There are still 11 league games remaining, but for many Arsenal fans, thoughts have already turned to next season and potential summer recruits.
It’s worth noting that this season could still be a successful one. Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top 4 may be slim but they are in a cup final on Sunday, that’s not a small thing, and still have a chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League via the Europa League, holding a 3-0 aggregate lead over Swedish minnows Östersunds as they head towards the last 16 of that competition. However, fan frustrations are more than understandable about the consistent shortcomings of Wenger’s team.
So looking ahead to next season, let’s address Arsenal’s needs in the upcoming transfer window and the possible Arsenal line-up for the 2018/19 campaign. This is a speculative article. It is more like what I WOULD IDEALLY like to see us do in the summer transfer window.
It’s time to move on from Petr Cech. At nearly 36 years old and with only a year remaining on his contract by the time the new season begins, Arsenal would’ve needed to address the goalkeeper position even if Cech had been playing well, he hasn’t. The former Czech Republic captain has made far too many mistakes this year, both in his decision making and his distribution.
For me, Arsenal need to go young at the position, look for a long-term answer, not a 2-3-year patch like they did when signing Cech from Chelsea in 2015. Jack Butland would be the obvious choice in my eyes, the Stoke stopper is only 24 but has amassed over 170 domestic appearances despite some injury problems and has played 6 games for England. Stuck on a struggling Stoke side, he has still managed to shine and is ready for a bigger club. Butland will have other suitors, notably Liverpool who remain in goalkeeping purgatory, bouncing between Karius and Mignolet.
Were Butland to choose Merseyside over North London, another option for the Gunners would be Timo Horn, who finds himself in a similar predicament to Butland. His Köln team are odds on to get relegated from the Bundesliga, the 24-year-old is highly rated and could decide to move on from the club at which he has spent his entire senior career if they find themselves in the second tier. It would be worth keeping Cech for the final year of his deal by the way, he’d be more than capable as a second keeper and could mentor the new kid(s) on the block.
Arsenal need to provide genuine competition for Koscielny and Mustafi, who I don’t think are necessarily bad defenders, they’re partially a product of the system Arsene Wenger plays, which puts them under immense pressure with little protection in front of them. Arsenal still need another option though, with Koscielny turning 33 this year.
Recent reports have linked Chris Smalling with a move to The Emirates, this could be a solid choice, he has plenty of experience in the Premier League and at international level, is strong, fairly quick and decent with the ball at his feet. I’m not sure I see this one happening though, I’d be reluctant to help Arsenal fix their defence if I was Jose Mourinho.
If the Gunners look to Italy, they could find options in Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli, Stefan De Vrij of Lazio and Kostas Manolas of Roma, all of which have been linked with Premier League moves in the past (the latter two players linked with Arsenal specifically) and have all performed well for their respective clubs, but are obviously untested in England, which Arsenal might want to stay away from.
The most likely and best move in my opinion though would be Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos (fortunately for parents buying their children Arsenal shirts, he just goes by Sokratis). Arsenal lured scout Sven Mislintat away from Dortmund recently and he quickly got to work acquiring some of his old players in Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, he might go back to the well once again to strengthen Arsenal’s back line. The Greek international has been the bedrock of Dortmund’s defence since the departure of Mats Hummels, but with his contract due to expire in 2019, Arsenal may be able to prize him away.
For the benefit of this exercise I’m going to assume Arsenal don’t sign a defensive midfield player, as even though it’s a desperate need, I have a sneaky feeling that Wenger wants to stick with Xhaka in that role and feels he has too many midfielders already, especially if Jack Wilshere is back. For what it’s worth I think Fabinho, William Carvalho and Kevin Strootman would be excellent choices if they do address the issue. Arsenal are also expected to chase Bordeaux winger Malcom this summer, so just for fun, let’s imagine the Gunners get him through the door as well.
Here’s a look at how Arsenal could (key word, could) line up next season.