WLYA Writers Q and A: Ins and outs in the upcoming window, table predictions and the 'new normal'
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Welcome to Part 2 of our writers Q&A.
As Project Restart is now officially organised and the Premier League and Arsenal return in exactly two weeks from now (with a petrifying trip to the Etihad to commence the return), I thought I’d sit down with the site’s writing team and ask them a load of questions to get their views on things. Bit generic yes, and we did sort of rip off a recent LTArsenal article, but fuck it.
An insight into how our aspiring writers are feeling ahead of the return, what they expect from the ‘new normal’ in football and just some general Arsenal things. What is there not to like? All those involved will have their social media plugged at the bottom of the article. Enjoy.
1) Which areas of our squad need strengthening this summer and which take priority?
Alfie: Perhaps an unpopular opinion, but for me a Mesut Ozil replacement (albeit in a different mould) is the main priority in a window where I expect us to have significant financial restrictions. We’ve drastically improved defensively under Arteta, whilst we’ve struggled to create a load of high quality chances (shown in the xG metrics). We need a creative player in there who can fill the void left by the declining Ozil. If we have the money, a centre-back and central midfielder would be nice too.
Daniel Finton: The spine. Our flanks are shaping up, but our soft centre is apparent. The cookie looks nice, but in all actuality, the gooey, soft centre, is actually just sun baked dog shit.
Rob Worthington: I’d say the most important position to address is defensive midfield, which the club have recognised through their pursuit of Thomas Partey, which is nice to see. Second in the pecking order, I’d say an attacking midfielder as Mesut Özil is past it and can’t really play as a CM in a 4-3-3. Then, of course, as always, signing a centre-back should be one of the club’s priorities if the funds are available to do so.
Vinay Shankar: Midfield is the area that has to be strengthened this summer, with the need for a defensive midfielder and a creative midfielder. Centre-back is another area that has to be improved but this would be possible only if a few players are moved on this summer.
Charlie Maywood: I feel it will be very difficult to massively improve our starting 11 due to an indefinite lack of budget. However, I believe the key area we need to strengthen is in midfield, with a new number 10 who can score and provide goals, as Ozil is now most definitely past his best days and we lack creativity and goal contributions from that area. Although Arteta has improved our defensive solidity we definitely need a new centre-back, due to a lack of quality in there, despite the quantity. Perhaps a defensive midfielder as well.
James Whiffing: I think the obvious areas that need to improve are the midfield and defence. We should be really pushing for Thomas Partey, he’d fit Arteta’s system perfectly, and could play in a midfield pivot with Xhaka/Torreira/Guendouzi comfortably; he has a very adaptable play style since he can defend and attack competently, and his passing range is also very impressive. Upamecano is someone we should target, and would complement Luiz very well and potentially provide a long-term partner for Saliba.
Max Champness: The Athletic recently reported that our top priority is dealing with players on expiring contracts. The first move has to be securing Saka and Aubameyang’s futures at Arsenal. After that, I think we urgently need a central midfielder, preferably Thomas Partey. The second tier of requirements would be an attacking midfielder to replace Ozil, another centre-back and potentially a right-back to challenge and cover Bellerin.
Alex Trad: In keeping with the theme, heavy investment is a must if Mikel Arteta and Arsenal wish to realise their long-term endeavours. The areas in which the Gunners lack one of, or both squad depth and quality are quite self-explanatory, in my opinion. Bolstering the centre of the pitch is crucial. As such, we should look towards recruiting an attacking midfielder to fill Ozil’s void, an aggressive, athletic midfield stalwart emulating the role once held by Patrick Vieira, and perhaps a strong centre-half to pair alongside David Luiz or William Saliba, if not a new right back should Maitland-Niles depart the club in the summer.
2) Any unknown/untalked about players you think we should definitely be targeting?
Alfie: Not particularly unknown anymore because I’ve bigged him up relentlessly on this site, but Emi Buendia is a MUST buy, particularly if Norwich go down. Phenomenal underlying creative metrics and very much under the radar in general.
Daniel: There is a player called Ruan at Orlando city. He is a right back and is absolutely rapid. The Rio born speed demon is a major attacking threat. He’d only cost around $600,000 (£478,000), and would add good squad depth.
Rob: I think Tyrone Mings would do really well at a top club and he’d be a great option at left centre-back. If Villa end up going down, we could get him on the cheap. Also, RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku would be a bit of a dream signing for me this window. I think he’s been phenomenal in Germany this season.
