While there is still a chance of Arsenal qualifying for The Champions League and winning the FA cup, this season will be reflected upon with disappointment. Both manager, Arsene Wenger, and the players have received a lot of criticism. In order to improve the team’s fortunes next season, changes will be required over the summer. Regardless of who the manager is, a number of players will need to be brought in, and others let go. Arsenal will have to find a balance between the benefits that fresh blood brings and the negative effect of high staff turnover. Changing manager and a number of players, could be too much at once. So, who should be replaced, the manager or the players?
Many argue that Wenger must go. In the past few years, under his reign, the club has not moved forward. The same failings in the league and in Europe predictably reoccur season after season. The players he’s brought in have failed to live up to both their reputations and transfer fees. Arsenal are tactically deficient and weak of character. All of this is due to the manager. Therefore he should be replaced.
However, while the manager picks the team, the responsibility belongs to of the players once they cross the white line. And, many of the players have not performed well enough this season. The finger of blame can still be pointed at the manager. Wenger didn’t prepare them well enough. They were tactically naïve. There may be truth in this but as phenomenally well-paid professionals, the players must be responsible for their own performances.
Whether or not Wenger steps aside, the Arsenal squad needs significant reinforcements:
- Petr Cech will remain number 1.
- David Ospina is likely to move on so another keeper will be required.
- If Wojciech Szczesny returns from his loan he can compete with Cech for a starting place. If Szczesny is deemed surplus to requirements another keeper will be needed.
- Of the ten defenders listed in the first team squad, two of them (Mathieu Debuchy and Carl Jenkinson) don’t play so will have to move on.
- Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs are at a crossroads in their careers, they should also move on.
- In that case, the club will need a left back to compete with Nacho Monreal (assuming the Spaniard stays at the club – there’s an argument that he’s not good enough) and a right back as understudy to Hector Bellerin (assuming he doesn’t go to Barcelona).
- While there are still question marks over Gabriel, the club will need at least two new defenders this summer.
Midfield: – This is where Arsenal have been most disappointing this season.
- Francis Coquelin is not good enough for Arsenal and should be moved on.
- Santi Cazorla has missed the majority of the season through injury and is in the twilight of his career. His contract expires in the summer, he may need replacing.
- Aaron Ramsey has had a poor season and is another at a crossroads in his career. Unless a good offer comes in he’s worth persevering with. Hopefully he’ll up his game with stronger competition for a midfield berth.
- Granit Xhaka needs more time to adapt to the Premier league.
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been a bright spark amongst all the gloom and must be retained.
- Jack Wilshere will return from his loan. With his injury record, being a squad player is the best anyone can hope for.
- Finally, Mesut Ozil. If the club are offered what they paid for him they should immediately accept the offer. He constantly goes missing in the big games, showing no desire to track back or stomach for the fight. Other teams target him as he’s seen as soft. His goals and assists don’t justify his place in the team, let alone a contract of £300,000 per week!
- At least two new central midfielders are needed: a powerful, ball-winner and a technician, capable of dictating tempo.
- Alexis Sanchez must be retained and given better support. At the moment he looks like he’s trying to do it all on his own which is detrimental to both him and the team.
- Theo Walcott is another at a career crossroads. He can no longer be considered a prospect but should be retained, if only for squad stability.
- Danny Welbeck is a good back up striker but won’t score thirty goals a season.
- Olivier Giroud is not a good enough striker for Arsenal – he’s too slow and will never score enough goals.
- If the club can recoup the £17 million invested in Lucas Perez (the money could be better used elsewhere) and get £20 million for Giroud they’re part way to getting the funds to pay for the lethal forward that the team has been crying out for.
A conservative estimate is that Arsenal will need to recruit 5 top quality players over the summer – two defenders, two midfielders and a striker.
If the Arsenal board or Wenger himself decide it’s time for a parting of the ways, the player turnover will probably be even greater. A new manager would want to bring in his own personnel – both on and off the pitch. New voices and a fresh approach could be beneficial. But, trying to integrate half a dozen or so new players with each other, their new team mates and the entire squad with a new management structure could easily undermine harmony and be damaging.
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Players like Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud have said that they are at the club because of the manager. Wenger leaving this summer, with the squad in desperate need of strengthening, would destabilise the club even further. And likely result in players the club wish to keep beginning to question their futures.
Expecting a new manager to come in and improve on Wenger’s recent record, without dramatically altering the squad, is farfetched. The foreign managers touted to replace Wenger (Max Allegri, Diego Simeone, Thomas Tuchel) have no Premier League experience. Domestic managers such as Eddie Howe and Marco Silva have no experience of running a club of Arsenal’s size. Bringing any of these men into the club and expecting them to assess, and successfully overhaul the squad during the summer is unrealistic.
If, as expected, the club fail to qualify for the Champions’ League, recruiting and retaining players becomes even harder. Having some stability, in the form of Wenger, will help the club through a summer of upheaval. He’s still a respected figure in world football who has a much better chance of retaining and recruiting top class player, regardless of being in the Champion’s League, then someone with a lower profile like Eddie Howe.
While Wenger’s mess is a mess of his own making, with the support of the board he should clean it up. With Wenger in charge, Arsenal will still be a lure to world-class players. They’ll have a better prospect of hanging onto their top players. And, if the correct players are brought in, the club retains the manager and it still doesn’t work out, then Wenger will leave next summer with a new manager taking over a healthy squad.
A lot of fans won’t be happy with the prospect of Wenger staying for another season. Many will say that he and the underperforming players should both go. Although this is understandable, it’s a decision with the heart and not the head. The risks are too great. Transfers must be the priority. And, with no ideal scenario, the least worst option for Arsenal is that Wenger oversee the transfers.
For these reasons, Wenger should be given another season and the underperforming players should go.
Agree or disagree? Give us your opinions below in the comments section.