For most of this season we have been lucky enough to be able to watch some of the best football on display at Arsenal in years, and the current crop of players is arguably stronger than it has been for almost a decade.
Arsenal transfer rumours
Ten best goalscoring midfielders in Europe this season, with Arsenal & Chelsea stars chasing Messi & Ronaldo
Arsenal the top form team in Europe, Manchester United not far behind
There is certainly still room for improvement however, with a number of positions needing reinforcements, and a few players needing to be replaced.
With the 2014/15 season coming to a close soon, this article will look at who we should be letting go this summer, who we should be bringing in, and where the weaknesses in our side lie.
Wojciech Szczesny may have had his ups and downs this season, but he is definitely a quality keeper. Age is still on his side as well, and he may yet become a world class shot-stopper.
The Pole has been usurped by summer signing David Ospina, who has been solid since taking his place between the sticks.
We have two excellent keepers to choose from, and I would not mind either of them tending goal for the 2015/16 season. That isn’t to say we can’t improve on them however, and if the right player comes along then we shouldn’t be afraid to snap them up.
A new goalkeeper is far from a priority, but if the likes of Petr Cech (who we have been linked to by The Telegraph) become available then we should certainly consider our options. If we do sign a new keeper, then we will no doubt have to let one of the others go – keeping whichever one would be more content with the thought of potentially being second choice.
Our back-line is looking surprisingly solid ahead of the new campaign, which is not something that could be said at the start of the season.
Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are still the undisputed first choice centre-back pairing for the moment, although that could soon change as Gabriel Paulista beds in. Calum Chambers’ future looks to be in central defence, and both Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy have proven that they can do a job there when called upon.
We don’t need to bring any new centre-backs in this summer, despite many calling for Per Mertesacker to be replaced with a world class defender.
Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal both offer something different down the left, with the Spaniard forcing his way into the starting XI this season with some superb performances. Both are unfortunately a little injury prone, and it would be good to have someone versatile enough to fill in when needed. When both are fit it is a fantastic selection headache for Wenger to have however.
Mathieu Debuchy looked to be a superb replacement for Bacary Sagna when he arrived from Newcastle United this past summer, and if he had have stayed injury free this season he no doubt would have proved to be an excellent acquisition.
Thankfully, with Carl Jenkinson out on loan, Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin stepped up and did a fantastic job. Chambers has looked suspect at times, and his future certainly isn’t in the full-back position. It’s vital to have him as an option however, and his versatility makes him a fantastic asset.
Our young Spaniard Bellerin looks capable of usurping Debuchy sooner rather than later, and despite being just 20-years-old already looks on the cusp of being top class. The Frenchman won’t find it easy to displace the pacy full-back when he returns, especially with Bellerin adding goals to his game.
We have more defensive depth than we have had in a long time, and no signings are really necessary this summer. It would be a real shame to see, but with Debuchy and Bellerin at the club we may have to let Jenkinson go.
We are unlikely to see another centre-back brought in, as Wenger may be reluctant to replace Mertesacker. We should only really be looking to bring in another central defender if he is a significant improvement on what we’ve got anyway.
The only potentially worrying position is at left-back, but hopefully we will avoid an injury crisis next season.
Defensive midfield has been, and still is, a problem area for us – despite the emergence of Francis Coquelin.
The young Frenchman has undoubtedly been superb this season, but we can’t rely on him to do the job alone. Mathieu Flamini is past his best, and will be on his way out of the club this summer. Mikel Arteta is still more than capable, but he has never really been a true defensive midfielder, and arguably doesn’t fit into the team anymore.
We are yet to see Krystian Bielik in first team action, but it’s unlikely he will be ready to make the step up next season.
Our number one priority this summer has to be a dominant defensive midfielder, with the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Christoph Kramer (both of whom we have been linked with by the Daily Mail), and Geoffrey Kondogbia (who we have been linked to through the Metro) all potential solutions.
Coquelin has arguably done enough to stake his claim for a permanent starting spot, but at the very least he needs competition and backup.
With an out-and-out defensive midfielder being utilised, we are free to push two players further up the pitch. Wenger has the luxury of picking two players from Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, and Mesut Özil (with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also a potential option), so clearly we are well stocked in this department.
Even if the ageing Czech leaves the club this summer, we would still have plenty of options, so it’s hard to see Wenger investing in another creative star.
A defensive midfielder is a must, and we should be pushing the boat out to get a player of real quality.
We have seen with Chelsea the effect a top class destroyer can have on the team, and although Coquelin has been superb, we can’t go another season without bringing someone in.
Abou Diaby is likely to leave the club this summer, although his recent return to fitness has a small minority hoping he can still succeed at Arsenal.
Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, and Tomas Rosicky could also potentially be on their way out, and Wenger will presumably only bring players in to replace the ones we lose.
Alexis Sanchez has proved a sensational signing this season, and remains our top scorer despite enduring an extreme goal drought in the second half of the campaign. He can play anywhere along the front line, although has spent much of the season on the left-wing.
For the moment we have Theo Walcott on the right, although his contract situation means things are still somewhat up in the air. We seem to be preparing for life without the England international, as Wenger has scarcely let him onto the pitch since his return from injury.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck are our other options on the wings, and both have proved their importance to the club at times this season.
We aren’t as well stocked in the wide areas as we could be, and a couple of injuries could leave us a little light. We should only be looking to bring in top quality wingers however, as we have plenty of young talent coming through the ranks.
Olivier Giroud is unquestionably our first choice centre-forward, with the Frenchman currently playing the best football of his career. There aren’t many strikers who could displace him at the moment, and we would have to spend a lot of money if we were to even attempt to improve on him.
Welbeck is currently our main backup in the striking position, and he hasn’t looked totally out of place when deployed alone up front. We could certainly replace him with someone better, although it’s unclear who we would get or how much they would cost.
There isn’t an abundance of top quality striking options available at the moment, and as we’ve seen with Radamel Falcao, players don’t always adapt quickly to the Premier League. We are sure to be on the lookout for reinforcements, but as Wenger would say, we will only sign top, top, top players.
Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott can also play up front if required, so it’s not like we are desperately short. And if disaster strikes then we still have Chuba Akpom and Yaya Sanogo.
We could do with a couple of signings in the forward areas, but they shouldn’t be a priority. Giroud has been fantastic, but we can’t rely on his form and fitness forever.
Wenger will no doubt be keeping an eye out for players who could improve the side, but he will more than likely hold out for someone with the quality of the likes of Marco Reus (via The Independent), Karim Benzema (via The Telegraph), or Robert Lewandowski (via Sky Sports).
Ins and outs:
So in an ideal world, who would we sign and who would we show the door?
Definite: Mathieu Flamini, Lukas Podolski, Ryo Miyaichi, Abou Diaby
Maybe: Carl Jenkinson, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, Joel Campbell
Conditional on transfers in: Wojciech Szczesny/David Ospina, Per Mertesacker
GK: Petr Cech
LW/RW: Marco Reus/Nabil Fekir (via The Daily Mail)
ST: Karim Benzema/Alexandre Lacazette (via the Express)/Robert Lewandowski
We have reached a point now where our team will only really be improved by truly top class talent, which makes any potential transfer more difficult (and usually more expensive as well).
Most of these targets would be difficult – if not impossible – to bring to the Emirates, so this is obviously just an ideal scenario. We should only be aiming for the very pinnacle when it comes to transfers at this point however, and these players have certainly reached that point.