Ok so first off, I don’t think we will sign nobody. I’m more interested here in thinking about how we might improve with the resources that we already have. So, some general thoughts on how we might go about getting the side back into Europe assuming the squad that starts next season is substantively similar to the one we already have.
The Manager: I think Arteta should be gone, but it looks like he might not be. I don’t want to do the manager discussion here because its being quite comprehensively done elsewhere. Assuming he is the manager next season I would hope that the club would at least bring someone else in that he had to answer to, because I think one of the issues is that he has too much power, too many responsibilities and has a massive stubborn streak that needs sorting out. However, this thread is predicated on the idea of sorting our issues out with what we have, so from Arteta’s point of view I think he has to lose the sheer bloody stubbornness, the inconsistency with which discipline is applied and on the pitch we have got to stop playing with such ridiculous conservatism when we a) can’t defend very well and b) clearly have strength going forward that we don’t use well enough. Easier said than done, and as I said at the top, I think he should be gone. Certainly, I think the grace period he has to turn things around at the start of next season shouldn’t go beyond the first international break (not the one at the very start of the season - the one after).
This time last year Bernd Leno was a good goalkeeper. He still is a good goalkeeper but this season has clearly illustrated some holes in his game. In his own interest (and assuming he’s here next season) he needs to work on his concentration and on cutting out those mistakes that have started to creep in. The unconditional backing he seems to have from the manager needs to go, and he needs to see bad performances will get him dropped.
William Saliba has to play. Gabriel has to play. That is a £60 million defensive partnership and frankly, we do not have the resources for that to go to waste. Clearly, we’ve gambled on youth in that position, and its too late to back out now. There will be mistakes, but there are mistakes now and if they’re both as good as we hope only playing them will make them into the players we hope they are. The chopping and changing this season has done a lot to contribute to an Arsenal defence that is at times as farcical as any we’ve seen in the last ten years.
Hector Bellerin is still the best right back at this club. Admittedly, that isn’t saying much, but he is. Unless an upgrade is forthcoming he has to play, and we need to think about how we protect a position that is, in all likelihood, going to be a weakness for us.
I hate Matteo Guendouzi. He’s a little shit and has more than a whiff of Nicklas Bendtner in terms of the disparity between how good he is and how good he thinks he is. However, we have watched a consistent failure to effectively move the ball up the pitch and much as I dislike him off the pitch, Guendouzi can deliver something that has been lacking in that regard. I would be quite happy to swallow my pride on his re-introduction. Putting him next to Partey could do quite a bit to revitalise both men as well as create a midfield with more coherent roles and functions and one that doesn’t have to rely on Granit Xhaka so much. I appreciate the last three managers have all rated Xhaka quite highly, but if he’s in the team it should be in addition to those two, not instead of one.
Emile Smith Rowe’s development this season has been one of the few bright spots of an awful campaign. He and Saka seem to me to be head and shoulders above the rest of the squad in terms of quality. He has to become the main man now - a creator and a possible goal scorer that is as much a replacement for Mesut Ozil as a mid-table side with no European football can get. We do have to legislate for the fact that he does seem liable to pick up knocks, and that means backup is needed. Joe Willock’s loan spell at Newcastle indicates that while he’s not what a majority of fans want, if given the right opportunity he’s a player who could be that backup as well as cover in the deeper midfield positions. Certainly I don’t see that we’ll bring someone in likely to give more in favourable circumstances.
In the wide positions, just play the bloody wingers. No more strikers out on the wing. It’s been tried, Wenger was the only one who got anywhere with it and Aubameyang is a good bit older now. Pepe has finally made a good adaptation to the league, Saka is phenomenal, just let them play.
Obviously, its Auba up front but that is now very much not an option for the long term. If there is any prospect at all of Folarin Balogun succeeding at Arsenal, that process needs to start next season.
Maybe I’m oversimplifying this, and I probably am, but we are a side full of attacking talent with very little about us at the back. That has been true of better Arsenal sides than this, to be fair. We must play to that strength. Under all circumstances, we’re going to lose games next season, probably more than we’d like to. But that has already happened trying to play in a way that is supposed to, but doesn’t, cover up those deficiencies. We may as well play to our strengths and try to be an attacking side, we’ll score more and probably won’t suffer much worse at the back than we already do.
I know the manager is stubborn, and probably wouldn’t change in that way, and its a big reason I’d like him to go.