Connor's Corner: How Can Arsenal Improve This Summer?
After missing out on Champions League and the top 4 for the first time in his Arsenal career, many expected Arsene Wenger to leave the club once the season came to its finale. However, with the club legend now extending his stay by a further two years, can he bring back the glory days of the past? With Arsenals lackluster and honestly quite pathetic at times squad, they really need to make some big changes to turn a team of boys into a team of men.
Jamie Carragher’s famous comments on Sky about Arsenal over the last few years were really spot on and summed up what every football fan was thinking - “Graeme Souness said it best when he said they're a team of son in laws. Who would want their daughter dating one of them? Would you want that type of man for your daughter? Cowards, ducking out of challenges!”
Now to be fair to Arsene, he has surprised me and most by splashing some serious cash early doors, with a signing that every Arsenal fan should be happy about. French marksman Alexandre Lacazette joining from Lyon for a fee of £52m is a fantastic buy and is something they were really missing. Since losing Robin Van Persie to Manchester United in what is probably one of the biggest mistakes ever made by Wenger, they’ve struggled to bring in a Striker who can match his goal scoring miracles. Lacazette’s French counterpart Olivier Giroud has chipped in with his fair share of goals and for me is a great option for Arsenal if they were to keep him. Lacazette however, is a whole new kettle of fish and his 28 goals in 28 Ligue 1 starts show that. Long known for being a team who create and miss good chances in almost equal measure, Lacazette's chance conversion rate of 38.9% was the highest amongst any player in Europe last year and that should be something to really set Arsenal fans tongues wagging.
If one signing wasn’t shocking enough, a second has already been made. Gladly for Arsene and his cheque book, this one was on a free. Left-back Saed Kolasinac has joined from Schalke and the 23-year-old Bosnian could well be a shrewd bit of business by Wenger. With no risk due to the lack of fee, the Bosnian has shown his versatility in the past by playing in midfield and wing back and could offer Arsene a different option if needed. With Gibbs likely to leave and Monreal not exactly setting the world alight at the Emirates, Kolasinac has the chance to prove himself on the big stage in the Premier League.
With those two positions sorted; next up and for me what will be their best bit of business this summer if it were to happen and what should be their main priority; keeping 2 of their best players, Hector Bellerin and Alexis Sanchez. Spanish full back Bellerin has been touted for a move back to former club Barcelona all summer and with the way he was treated at times last season by Arsenal and their fans, you wouldn’t argue with him if he did want to go (as well as the move being to Barcelona). Arsenal need to keep hold of Bellerin though, he is arguably the best right back in the league behind Valencia and his ability and experience in the premier league is vital at this stage. Arsene needs to stick to his guns and keep hold of him for another year at least.
If Arsene Wenger wants to win back any respect from Arsenal fans and his Premier League rivals, he must keep Alexis Sanchez at all costs. Whether that be paying him 300k a week or paying over the odds for players to keep Sanchez happy, he must do it. Sanchez is simply irreplaceable to Arsenal at the moment and in my honest opinion, if they were to lose him this summer, no matter who they bring in, they’ll finish 7th, that’s how good he is. Sanchez is probably the only one in the squad who you could say doesn’t relate to the Carragher quote; although strangely in love with his dogs a little too much, you wouldn’t mind him as your son in law. The winning mentality that Sanchez does/can bring to that team is something that has strangely and almost embarrassingly been criticised at times by some; but that mentality is exactly what Wenger really needs at this moment in time and other players should really be looking at Sanchez and wanting to match that ambition. Assuming he isn’t to leave before the league starts, if after the first 4 games they aren’t matching that winning mentality, I would not be surprised and wouldn’t blame him for leaving ahead of the deadline.
Following on from my mention of Wenger needing to maybe overspend, it looks like he is likely to do that with Monaco man Thomas Lemar, with an apparent £40m bid made. Lemar, at 21 is for me not what Arsenal need right now, Arsenal need people who are ready to challenge for leagues and titles now. I know Lemar has just come off winning Ligue 1 for Monaco and he had some impressive numbers with 10 goals and 9 assists, but the Premier League and its intensity is a whole new level. With Lacazette, Sanchez and Ozil almost guaranteed to start, there is only one space left in the front four and with options of Ox, Walcott, Welbeck, Iwobi and even Giroud, I think they have enough squad players to play in that/those positions, they need someone who is going to make that guaranteed front three into a guaranteed front four.
