The players Arsenal need to sign this summer
If Arsenal are to become the title-challenging side that their fans demand to see, an overhaul is required. The North Londoners are not short of depth, with 32 different players used in all forms and some may be worth retaining as back-up. Of those 32 however, arguably the only player who could get into the best starting eleven of an elite team is Alexis Sanchez.
Unless they reach the top four, which they are 4/1 odds to do with online bookies as of 7th May, it will be hard to attract players good enough to fight for a title. However, these are three attainable targets who would be the North Londoners’ best bets.
Victor Moses, Sadio Mane, Nacer Chadli and Wilfried Zaha have all had joy down Arsenal’s left-hand side since the turn of the year. Full-back Nacho Monreal is far from the only culprit for the heavy away defeats but if he cannot handle a wide man with pace and power, nor add width in Arsenal’s attacking play, one questions his value. Now may be the time for the 31-year-old to move while Kieran Gibbs, who is solid enough but cannot dribble and cross effectively, is not a suitable replacement.
Instead, the club should look at Sead Kolasinac, whose bold athleticism enables his side to initiate attacks quickly. The Schalke man frequently charges into the final third, with three goals and five assists in 23 league appearances. Just Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have assisted more often, while the duo are joined only by Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott when it comes to bettering his combined goals and assists record.
The six foot 23-year-old boasts upper body strength that allows him to win 2.9 tackles per game in the Bundesliga and 3.4 interceptions. This combative style brings disciplinary issues with 1.6 fouls per game, perhaps an occupational hazard. Kolasinac’s only other alleged weakness is his crossing accuracy, a completion rate of 18% being below the divisional average. Arsenal though complete the fourth lowest number of crosses per game in the Premier League (1.8) and the one player who could benefit from aerial balls, Giroud, is unlikely to start regularly.
Those minor question marks are outweighed by the huge promise the Bosnian has shown for Schalke this term. Arsenal have not had a world-class left-back since Ashley Cole departed and maybe, just maybe, Kolasinac could be the answer.
It is a slightly outdated view that Arsenal’s midfield lacks physicality: Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny all have plenty of muscle, but what they lack is mobility and dynamism. When breaking an opposing team down, it is important to have a central midfielder who pushes forward from deep to either have a shot or quickly change the direction of play. Arsenal do not need an attacking midfielder, but an all-action central midfielder who will attack when the right moment arises.
The perfect man could be Youri Tielemans, who is wonderfully versatile. He could play either next to another creative player such as Mesut Özil against weaker opposition, but he may prove to be a better option than the German in big games. Özil makes on average 0.8 tackles per game and 0.6 interceptions, making it easy for opposing teams to play into Arsenal’s half. Based on Europa League statistics, Tielemans makes 2.8 tackles per gameand 1.6 interceptions, helping his side get a foothold further up.
The Anderlecht man has added goals to his game this season, scoring 16 in all competitions. Arsenal should be ruthless with long-serving midfielders who have not performed and do everything within their power to bring Tielemans in.
Theo Walcott has chipped in with a respectable 10 goals this term but is similarly to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is hindered by injuries, inconsistency and limited end product. Alex Iwobi is a selfless sharp mover who creates space for other players but is not the best at utilising it himself. An upgrade on the wing must be a key objective for Arsenal this summer.
By contrast, Zaha of Crystal Palace, who was linked to the club on our blog back in 2013, is the Premier League’s joint-fourth highest assisting player with nine. Retaining his usual pace and exuberance, the winger has been more consistent this term. Capable of shooting with both feet and playing on either wing, he should represent an enticing prospect for the Gunners.
Zaha draws more fouls per game (3.3) than any player and makes more dribbles (4.2) than anyone apart from Adama Traore, who has nowhere near the 24-year-old’s creative output. When the Eagles win, such as the 3-0 triumph over Arsenal last month, the ex-Man United man is among the best players on the pitch. Even during the latter stages of Alan Pardew’s reign, when poor defending cost them points, he stood out in the 3-3 draw at Hull and 5-4 loss at Swansea.
Zaha is quickly approaching his peak and with competitors lurking, Arsenal would be wise to act quickly.
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