Arsenal’s recruitment strategy does not inspire confidence for top-four return

Arsenal endured a disappointing campaign in the Premier League, finishing eighth in the table for the second year in a row. The Gunners will not be competing in Europe for the first time in 25 years next term due to their failure in finish in the top seven and their semi-final exit from the Europa League. Pressure is growing on Mikel Arteta in the dugout as he failed to oversee an improvement in the club’s fortunes. There does not appear to be a simple resolution for their issues on the field.

Key players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were on point, but not quite as influential as in past campaigns. The Gabonese put forward his lowest goal tally since his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2018, while Lacazette was hit and miss, although he did register 13 goals in the Premier League. Encouragingly for the Gunners, their top performers were their youngsters as Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney all looked the part at the highest level. Nicolas Pepe took vital steps forward in his development, but the Frenchman still has a long way to go to justify his £80m price tag.

Arsenal have allowed Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard to return to Real Madrid after their loan spells with the club ended, while David Luiz was released. There is a real sense of change at the Emirates Stadium. For those Arsenal supporters hopeful of luring big names to the club, there are no signs that the Gunners are prepared to spend big. Their top reported transfer targets at the moment are a midfielder that has just been promoted out of the Championship, and one that is scheduled to play in the second tier next season.

Emiliano Buendia has been an outstanding player for three seasons with Norwich. He looked comfortable in his previous season in the top flight, although the Canaries were relegated on their return to the Premier League. Last term in the second tier, the Argentine was sensational in the final third, scoring 15 goals and providing 16 assists in only 39 appearances.

The 24-year-old would be a solid signing for the Gunners, but perhaps not one that would usher them back towards the top four. If you were lining up Buendia or Odegaard there would not be a great deal of difference between the players. Unless the Argentine can take his game to the next level, Arsenal may have to look elsewhere, while Norwich may not be in a selling mood in their bid to remain in the division.

The other name touted with a move to the Emirates is Sheffield United’s Sander Berge. The Blades paid £22m to secure his signature from Genk, but after making a solid start to his Premier League career, the Norwegian was underwhelming as the club struggled immensely last term. Arsenal have reportedly baulked at the £35m fee that they have been quoted by the Blades.

The club are under no pressure to sell and may even wish to keep Berge for a run at promotion where they are backed in the Championship betting odds at 11/4 to return to the top flight. Berge would certainly help the Blades in their push, and a season in the second tier may just be what he needs to become fully acclimated with English football.

A move to Arsenal would be a bit soon, and there would be pressure on the Norwegian from the off given his potential price tag. The Gunners have to ask the question would Berge be an improvement on their current defensive midfield options of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny. Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi will also return from loan spells, bolstering the middle of the park. Given their situation, Arsenal have a lot to resolve before they can even think about additions in the midfield.

Arteta and the club’s hierarchy have to nail their recruitment to bring the Gunners back to relevance. The touted names at the moment do not inspire confidence.

Where Do Arsenal Need To Strengthen This Summer?

The summer transfer window will be a chance for Arsenal to try and add some more quality to their squad which should help them improve their results in the Premier League.

It is looking like it is going to be a disappointing campaign for Mikel Arteta’s men. They are a long way off the pace in the Premier League title hunt and are out of both the domestic cup competitions.

Here is a look at the positions the Gunners need to recruit in when the transfer window reopens.

Centre Back

One of the priorities this summer is likely to be a centre back. Arteta has yet to find a pairing he looks very comfortable with. David Luiz has been inconsistent, Pablo Mari is showing strong signings of improving, while Rob Holding has had his chance to impress his manager.

The quality of the centre back may depend on if Arsenal have European football to offer their targets. The Gunners are 9/2 in the Premier League betting to finish in the top six at the end of the campaign. They are likely to need to win the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Bayern Munich defender David Alaba is set to leave his club this summer and would be an excellent signing if Arsenal could convince him to come to North London. The Austrian is being linked with a number of major European clubs, including Real Madrid and PSG, so it’s perhaps a pipe dream.