One player who I think could fill that gap and someone I mentioned previously in my Tottenham article and someone who sounds like he could be available for a similar fee is Douglas Costa. The Bayern man has that special something and has won many titles in his career with both Bayern and Shakhtar and that experience could also prove vital. If Costa isn’t that man they bring in, for me they definitely need someone with title winning experience. Rumours of Arda Turan coming from Barcelona I actually hope for Arsenals sake aren’t true, the stroppy Turk has been bang average whenever I have viewed him and his pathetic, gutless tantrum last year at the Euros really sums up everything that Arsenal are at the moment and need to get away from.
Riyad Mahrez is the other wide man continuously linked so far and in the League winning year with Leicester he was almost unstoppable at times. Last year however, was a kick back to reality and his ‘peak performance’ that scouts continuously look for where they try to work out where a player will peak and how long for is maybe something that Mahrez has now already hit. The question that Wenger probably needs to ask himself is; on his day and on a consistency level, is he any better than Walcott, Welbeck or the Ox? I'll tell you the answer - no.
Without Champions League football, maybe Mahrez and Lemar are who they’re going to have to settle for as they’re not going to be able to attract those top, top level players. With this in mind, even if they were, are there that many top, top wingers out there? If so, would they leave their current clubs for Arsenal? No is the answer to both.
Koscielny and Mustafi I think have the potential to be a good partnership. The French and German internationals respectively clearly have the pedigree and with the emergence of Rob Holding who has put in some good performances when he has played, especially in the FA Cup final where he did well against Diego Costa, should be enough to show enough confidence that he is ready to step in if needed.
Central midfield is another main priority they need to strengthen in my opinion. After Coquelin’s five minutes of brilliance wore off and Arsenal fans realised how average he was, it was back to realising how poor their midfield are. Ramsey, at times I feel sorry for. He is being played out of position, but that shouldn’t stop him from performing week in week out. Were he playing for Wales he wouldn’t be putting in the performances he does for Arsenal, let me tell you that. It’s like watching a completely different player. I don’t know if the position thing is that much of a factor or if he cannot get motivated for Arsenal like he can with his country, but Arsene needs to do something as they have a serious player on their hands. Something else Arsenal need is Santi Cazorla back ASAP. The little man is a genius and I worry that with the injuries he’s had, with the age he is at, means we will be lucky to see him at his potential again, if we are ever to see him play in an Arsenal shirt again.
This then leaves Coquelin, Elneny and the Ox. All have their advantages and needs to Arsenal in my opinion but they need something more. They need a serious physical presence in there, they need exactly what their north London rivals have in theirs with Dembele and Wanyama. A Patrick Vieira throwback, a tough man, a winner, a real horrible individual with a nasty streak. Look no further than 2 players; one completely unattainable one in Arturo Vidal and another in someone who is, in Radja Nainggolan. The Roma man, if not scary enough with his heavily tattooed neck and dyed blonde mohican, is someone who could add that missing steel in the Arsenal midfield, especially with his now famous hook tackle. The Belgian, known for his tough tackling is also a great footballer, with 11 goals and 5 assists in Serie A last season, Arsenal could get more than the defensive style midfielder they were hoping for.
Now they’ve got Lacazette, if they were to make 2 more top signings (and I mean top) in central midfield and a wide man, I’m going to make a prediction. I’m going to throw this out there; it’s going to be very controversial, contradict a lot of things I’ve said, is laughable and is also going to make Luke Byron’s grin even wider. Come next May, this is more than likely going to look very, very stupid, but, I think Arsenal are going to go close and maybe even win the League this year. I just feel that with all that went on last year with the will he/wont he go, Wenger is going to come back and create something special. I pray to god they don’t as the fans there honestly don’t deserve it, but they’ve got the marksman they’ve been missing and there is no real pressure on them in terms of people expecting them to go well. Providing they dismiss the Europa League, they have a big chance in the League in my opinion (providing Sanchez stays).
However, what will more than likely happen is, they’ll go all out in the Europa League and be knocked out by a team like Olympiakos, they’ll finish 5th in the league and they’ll lose in both the semis of the League and FA Cup.