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Opinion

With no silverware and no European football, Arsenal's off-season business is critical

Mikel Arteta (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Roar Rookie
11th May, 2021
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With the Gunners knocked out of the Europa League and currently sitting ninth in the table, four points behind Spurs, Arsenal is a club that needs a complete overhaul in the off-season.

Arsenal and Mikel Arteta’s saving grace from a horrible league season was to win the Europa League. Facing Villarreal in the semi-finals, the Gunners produced perhaps two of their worst performances under Arteta as they crashed out of the competition.

While it is still achievable, European football next season is highly unlikely with just a handful of games remaining in the season. So where does Arsenal go from here?

The fan unrest was already heightened because of the club’s involvement with the European Super League and the ‘Stan Kroenke out’ protests. But now there is serious pressure on Mikel Arteta and questions surrounding whether or not he should continue to be the man in charge at the Emirates.

‘Trust the process’ is what we have heard but in recent weeks and months that is getting harder and harder to do. Questionable tactics and team selection have left many wondering if the Spaniard is in over his head given it is his first managerial position.

Arteta is a good manager as he led Arsenal to an FA Cup victory last season, but that memory has faded over time after numerous poor performances.

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So why has Arsenal struggled so much this season? The manager or the players?

The buck stops with Arteta, however the playing group should not get off lightly either. Several individual mistakes have cost numerous points through the league season and although we could see the way Arteta wanted to set his side up, the fact of the matter is that he simply does not have the players to do it successfully.

Mikel Arteta at an Arsenal practice match

(Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Players like Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Bernd Leno, Willian, Dani Ceballos, Eddie Nketiah, and even captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all come under severe scrutiny over the last 12 months and aside from Aubameyang, those players could be pushed out the door come season’s end.

Even new signing Thomas Partey, who looked like a young Patrick Viera when he first came onto the scene, looks like a shell of the midfield force we saw. There are still question marks over Granit Xhaka and Arsenal’s defence but the fact is you can’t gut the squad in one off-season, which makes the club’s off-season transfer business even more critical.

The bizarre treatment of William Saliba was cringeworthy and once he was sent out on loan, he has shown his class and potential at the heart of the Nice defence. Konstantinos Mavropanos is also out on loan, and has shown real promise this season for Stuttgart. So with Arsenal’s defensive fragilities, do these two young, promising central defenders get their chance to stake their claim for a spot in the first team?

Then there is Joe Willock on loan at Newcastle. He has scored more goals this season while being loaned out for a couple of months than what the entire Arsenal midfield has managed for the whole Premier League season. He more than deserves his chance, as does young Gabriel Martinelli, who has been used very sparingly since returning from injury.

Regarding comings and goings over the off-season, it will be a busy time at the Emirates. Perhaps it is time to give these younger players like Folarin Balogun, Reiss Nelson, Saliba and Martinelli a genuine chance at establishing themselves in the first team while getting rid of some the deadwood that has been at the club for too long.

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Reiss Nelson

Reiss Nelson. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The changes do not just stop with the playing group. Many fans want Mikel Arteta out, but he deserves one more off-season window to move players on and bring in the ones that can play his style of football. Whether he gets it or not is another question entirely.

Then there is the owner situation and how that continues to develop. Spotify owner Daniel Ek has made no secret of his willingness to buy the club he loves from Stan Kroenke, with the help of several former Gunners legends in Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira.

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Kroenke has stated that he has no intention to sell the club and that he will be investing in the club during the off-season. But is it too little too late? The fall from grace has been huge over the past couple of seasons and it is going to take something monumental to turn the club’s fortunes around.

Mikel Arteta said: “The squad needs changing. There were already a lot of changes in December, something that has not been done in years, but it tells us where we were. Things are going to have to change and the owners are going to back it up.”

So that tells us that major changes are coming in the off-season and we will have to wait and see if Arteta and the owners stay true to their word because, at the moment, Arsenal is in free fall.

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