Vinay: We've already talked about Buendia on the website a lot but he would be the guy to target for me. The pandemic would have had a big impact financially on potentially-relegated sides across Europe and moving to the lower division only worsens their situation so a few quality players on the cheap would be available.
Charlie: A player who I recently wrote an article about is Axel Disasi. He’s a young French centre-back who isn’t talked about in the same category as players like Saliba and Upamecano but is a player who I feel could complement someone like Saliba very well. He would be relatively cheap due to his contract expiring next summer, so why not?
James: A player who hasn’t been talked about enough, for me, is James Maddison. It is clear that Mesut Ozil has started to decline, and we need a new midfielder to fill his role. Maddison is a versatile playmaker and has the ability to play either as a 10 or an 8. Yes, he may be extortionate, but I can dream.
Max: This isn’t particularly under the radar, but Pablo Mari should be spoken about more. Given the financial implications of Covid-19, as well as our absent owners, we’ll have to buy smart in the summer, and Mari has many of the attributes we need in a new CB at a cheap price.
Alex: Though not quite an unknown, Houssem Aouar is one player I’ve always thought highly of. The creative midfielder doesn't quite fit the number 10 role, but more than conforms to modern football’s typical midfield dynamic. A brilliant ball progresser, adept in passing ability and vastly experienced at the age of 21, Aouar could slot into a midfield three consisting of Thomas Partey (hopefully) and Lucas Torreira/Granit Xhaka very well. Shame about the exorbitant fee and wage demands the club and his agent will inevitably propose.
3) Who do you think we should be looking to move on or get rid of this summer?
Alfie: Got so many centre-backs so there’s got to be some movement there. Sokratis and Mustafi stand out, whilst the like of Mavropanos and Holding may also need to be moved on, perhaps on a temporary basis. Maitland-Niles, Mkhitaryan, Elneny and Ozil others who I think the club should consider shifting if possible.
Daniel: Mesut Ozil.
Rob: Certainly a few centre-backs. Sokratis and Mustafi should definitely be sold and Rob Holding could do with a loan move. If Torreira isn’t happy we could demand a pretty large fee for him which would be helpful but I wouldn’t sell him if he’s content with staying at the club. Maitland-Niles also seems pretty surplus to requirements and Joe Willock could do with a loan move. If a sizeable offer comes in, we should also consider offloading Laca.
Vinay: Wage bill is a massive issue for the club and where we end up finishing could affect our financial situation even more. David Luiz is on high wages but he's had a big impact on the dressing room, especially on the younger players and hasn't missed a game yet due to injury so he should be resigned. The likes of Mkhitaryan, Elneny, Sokratis have to be moved on this summer irrespective of the fees involved. I am of the opinion Kolasinac must be sold based on the facts that he is on similar wages to Luiz and his wretched injury record makes him an expensive liability. Mustafi has been relatively solid under Arteta but there's no way we're offering him a new contract so this would be the best time to move him on with a year left.
Charlie: We should look to get rid of Mustafi, Mkhitaryan, Elneny, Sokartis, Soares (don’t make it a permanent deal), and Ozil. Reason being for these players is that I feel the majority are past their best and won’t bring anything we need to the team and will essentially be dead weight. Also financially, getting them off our wage bill would be great.
James: For me, we have to get rid of Mohamed Elneny. When Wenger first bought him in, he looked promising and one for the future. But now, at 27 years of age, the Egyptian is seemingly useless; at best he is a squad player. Sideways pass merchant. Although he is currently on loan at Besiktas, Elneny earns £55,000 a week at Arsenal, which is ridiculous for a player of his ability. The disappointing thing is that he wants the same wage if he was to move clubs; no other club would offer that sort of money for him!
Max: I think it’s about time we clear out our deadwood and excess players. Sokratis, Elneny and Mkhitaryan are the first few that come to mind, with Ozil joining them if we can sign a better replacement. If we receive a tasty offer for other non-essential players, it seems only right that we consider them and reinvest in the squad.
Alex: All fringe players, Mkhitaryan, Elneny, Maitland-Niles and Sokratis should all be listed for sale this summer. Neither of the four possess, as far as I can tell, futures under Mikel Arteta. For me, Mustafi, although a figure brought back from the dead under Arteta’s guidance, should be added to the aforementioned list. The head coach does, however, seem to enjoy deploying his German centre-half alongside David Luiz. Will their partnership last beyond the remainder of the ongoing campaign? With all due respect to Mustafi, I hope not.
4) How do you think Arsenal and Football in general will be effected by this pandemic in the long-term?
