that all three will develop into first-team regulars.
Think back to the British core from a few years ago. Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Chamberlain, Gibbs and Jenkinson were touted as Arsenal’s future. Fast-forward five years, just three remain under contract at the club, with two of the deals expiring this summer and the last next summer.
So, the club needs at least one veteran to come in at the back. This would serve two purposes; give a bit of steel to a soft defense and give a mentor to a group of promising young men.
The team may want two replacements here, but that may take precious minutes away from developing youngsters. That would also take transfer funds away from the other two areas in need.
Probably the highest-profile story involving the Arsenal midfield right now is Jack Wilshere’s contract situation. The long-serving Gunner can leave the club for free this summer, although Arsenal have offered a new deal.
Aaron Ramsey’s contract may also play a factor for the club, as his current deal expires in the summer of 2019. Can Arsenal convince the Welshman to re-sign? That may be the question of the summer.
The remaining options include Mohamed Elneny, who is hard-working yet short of technical skill, Granit Xhaka, who is technically gifted but mentally susceptible, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who is still largely untested in midfield.
Not featured is a single proper defensive midfield who can give cover to our leaky backline. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but this is one area which fans have been crying out for change for years.
There is plenty of technical skill in this area for Arsenal, so keeping a few of their current crop is a good idea. Ramey and/or Wilshere may leave, but with the likes of Maitland-Niles and Jeff Reine-Adelaide coming up, the technical nature of the team won’t change too drastically, even with less talent.
This will also be the most difficult place to bring in talent. The team has plenty of good players in central midfield, so would need a great or even world-class player here. That’s a tough thing to do without Champions League football to offer.
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