Unai Emery has split opinion since his appointment as Arsenal manager. Despite improving on last season’s points total and making a European final, the Arsenal fan base is still undecided about him. While he has undoubtedly made progress since taking over, in some quarters it’s still not seen as enough. So, what does he need to do this transfer window to make sure that in 2019/20 Arsenal fans are satisfied?
The main problem that Arsenal have had over the last 15 years is that they have consistently replaced their world class, or more important, players with poorer versions. Adams, Keown, Viera, Seaman, Henry, Bergkamp… the list is almost endless. While there is certainly a large amount of talent within the current Arsenal squad, the spine of the squad is still weak.
Over the last ten to fifteen years Arsenal have gone from being one of the bookie’s favourites to win the Premier League, to one of the bookie’s favourites to make the top four to an outside bet to make the top four. This is something that many different online sports books have picked up on as you can see when looking at the major operators at soccerbetting365, where Arsenal are no longer a side who command respect and fear from the lower placed sides in the league.
In order to push for a Champions League spot, Arsenal need to reinforce their spine with players who have both quality and steel. Arsenal need two centre halves and a central midfield player. While most people feel that Arsenal would need to spend a huge amount in the transfer market to fill these positions, it is possible to do so without breaking the bank.
At centre half both Willy Boly and Nathan Ake would be excellent additions to the Arsenal back line. Neither Wolves or Bournemouth would be looking to sell, but the lure of Arsenal could help to turn the players’ heads and could help to push the deal(s) forward. This would provide both defensive depth and strength and two players who are comfortable on the ball. While French youngster Mouctar Diakhaby is another interesting option, the Valencia youngster is only 22 years old and has massive upside but of course the big negative is that he does not have Premier League experience.
In central midfield, Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford would provide a player who is strong defensively but also good on the ball. Ozil has failed to live up to expectations at Arsenal for some fans, while many Gooners feel the World Cup winner should be allowed to do what he does best and be given a free licence to create and unlock opposing defences. Signing a player like Watford’s Doucoure and playing him in front of the back four might really help to unleash Ozil’s creativity without there being such pressure on him to work hard tracking back which is clearly not where Ozil’s energy is used best.
Signing two of the defenders and adding Doucoure would take up all of Arsenal’s transfer budget and may require player sales to fund them too, but they could offer Arsenal just what they need to improve and realistically make a sustained challenge for the top four next season.
Can it be done?
Overall, the main problem that Arsenal have struggled with has been a lack of consistency and particularly poor away form. Based on their home form alone Unai Emery’s side would have finished 3rd in the Premier League in the 2018-19 season. The board have used Arsenal as a cash cow for a long time and the Emirates Stadium has been paid for now, so if Arsenal want to continue to be one of the biggest sides in both English and European football then money needs to be spent and their best players retained like suggestions of selling Aubameyang or Lacazette are just plain ridiculous. While adding the likes of Boly, Ake, Diakhaby and Doucoure wouldn’t make Arsenal the finished article, they would certainly go a long way to solving some of the issues that have plagued the Gunners over the last few years.
Gooners have learned to be patient and unfortunately they are going to have to be patient for another few years before their team might be in contention for the title again however given the dynasties that Man City and now Liverpool are building it could be longer than a few years unless Arsenal can pull off a Leicester City-like season in the upcoming campaigns. The bookies apparently don’t have much confidence in Emery et al as the Gunners are 6th favourites to win the title at the moment available at an incredible 85/1 while holders and favourites Man City are available at 2/3 to win the Premier League for the 3rd year in a row.