Ranking Arsenal's summer needs by position
By Mac Johnson (Deputy Editor).
Having hope as an Arsenal fan can be nearly impossible sometimes. Excited for a top four finish because of your games in hand? Boom! Enjoy those games against every team in the top three and your biggest rival. Need to win one (1) game in order to overtake Sp*rs in the that same race? Boom! Enjoy Crystal Palace. Trying to make a talented skeleton crew work? Boom! Injury crisis. It's painful.
But one thing we can always hope for is a good summer window. Already, the internet is rife with rumours, and though we all enjoy a good shaggy dog story or shot in the dark, I'm not particularly focused on players today. Instead, I'll be assessing the needs within the squad, both in terms of depth and starting players.
No massive preamble. Let's launch right in.
Level of Need: Nonexistent (0/10)
We have Aaron Ramsdale and that should be good enough for anybody. The twice-relegated shot-stopper has proven himself nothing short of revolutionary in between the sticks since wrestling the starting berth from Bernd Leno. Between his command of the area, reflexive wonder-saves, and his ability to place the ball nearly anywhere he wants, the 23-year-old is a shoe-in for the starting spot.
His exploits have also earned him the attention of Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate. Though he was called up for Euro 2020 at the last minute to replace the injured Dean Henderson—a player he has significantly outstripped since, I might add—he played nary a minute. However, he has been touted to compete for the role this season, a claim which will gather momentum as Jordan Pickford's Everton creep toward relegation. He's a bona fide star.
Add to that the presence of Bernd Leno, who is likely to be sold, and an equally competent backup in the recent signing of MLS's 'Keeper of the Year and Golden Glove winner Matt Turner from New England Revolution, and there's no insecurity here. Moving on.
Level of Need: Rotation (2/10)
Though Arsenal are consistently linked to right backs, the business built during the summer has altered that somewhat. Takehiro Tomiyasu has captured the hearts of fans, and though he's a bit more fragile than we would have potentially liked, he's still likely to start a majority of the games next season, if fit.
However, Arsenal's current starter, Cédric Soares, could do with some replacing. He's the wrong side of 30, and though his performances this season against teams below the top 8 have been somewhat promising, he'll never lose the "Loosah" tag bestowed upon him by Alfie. A parting of the ways seems natural, especially given the length of his contract.
The reason I place this position at such a low level of need is because of our returning loan signings. If we do choose to sell Cédric, we have both Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Hector Bellerin returning to the club over the summer. Though the former has nearly resigned himself to mediocrity through his choice to play in the midfield, and the latter has lot a step (or five), they're also capable reserves behind Tomiyasu. The returning Saliba could also fulfill that role.
In the event that none of the core three are willing or set to stay, a backup signing would be prudent, especially one of both quality and youth, like Djed Spence. Someone we can mold into the role expected of him would be the best solution for all involved, and a signing would achieve that goal.
Level of Need: PLEASE NO MORE (-3/10)
Yes, I know that this isn't how it works, but bear with me. Arsenal have a nasty habit of overloading this part of the squad, and though we already have two potentially world-class starters at the club in Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes, we are likely to find ourselves with a nasty surplus over the summer if we're not careful.
The return signings of William Saliba and Dinos Mavropanos have the possibility to seriously shake up the pecking order, with Saliba being quoted as unwilling to ride the bench at Arsenal any longer. Mavropanos would serve as an excellent left-sided backup, as loanee Pablo Marí is likely to leave the club.
Combine that with the continued veteran presence of Rob Holding and the money laundering *ahem* signing of Auston Trusty from Colorado Rapids and we've got far too many players on the books. Trusty's loan, it must be noted, ends on December 31, 2023—he'll be a long time coming, if he ever arrives. Regardless, it's time to lighten up or switch to a back three. We need three, maybe four centre-backs at most. Right now, we're looking at 5 or 6.
Level of Need: Mercurial (4/10)
This one is a bit of a mystery, because it is nearly entirely predicated around two things: the future of Kieran Tierney and the development of Nuno Tavares.
First off, KT has been lauded as a future captain since he could walk. But he's been linked with a major transfer to Real Madrid, and I think it's likely that the club will consider it, given that the fee has been touted at a minimum of around £50m. Given his injury history, and his top-class potential and ability, he might be headed out the door if the club play their cards right. I don't want him to leave, and God willing he'll stay, but he's entering the prime of his career, and to stay at the club will mean another longterm deal.
As for Tavares, he has been shaky this season, both in terms of on-field consistency and his performance for Arteta specifically. Though he was excellent early on in the season during Tierney's first spell of absence, a string of early substitutions in his rare appearances recently has left him disgruntled and out of favor and form. If he can work his way back in the latter stages of the season, given that KT appears to be out until about July, I’m comfortable allowing him to compete for the starting berth next season, either with a new signing or with the Scot himself.