Alfie: Well the obvious thing is the financial effect this is going to have, particularly on smaller clubs. People don’t seem to understand how big an impact it could well make. We may not be seeing such financial recklessness in the transfer market in fees and wages for several years, so it could be beneficial in that sense. There may well be more of a focus on developing youth, and rule changes such the 5 sub allowance could be sustained. It’s going to be different.
Daniel: I think that our deceitful board will insensitively use the pandemic as leverage to manipulate us and tell us the club is worse off than it actually is. Therefore, this could completely fuck us in the long-term. They will benefit from the thousands of deaths that occurred because that is how despicable business people truly are.
Rob: I expect we’ll continue with our self-sustainable structure leading to limited funds for the transfer market once again whilst other clubs could get backing from their owners so there’s a chance we could be left behind. The absence of gate receipts will also hamper us financially. I fear for the lower league clubs and I think quite a few will end up folding. There’s probably some very sad times ahead for football.
Vinay: Financial inequality between the top clubs and the rest will only grow further. KSE putting money into the club will determine which side of the coin Arsenal end up on after this period. Aside from potentially Sancho, transfer fees for players are going to be much lower for the next few windows.
Charlie: In terms of the value of transfers I think we will go 5 years back as almost all clubs will have a lot less money to spend, subsequently meaning the value of players will have to be relative to the amount of money clubs are able to spend. At first Arsenal will definitely struggle as we have lost a large sum of money during this period but in the long term I feel we will comfortably recover due to our sponsors, TV money and hopefully backing from KSE.
James: Lower league clubs will struggle to get through the ongoing pandemic and will have to fight to stay in existence (a fight which Bury lost without a pandemic going on). Also, the transfer market will be strange since player’s prices will plummet too. As for Arsenal, I think we will come through it better than most clubs. Kroenke reportedly injected a bit of money into the club to help it through the pandemic, but we will still not be spending much in upcoming windows.
Max: The impact of Covid-19 will last for years, in football and the wider world. The lost months of revenue will make the days of £100 million signings more unrealistic, and I think we’ll see a steady decline in the cost of players for a few years to come.
Alex: The immediate consequences of shutting down a football institution for extended periods generally attack the club’s financial resources. And despite the Premier League’s approaching resumption, the situation remains much the same, with matches being played behind closed doors, thus inhibiting the generation of matchday revenue. For several years to come, our indebted club will be forced to resign to limited transfer funds, which in turn curbs our current progress under new management; luckily, though, this seems to be the case for nearly every club in the competition, even those with ample cash reserves. Football as a sport will take time to recover. Fans will only return to the stands when the ongoing crisis has met the targets of top health officials. Until then, we must comply with strict government provisos and abstain from watching Arsenal disappoint us time and again...
5) Predict the final Premier League Table from top to bottom. If you get it exactly right, I’ll buss you a tenner.
Alfie: Liverpool, City, Leicester, Chelsea, United, Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs, Sheffield United, Everton, Burnley, Southampton, Newcastle, Palace, West Ham, Brighton, Watford, Bournemouth, Villa, Norwich.
Daniel: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Watford, Brighton, Southampton, Newcastle, Everton, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Norwich, West Ham, Sheffield United, Wolves, United, 16) Chelsea, Leicester, Man City, Liverpool, The unwashed
Rob: Liverpool, City, United, Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal, Shit, Wolves, Sheffield United, Everton, Burnley, Palace, West Ham, Southampton, Newcastle, Watford, Villa, Bournemouth, Brighton, Norwich.
Vinay: Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester, Chelsea, Arsenal, Sheffield United, Manchester United, Tottenham, Wolves, Everton, Burnley, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle, West Ham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Aston Villa, Watford, Norwich.
Charlie: Liverpool, City, Leicester, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs, Sheffield United, Everton, Palace, Burnley, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham, Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Villa, Norwich.
James: Liverpool, City, Leicester, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs, Sheffield United, Everton, Palace, Burnley, Newcastle, Southampton, Watford, West Ham, Brighton, Villa, Bournemouth, Norwich.
Max: Well, I’d like to start by saying your tenner is pretty safe in your pocket, but nevertheless: Liverpool, Man City, Leicester, Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Wolves, Tottenham, Sheffield United, Everton, Burnley, Palace, Southampton, Newcastle, Brighton, Watford, Bournemouth, West Ham, Aston Villa, Norwich.
Alex: Liverpool, City, Leicester, Chelsea, Wolves, United, Sheffield United, Arsenal, Spurs, Everton, Burnley, Southampton, Palace, Newcastle, West Ham, Watford, Villa, Brighton, Bournemouth, Norwich.
That's all for part two. Thanks for reading.