Creative Midfielder

Although their defensive record has improved this season, Arsenal do not create anywhere near as many chances as they did a few years ago. This is something Arteta can address with a creative midfielder this summer.

Lyon’s Houssem Aouar was linked with a move to Arsenal last year but a deal could not be agreed with the Ligue 1 club. It would be no surprise if the Gunners upped their interest in the Frenchman who could be exactly what they have been missing.

With Mesut Ozil off the books now, they may be able to offer Aourar a lucrative contract. That could end up being money well spent as the 22-year-old looks to be an exciting talent who could lift them to success again.

Striker

At the time of writing, Arsenal are 11th in the standings when it comes to the most goals scored by a team this season. Their leading talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has nine goals, which is low by his standards.

In order for Arsenal to win more games, they need some competition for places up front. Aubameyang and Lacazette are very capable in this league, however, with no real threat of being dropped, maybe they have become a little complacent.
World-class strikers are not easy to find and when they do become available, they are expensive. Arsenal either have to really break the bank and splash the cash on a big name such as Karim Benzema or take a chance on someone like Odsonne Edouard who is scoring goals in a much lesser league.
In order to make room for some new players, expect to see Arteta offload this summer. His side is likely to line up much differently for the start of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign.

Can Spurs Go All The Way?

As far as first halves of the Premier League season go, Spurs under Jose Mourinho have a lot to be optimistic about. They lead the table on the approach to the January transfer window, with a single loss, and the best goal difference in the league. Conceding only nine goals speaks to a new style and organisation that Mourinho has adopted. It’s not even a particularly radical defensive line-up compared to those in past seasons. Jose’s success so far seems to come down to two things: the signing of Pierre Emile Hojberg as a central defensive midfielder and the telepathic chemistry of his two best attackers, Heung-min Son and Harry Kane.

These are really the major differentiators that are letting Spurs play a refreshingly organised and focused playing style. Whether they choose to continue to invest in January or stick with what they have almost doesn’t matter to Spurs fans. So long as the form continues – and the wins over bitter North London rivals – they won’t be complaining. Spurs boast an 11/2 chance of winning the Premier League outright, one of the lowest odds of any team, according to the latest football betting valuations. The confidence the bookies have in them is triggered by a string of victories that, far from gritty 1-0 wins, have been dominant performances over the Premier league’s very best.

Source: Unsplash

Hinging on Hojbjerg

Mourinho respected the Southampton midfielder Hojbjerg long before he became manager of Tottenham. The physical Dane was always something of an enabler on the field. From his days at Bayern to his introduction to the English game, Hojbjerg rarely got on the scoresheet or orchestrated the assists to team-mates but his impact came in being the pivot player sitting behind the attackers. A master of positioning, timing and tackling, Spurs likely wouldn’t be able to pull off the counter-attacking football they apply today with the same success without him. They’d be caught out anytime possession flipped.

With dynamic creative members like Frenchman Tanguy Ndombele and Argentine Giovani Lo Celso liberated from all their defensive duties, the team were able to pick apart teams like Arsenal and Manchester City despite conceding a lot of possession to those opponents. He wouldn’t be caught attempting step-overs or 40 yard passes. It was effective, consistent defending from the middle – no flash and no flair. Mourinho said it best in a recent Goal interview about the Dane; ‘simplicity is genius.’

Source: Unsplash

An All-Timer and a Star Striker

Heung-min Son is one of the Premier League’s most lethal attackers. A combination of pace, agility and technique make him unpredictable – fun to play with and a nightmare against. This is someone who can score from 25 yards on the dribble, as he did against Arsenal, or jinx his way through an 18-yard box. In the twenty or so matches he’s played, Son’s 13 goals and 6 assists is a testament to his work rate and creativity. However, Son alone wouldn’t put Spurs top of the table. It’s his strike partner, and possibly one of Europe’s very best players that make this team work.

