Before we get started, let me just state that this isn’t a doom and gloom blog. It’s also not meant to pour scorn on what Arsenal have achieved in such a short space of time under Mikel Arteta. In fact, the achievement of picking up the FA Cup and Community Shield has far exceeded the expectations of many at this point in his reign.
However, there may be many that think that Arsenal are about to embark on a Premier League title challenge due to being dizzy with success and intoxicated by the occasion. Of course, stranger things have happened but let’s not talk about Leicester’s campaign in 2016, especially with all the main protagonists reinforcing this summer.
The gap between Liverpool and Arsenal was eventually 43 points but you also have to look at the level of consistency that led to the Merseysiders winning their first title for 30 years. Then there’s the depth of the Liverpool squad, there’s cover in almost every department and the available quality is obvious. If you take away one or two players from Arsenal’s basic framework, the argument regarding contention for the Premier League title falls apart.
If Arsenal were to truly sell Lacazette and Aubameyang were to get injured, then the Gunners would struggle. Martinelli is working his way back to fitness, but that could take three or four months of the new campaign until he is available. It’s too much to expect Eddie Nketiah to fill that type of void week in week out, in fact, it could be detrimental to his progression.
On paper, at least, Arsenal’s defensive woes seem to be subsiding, but it only takes a few injuries to cause similar problems to those suffered by the Gunners over recent seasons.
It’s usually around December that Arsenal suffer a defender deficit and if Tierney, Bellerin, Saliba, or the incoming Magalhaes were to be sidelined, the defence would arguably become more fragile and Mikel Arteta will face problems similar to previous managers. Yes, Mari is a decent alternative but Luiz is probably commencing his final season, Mustafi is due to be offloaded at some point and Soares needs more games to achieve consistency.
In the middle, it’s worse. Ceballos is supposedly coming back but if anything happens to him, Arsenal are short of creativity with the continued absence of Ozil and Guendouzi due to off-field indiscretions.
Willian could easily make this position his own, a superb ballplayer with excellent vision and touch. The Brazilian also offers a wealth of experience and a winning mentality but I suspect, he’ll be used wide. The academy youngsters haven’t stepped up to the plate yet, with Willock more of a squad player and possibly, only Smith Rowe or Maitland-Niles able to offer the necessary vision and touch.
Take away Xhaka. Yes, Mr. Marmite, who has somehow become a symbol of stability and who has provided Arsenal with durability and a fabulous work ethic. He’s the type of player that most ignore and he has had his issues, but he’s now taken on the identity of the grey man who doesn’t get the headlines but makes an invaluable contribution.
So, unless Arsenal manage to purchase at least two versatile players during this window, they are undeniably and understandably short in what will be a long and testing season ahead. Arsenal have irons in the proverbial transfer fire, but they will need to find a figure of £48m/£60m to put that kind of quality in place.
I think Arsenal will be a different prospect in the Premier League this season in what is the first full season for Mikel Arteta. The additions, so far, are quite exciting with the Spanish coach addressing the defensive issues, but he just needs a bit extra if they are to make the top four.