New Arsenal manager Unai Emery has a real task on his hands to keep the Gunners competitive next season, as he’s inherited a squad with a real lack of quality in certain areas.
The former Paris Saint-Germain boss reportedly has just £50m for new signings this summer, which has forced him to be thrifty in the transfer window which could make for a season of struggle in 2018/19.
Emery will be under intense criticism for how Arsenal fare next season, but should his predecessor Arsene Wenger be under the spotlight for how poorly he’s built the latest squad?
Arsenal’s porous defence needs fixing
Arsenal finished sixth in the Premier League last season, conceding 51 goals in 38 games and will be without their two senior defenders at the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
Per Mertesacker is hanging up his boots this summer to become the new Head of Academy, leaving Arsenal one centre-back short. Laurent Koscielny is currently sidelined with an achilles injury and will miss the start of next season as a result.
That will leave Emery with an inexperienced backline containing Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos, none of whom would be a convincing solution over a full season. It’s why Emery is targeting Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos to bolster the backline as Arsenal are lacking in leaders.
The Gunners have a problem between the sticks too, with Petr Cech and David Ospina both out of contract in 2019 and being below-par goalkeepers for a side wanting a top-four spot and trophy next season. Cech has been guilty of making a number of errors and needs replacing, but Ospina isn’t up to the task of deputising. That could mean Arsenal have to sign two new shot-stoppers within the next year.
Mix-and-match of a midfield
While Arsenal are desperate for quality in goal and in defence, they also need some in midfield. The Gunners have Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Jack Wilshere and Mohamed Elneny, four players with completely different skill-sets who have been shoehorned into a system that doesn’t collectively suit them.
Ramsey is a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal, Xhaka is a deep-lying playmaker without much tactical discipline, Wilshere is an advanced playmaker without much of an end product and Elneny is a defensive midfielder who provides little creativity on the ball. Arsenal are crying out for an identity, as their struggles over the last two seasons can be attributed to their weak midfield.
Wenger has recruited poorly in such a key area and now Emery has to fix it on a budget. What’s worse is that he could lose Wilshere this summer as the English international is out of contract and has yet to sign an extension. Clubs that don’t have a recognisable centre-back and central midfielder pairing aren’t often successful.
For all the fine work Wenger has done in his 22 years in charge of Arsenal, he’s left them in bad shape this summer. Arsenal had their worst-ever season at the time of his departure and 2018/19 may not be plain sailing either.