Should he fail to develop and Tierney leave, though, a new signing is of the utmost importance. It would ratchet this number from a 4/10 (which I consider a compromise between the actual status of Arsenal's troubles at the position and the possible worst case-scenario) to at least a seven, or an eight.
Level of need: Backup (2/10)
We have Thomas Partey. Even though we won't be extending Mohamed Elneny, Albert Sambi Lokonga is a more than capable backup, and Partey's replacement is a few years down the line. If possible, another holding midfielder could be brought in to compete for minutes in the European competitions, but only with an eye on youth. Not much need be said. We could replace Elneny if we get all of our major summer business done and have a little change to spare. Lucas Torreira is also returning from loan.
Level of Need: New Starter (8/10)
This is a big one for next summer, with only one position of greater need. Even if Granit Xhaka stays at the club, we need a new, capable No. 8, with the ability to create chances, progress the ball, and score if necessary. Names are being bandied about with reckless abandon at the moment, but only the right fit will do, in my estimation.
They must be left-sided, and capable of playing both an advanced role alongside Martin Ødegaard, as a sole 8 ahead of two 6's if Arteta chooses to flex into a sort of hybrid 4-2-3-1 as he has in recent weeks on occasion, drift wide in buildup play when the occasion arises, and play in a double pivot if Arteta returns to the use of a No. 10. It's a long shopping list, if a rather achievable one.
Honestly, my personal philosophy would see two signings here, but this isn't FIFA's Career Mode and I'm not in charge. But, Arsenal could use quality midfield starters, not to mention some depth, and signings are the only way to guarantee that. Plus, Arsenal need to invest better in the centre of the park.
I should also confirm that Matteo Guendouzi will not be returning to the club. Just in case anybody has been holding out hope. It won't happen.
Level of Need: Nonexistent (0/10)
We have Martin Ødegaard and Emile Smith Rowe, and we're barely using the No. 10 role anymore. Moving on.
Level of Need: Bukayo Saka (4/10)
Bukayo Saka is the future of the club. The reason he's the level of need has a little something to do with the fact that he deserves a bumper, new, long-term deal to the tune of £125k per week at minimum. We don't need to replace him, we need to re-sign him, as soon as possible. Hence why this is a position of need. He's an absolute superstar.
And he's also the level of need because the best we could possibly need at the position is a talented backup. And we already have one of those in Nicolas Pépé, though there is a regular suggestion that he might leave, and if the Ivorian does seek greener pastures, he'll certainly need replacing. Though Reiss Nelson is returning, he has no future at the Emirates.
It feels odd to still clamor after a player at right wing, but there is the potential for signing a right-sides player who can do an absolute number for the team across a number of positions. Somebody like Pedro Goncalves or Jarrod Bowen, who could as easily play centre-forward as they would right wing.
Anything else? Nah.
Level of Need: Flexibility (5/10)
I flip-flopped on this level of need for a while, for a number of reasons. It felt too high at first, given the fact that we have two Premier-League quality, starting calibre left wingers in Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe, but both players have their futures in doubt at that position, with Martinelli touted to play as a No. 9, and Smith Rowe through the middle as well, both in the forward line and in the midfield.
And the same argument that would be made for the right wing should probable made for the left. Cody Gakpo has earned multitudes of links in recent weeks, on his ability to play both out wide and through the middle, and I must say, I enjoy those rumours greatly. A player like Marcus Thuram could also suit our needs likely.
If Arsenal are unwilling to splash a gargantuan amount of cash on one position, all at once, the left wing role could be the perfect place for yet more flexible recruitment for the final, and most important role, on this list. Can you guess what that might be? What a stupid question, of course you can. Let's chat about it.
Level of Need: The More, the Merrier (10/10)
I mean, you all knew where this was going. We need a striker, if not two, to replace the half-a-striker currently on the books as London Colney. Alexandre Lacazette has forgotten how to score goals, and is out of contract in the summer. Eddie Nketiah has an eagle-eye for the woodwork, can't seem to control the ball most of the time, and is out of contract in the summer. They need replacing.
In an ideal scenario, there would be two signings this summer. One, a proven goalscorer, albeit preferably a backup or a poacher of high quality. The other must have skills in buildup play and ball progression, not to mention the ability to score consistently and with aplomb. Arsenal have the creative tools and production to really challenge for the UCL spots, we just need a finisher to make the net ripple.
But even one striker, that so-called holy grail, perfect striker, could go a long way to fixing the issues with which Arsenal are currently struggling. A new signing will go a long way to appeasing the fans, too, and building our confidence in the project again, though I also don't truly understand those who believe that project to be floundering.
As last summer proved, a lot can happen over three months. Given it's a World Cup year, but the tournament won't take place during the summer, all the club will have to focus on is recruitment. Whether that means a jump-start by Arsenal's steadily rejuvenating scouting department or a steady series of investments, Arteta and Edu must put some motion in the ocean. We're almost there.