Arsenal may have had their failings this season and in recent ones, but one thing that will always stand out is that manager Mikel Arteta has overseen a key transformational and transitional period for the Gunners. For the first time since Arsene Wenger left, the Gunners have managed to hold the aura of the traditional top four teams. Arsenal are getting back to the UEFA Champions League, and this is one really top achievement.
At the start of the current campaign, Arsenal’s major target was to get back into the top four, a feat they had failed to achieve for six good years. The last man to lead them there was the legendary Arsene Wenger, but his skipper back then, Mikel Arteta, has ensured the team gets back there, following three years of patient buildup that included a serious mop-up that saw a number of top players dropped then released. The Spanish manager will definitely command a special place in the club’s folklore, but that’s not to mean the club has achieved its highest. There is still a lot of work to be done, and that work starts now, with the confirmation that the Gunners will not finish any place lower than second. The biggest workload for Arteta, and Technical Director Edu for now, will be to scout for players who can withstand the pressures of playing in the Champions League, the Premier League, the FA Cup and League Cup.
One of the areas Arsenal have fallen short this season, which needs addressing, has to do with squad depth. The team did well in the first half of the season, riding a bit of luck as the players didn’t suffer a lot of long-term injuries. That would change in the second half after Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba’s injuries. What followed was exiting the Europa League early, and relinquishing a comfortable lead in the league. All of a sudden, an Arsenal team that was hard to beat or drop points, was no longer a feature in the football predictions for must win teams from SportyTrader’s experts. A run of four straight winless outings saw the Gunners drop to second behind Manchester City in the title race and the chance to win the first league title in close to two decades now hangs in the balance.
Edu, who has played in the Champions League, and Arteta, who has experience at that level too, will know the demanding standards they have to meet at Europe’s elite club competition, as well as balancing with domestic duties. The duo has already been linked with some of the big names that could do the job at Arsenal. The team doesn’t need a huge overhaul; just a few names and releasing a number of players will do the magic. The Gunners have been linked with Moises Caicedo and his midfield partner at Brighton, Alexis Mac Allister as well as West Ham United skipper Declan Rice. That signals the need to firm up the midfield, but the Gunners may as well need cover in defence, in light of the lessons from Saliba’s injury and the feeling that Rob Holding won’t be around for so long.
Apart from new signings, Arsenal may also want to come up with a concrete plan for the on-loan players, most notably, Nicolas Pepe, who all signs indicate may have to be offloaded. Folarin Balogun has done well on loan, and Arsenal may want to give him a chance but he may have to come back as a back up player. Nuno Tavares might also need to reconsider his Arsenal future, with the left side of defence clearly locked while Sambi Lokonga may find himself in a similar quagmire as Arsenal looks to strengthen the midfield. Charlie Patino and Marquinhos, who have had run outs in the Championship may have a role to play at Arsenal next season but their chances in the Champions League will definitely be limited.
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