Arsenal’s priority this summer could not be clearer. They might not be Europe’s biggest spenders again, but a similar level of investment to last year is required once more.
We are at the start of a huge summer for most of the top six. We looked first at Manchester United, what they need in the transfer window, and how likely they are to get it done. Now it’s Arsenal’s turn…
What should be their priority this summer?
Since they will have literally no senior strikers left come July 1, Arsenal have no choice but to source a goalscorer. Mikel Arteta needs not one forward, but two.
Arsenal went after a centre-forward in January but they paid for putting all their eggs in Dusan Vlahovic’s basket. Even if Eddie Nketiah accepts the best-and-final contract offer, with Alexandre Lacazette on his way, the Gunners cannot miss this summer. A top-class hit-man will not come cheap (or even Alvaro Morata), but last summer’s outlay of almost £150million shows Arsenal are willing to spend when necessary.
What else do they need?
Arteta spelled it out in general terms in the wake of Arsenal’s failure to finish in the top four.
“Now we have to start to add the top-quality pieces that they are not necessarily at 18, 19 or 20-years-old. We will do what it takes to get better in every department. Not only the age group but in terms of the quality, in terms of leadership, in terms of the goal threat, in terms of the physicality of this team that we need to improve as well so there are a lot of areas.”
An experienced central midfielder will tick a few of those boxes. Mohammed Elneny, who was expected to depart as a free agent, has signed a new contract which makes sense given the increased workload next summer. But Arteta needs to follow up the procurement of a genuine goal threat – ideally two players capable of finding the net regularly – with a dynamic midfielder.
The Gunners also require greater strength in depth. Their last season was 45 matches long. Europa League semi-finalists West Ham played an additional 11 games. Last season’s injury issues were bad enough even with a light workload. Bukayo Saka just finished his second consecutive 3000-plus minute season. At some point, he needs a breather.
This would be a bonus…
A full-back capable of playing either side.
On the left, Arsenal have Kieran Tierney, who is one of the first names on Arteta’s team-sheet when he is fit. Worryingly, though, injuries have restricted the Scotland international to an average of 21 Premier League appearances per season since he arrived from Celtic. His cover, Nuno Tavares, has failed to convince anyone that he is capable of deputising for sustained periods. Great fun though he is…
Across on the right, Arteta has a similar concern. Takehiro Tomiyasu has enjoyed a splendid first season as a Gunner but, like Tierney, he has had to watch too many games from the sidelines while the inconsistent Cedric stood in. Tomiyasu managed 21 appearances.
How likely are they to do what’s necessary?
Arsenal showed last summer that they can do what needs to be done. They invested around £150million which made them the highest spenders in Europe.
The Gunners were decisive in the market a year ago and a similar level of focus is requited once more. Player sales may dictate their final budget but additions of forward and a midfielder are essential regardless.
How much might it cost them?
Arsenal’s net spend last summer was in the region of £120million. They are unlikely to be the continent’s biggest spenders again but Arteta will struggle to get the quality and experience he wants in key positions for much less. Edu will have to negotiate with a similar-sized pot just to keep up with the rivals, with Manchester United, Spurs and Chelsea all likely to strengthen considerably.
Arsenal might get a slight discount on Man City’s asking price of £50million for Gabriel Jesus since the Brazilian is a year from the end of his contract, but an elite goalscorer won’t come much cheaper than that.