In the world of football, regardless of the time of year, there’s always plenty of transfer speculation to dig into.
Arsenal are a notoriously interesting case, particularly over the last few years. The club still boasts the name and shield of a major global brand, but without Champions League football, questions have been raised to high-profile transfer ties.
That said, all of a sudden, the Gunners will reel-in a top talent.
So, you never quite know which way it’s going to go for Arsenal, but what are almost always clear are the team needs and, unfortunately, the expected departures.
The year 2020 isn’t any different in these regards, with Arsenal continuing to be a leading tie to several top players in the eyes of the experts. Of course, there is also drama afoot with regards to some of the club’s top performers, especially as money has become an issue in the ownership’s Champions League-reliant, broken business model.
Even with Arteta, the team needs to remain very much the same
The defence isn’t devoid of talent by any means, but it’s lacking mobility, strong leadership, consistency, and presence. It certainly doesn’t seem suited to Mikel Arteta’s new-age strategies. Since taking over from Emery, Arteta’s defence has conceded fewer goals per game and allowed fewer shots per game. However, analysis shows that many more high-quality opportunities have been presented by the new coach’s backline, with poor finishing and top-class showings from Bernd Leno often saving face.
In what almost seems like a tradition by modern Gunners standards, Arteta also faces the prospect of losing a batch of his most exciting players due to contract expiry dates. Both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka are looking at being out of contract next year, with Alexandre Lacazette’s deal running out in 2022. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, with the experts at the highest-rated sites seeing the club as the front-runners for some top talents and most likely to keep top performers on the books. So, which of these expert-analysed transfer ties bodes well for the Gunners?
Aubameyang greatly favoured to stay
With Manchester United, Barcelona, and Paris-Saint Germain seen as the leading contenders to pry Aubameyang away from the Emirates, in that order, it may come as a surprise that the Gabonese speedster is tipped to stay, for now. Looking to the start of next season, Arsenal are expected to keep a hold of the prized forward. However, with his contract running out at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, him being favoured to stay may not inspire much optimism.
Football administrator Raul Sanlehi’s primary aim has been to buck the trend of big-names leaving freely or cheaply due contract expires. However, he doesn’t look to be doing enough to stop Arsenal’s biggest star of the post-Wenger era from being up for grabs. Set to turn 31-years-old by the start of next season, the club’s top scorer will be looking for his last big deal – bar Chinese intervention down the line. With the club’s owner not willing to back the team himself, the salary demand may be too steep.
If this is, once again, the case, the best course of action would be to sell the sharpshooter before his expiring contract brings down the price, and a potential deal sees him as a very expensive player past his prime. Either commit now or sell-up and use the influx of funds to upgrade other areas of the pitch.
Using the funds to upgrade, not bolster
The biggest problem with the Arsenal defence – particularly at centre-back – has been the club’s willingness to bring in value-buys. Many of the players brought in are good and, when compared to their fees, look like a steal, but that doesn’t help to establish a decent backline. Of course, injuries have been an issue, but it’s time to finally bring in a top-class centre-back who is dependable, athletic, and a commanding presence.
Liverpool turned out arguably their most exciting player, Coutinho, and used his transfer fee to get Virgil van Dijk and other key additions – leading to a Champions League trophy. While not the presence of the Reds’ star man, as there are very few of that calibre, the experts see his compatriot Nathan Aké as Arsenal’s likely upgrade at centre-back. He’s a class player, a menace in the opposition box, can muscle with the best of them – despite his somewhat diminutive stature – and is absurdly mobile. Aké looks like the perfect piece to build a consistent and robust defence around, with a very good – if fit – batch of full-backs already in place.
Should Aubameyang depart, or, even if he doesn’t, the Gunners are a leading contender to land one of the most exciting young forwards in the world, Leon Bailey. At 22-years-old, the Jamaican has proven that he’s not just a flash in the pan, and Bayer Leverkusen are said to be intent on not letting another top Bundesliga talent get gobbled up by the Bavarian beast that is Bayern Munich. Predominantly a left winger, he could re-establish a top-class attacking trident with Lacazette up top and Nicolas Pépé on the right.
Defying expert expectations, to lose Aubameyang may not be the worst thing in the world, provided the cash is spent well on upgrading the defence and then elsewhere on the field in a way that suits Arteta’s new philosophies.