Harry Kane is breezing through the season with 14 goals and 13 assists, many of which have been to Son. The duo are closing in on the all-time Premier League record for goal combinations. They currently have 31 and only Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard have more, with 36. Kane’s hold-up play is savvy, streetwise and incredibly effective. If he doesn’t offload to wingers Son or Steven Bergwijn, he draws the foul. Whether they can continue that form into the new year will be critical to going the distance this season.

Tottenham came within touching distance of a Champions League trophy in 2019, and perilously close to a Premier League title back when Leicester City claimed their own historic win. Everyone at the club is aware that performances and wins only go so far. Silverware cements legacies and puts their name in the history books. Captain Harry Kane will know it, as will Jose Mourinho. Neither are strangers to the upper echelons of football, and neither will accept anything less than a league title or a European trophy. It’s been a long time coming, but that wait might finally be coming to an end.

Transfer Sagas to Look Forward To Next Summer

The season for most European leagues is fully underway now, with the majority of leagues being underway now with most of them over a quarter of the way through the season now. Due to this, clubs will already be planning ahead to next summer to ensure that they know what type of players and targets that they are wanting to get for their club to improve in quality and performance. Because of this, we have created a list of the biggest transfer sagas to look forward to next summer.

 

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The first saga that nearly happened this year, but we expect to get over the line next summer is that of Lionel Messi leaving his beloved Barcelona and re-uniting with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. Messi had fallen out of love with Barcelona last year with him getting frustrated that he was always the player they had to rely on and after being embarrassed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last year by losing 8-2. Messi has clearly stated that he doesn’t want to be at Barcelona, and we can see him leaving next summer which will easily be the story of the summer.

 

[Image: Goal]

 

Next up might be the most valuable player in the world currently due to his star-quality and potential is that of World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe. Currently playing his football at Paris St Germain, Mbappe will be looking to join a side that has the potential to win the Champions League as he has won virtually everything else there is to win. Real Madrid and Liverpool will both be looking to get the signature of the Frenchman with Real Madrid being most likely at 7/1.

 

The final saga we are looking forward to next summer is where Paul Pogba will end up after his agent Mino Raiola has come out and said that Pogba is currently unhappy at United and his career there is over. Pogba hasn’t lived up to expectations in his career at the Red Devils and will be looking to re-ignite his career at another top European club.

Best Up And Coming Stars In The Premier League

The Premier League has always been a farm for some of the best footballing talent in the world and has been the creator of some of the biggest names in the sport like Cristiano Ronaldo. Because of this, it has become a hot spot for some of the biggest talents to come to the league and develop and so today we look into some of the players currently playing in the Premier League that have huge futures in the sport.

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First of all, we will start with some homegrown talent in Manchester and that is Phil Foden. Dubbed as the Stockport Iniesta, Foden has been recognised as one of the best up and coming player out of England right now. Having played with some of the best players at Manchester City including Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, and under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, Foden certainly has the foundations to become one of the best. Having made his England debut just a couple weekends ago, he has just recently scored 2 goals when he came on as a substitute against Iceland.

[Image: The Times]

Furthermore, and still on the English hype train is from the red side of Manchester and this is Mason Greenwood who could go on to be the long-term number 9 of the Red Devils. Greenwood has a lethal eye for goal and certainly knows how to break the back of the net. Many experts and pundits have highlighted him as being something “special” with many comparing him to club legend Robin Van Persie. Greenwood like Foden might struggle to claim a starting place straight away, but time will prove just how good these players really can be.

[Image: Goal.com]

And finally, we look as a French Under 21 who has just joined current leaders Leicester City from St Etienne for a reported $40 million that is Wesley Fofana. Many football fans didn’t know who the 19-year old was before he joined the Foxes this summer but since his arrival he has been seriously impressive and has one of the highest ceilings in terms of the position centre back in the league.