Arsenal’s next three Premier League fixtures will tell us a lot as to whether they are worthy of a European place or if it’s a bridge too far for Mikel Arteta’s charges this season.
When Unai Emery was relived of his duties and Mikel Arteta was given the monumental task of turning around his former club’s fortunes, many fans voiced their discontent.
Some said players were not living up to the standard of Premier League football and thus began the media cycle of who the club should move on, who should be kept and players needed to be brought in to help steady the ship.
At the time of writing Arteta’s biggest concern is once again the same old problem when it comes to the Gunners: keeping their stars who they always for one reason or another let their contracts run down into the final year.
Again they find themselves with the very real possibility of losing someone crucial: their captain, talisman and goal machine Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Since his arrival in 2018 from Borussia Dortmund, the striker has amassed 39 Premier League goals in 56 games and most striking is that his goals this season have won Arsenal 9 points, which makes up for almost 75 per cent of their tally.
Since January 2018 he has won the Gunners an incredible 32 points off his own boot, more than any other Premier League player.
This does have a very Robin Van Persie feel about it to me, with nearly an identical situation, both strikers, both captains, both incredible goal scorers that Arsenal simply cannot afford to lose.
There has been cause for optimism over the last few days with reports that he could in fact sign a new deal but I will believe it when I see it.
Aubameyang isn’t the only player that could be heading through the exit door during the next few transfer windows.
Defenders David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos according to reports are being shipped around as well as Mesut Ozil to quite possibly fund a move for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey who demands a $50 million price tag.
He would be the ideal partner for Lucas Torreira or Granit Xhaka as the anchor in the middle of the park for the Gunners.
Ozil has come under a lot of criticism from Arsenal fans for his body language and not showing his willingness to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. Is he a player Arsenal desperately need to keep? Probably not, would they love to keep him?
Possibly, he is the icing on the cake when everything else up field is going smoothly which at the moment is not the case at The Emirates. His wages will provide a major stumbling block for potential suitors and depending how much of a price tag the Gunners attach he may be difficult to move on and could wait until he leaves on a free transfer.
The biggest area in need of strengthening is something that has been Arsenal’s achilles heel since the days of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Sol Campbell – the defence. With the arrival of William Saliba back from loan at AS Saint-Étienne in Ligue 1 they are somewhat better off.
He has to start, but who does Arteta partner with him? Rob Holding? Calum Chambers?
Or it could be someone like David Luiz, that mix of youth and experience? Personally i would like to see Saliba and Holding form a back four partnership with Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, a back four which is really talented, young and hungry.
With Leno behind them, Arsenal fans would be optimistic about their side’s ability to keep the defence locked down.
As far as more additions go, it will be tough for the Gunners to shell out the money like previous windows. With COVID-19 causing a massive financial strain, coupled with no Champions League football yet again, Arsenal will be, according to several reports looking for loans and player swaps.
Chelsea winger Willian is a potential arrival and reports of Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser too, although if it is to be believed, he has chosen Spurs over the Gunners.
Crucial and uncertain times lay ahead in North London and with their Premier League season hanging by a thread, player wages cut and a distinct possibility of no Champions League football for another year, with the club’s transfer business, Arteta and co simply cannot afford miss.