While players are away at Euro 2020, clubs will be planning for 2021/22 and there aren’t many clubs who need a summer reshuffle more than Arsenal.
For the first time since the 1995/96 campaign, Arsenal will be without European football, as they failed to qualify for the Champions League, Europa League and even the new Europa Conference League after finishing eighth in the Premier League.
As a result, this summer has been billed as the key moment for Arsenal to finally rebuild post-Arsene Wenger or risk falling away in the league once again. They have already confirmed the departures of David Luiz and Mat Ryan, while Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos return to their parent squads amid other reported planned departures.
So, there is work to be done this summer in a few positions. But who could Arsenal go for? We’ve come up with a list of dream, realistic and wildcard transfer options for Arsenal’s big rebuild.
All these moves would take place in an ideal world for Arsenal where they had unlimited budget and pull. Are they realistic? No, but that’s the point. When you dream, you’ve got to dream big.
Alexander Isak: With Alex Lacazette down to the last year of his contract, Arsenal need a central striker and Swedish sensation Alexander Isak would be a dream fit for the Gunners. Isak is a tall, rangy forward with pace to burn and dribbling skills that belie his size. He’s bagged 33 goals in 89 games for Real Sociedad and has been tearing it up at Euro 2020 and would give the Gunners a striker capable of playing in any way Mikel Arteta should want, but Arsenal are priced 9/1 with Sky Bet to sign the Swede.
Houssem Aouar: Arsenal fans have been dreaming of Houssem Aouar for a long time. The French attacking midfielder has been on the Gunners’ books for a long, long while, explaining his 3/1 odds. Incessantly creative, Aouar’s dribbling and passing would make him a dream fit for that No. 10 role Arsenal have been trying to fill since casting Mesut Ozil out into the cold.
Yves Bissouma: As Granit Xhaka looks likely to leave North London this summer, Arsenal will need to replace the Swiss at the base of midfield. Mikel Arteta’s intentions to evolve the side are clear as they court Brighton’s Yves Bissouma and are 4/6 favourites.
The Ivorian midfielder is not a true holder but a far more dynamic presence, capable of winning the ball back (104 tackles and 64 interceptions in the Premier League last season) and carrying it up the field with quality and confidence (53 completed take-ons). Having Bissouma and Thomas Partey at the heart of the midfield should, in theory, make Arsenal press-resistant and creatively dexterous.
Ben White: Arsenal’s needs in defence are kind of all over the place. Arsenal have good centre-backs, but definitely no great ones (at least not yet although Gabriel looks very promising). Ben White (2/5) has the potential to change all that and be the defensive leader Arsenal need. A double raid on Brighton would complete Arsenal’s dream summer.
These transfers are imminently more realistic than those above. More attainable targets.
Odsonne Edouard: So Arsenal need a forward and perhaps Alexander Isak is too pricey. Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard is a proven goalscoring talent (74 in 139 for the Glaswegian club) and looks ready for greater things than the SPL. Leicester were Arsenal’s main rivals for Edouard but as they’ve moved for Patson Daka the Gunners would be in pole position, although Sky Bet are offering odds as long as 10/1.
Philippe Coutinho: Raul Sanllehi may have left Arsenal but a move for Coutinho (14/1), which he was always keen on, is still on the cards. Barcelona are keen to get rid of their misfit Brazilian and the Gunners need a no. 10 – Coutinho’s reputation is at a low ebb but he remains a supremely talented player in need of the right environment to flourish. The loving arms of Mikel Arteta could be ideal and Barcelona’s finances are such a mess Arsenal could pretty much dictate the terms of the deal and the Blaugrana would have to accept.
Sander Berge: If Yves Bissouma remains an unattainable target, Sander Berge would be a great cut price alternative. Relegated with Sheffield United, the Norwegian would provide an energetic box-to-box presence.
Sheffield United want £35m for Berge (his reported release clause), which may put off fans but his quality is there to see, which is why Arsenal are chasing the 23-year-old, as he would provide the defensive cover should the likes of Xhaka, Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira leave. And Arsenal are 5/2 to sign the midfielder this summer.
Max Aarons: Arsenal’s centre-backs are good, not great, and there are lots of them. Meanwhile neither right-back is what you call optimal for the way Mikel Arteta wants to play football with Hector Bellerin’s outstanding charity work and statements on human rights making him worth having around.
Still, Arsenal could upgrade on him and Max Aarons would be a gettable way to do that (Sky Bet are offering odds of 9/4). The Englishman just got promoted back to the Premier League with Norwich but the Canaries would be happy for him to leave.
These wildcard options are signings that, while plausible, would be unlikely for one reason or another.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Arsenal’s centre-forward needs have rarely seen them look around at their Premier League rivals but they could do in this instance. The upheaval at Everton would make a cheeky bid for Calvert-Lewin, who scored the most headed goals in the Premier League last season and would return the physicality to Arsenal’s attack that they’ve missed since Olivier Giroud left, definitely possible. It’d be absurdly expensive and who knows if Calvert-Lewin would be open to the move, but it could happen (12/1).
James Maddison: The big Arsenal rumour of late has been their pursuit of James Maddison to fill the no. 10 role left vacant by Martin Odegaard’s return to Real Madrid (and they are 4/1 to sign him this summer). It seems obvious why Arsenal would want Maddison given his skill at chance creation (both from open play and set-piece) and his ability to get forward and score goals. But the thing is… Leicester are better than Arsenal right now. Why would Maddison make what is at best a lateral move?
Ruben Neves: Arsenal’s need for a Granit Xhaka replacement could see them look at Ruben Neves, the Portuguese midfielder excels in a double pivot and has the tackling tenacity, passing range and long-range shooting to be a nice compliment to Thomas Partey. This is more of a wildcard, however, because Neves lacks the physical dynamism that Arsenal would want – though he is still Evens to join.
Tariq Lamptey: Again, Arsenal need a right-back. So Tariq Lamptey (11/4) fits. And there can be no doubts about his quality even in his brief appearances for Brighton last season he was like a rocket at right-back. However he spent much of the season injured and given Arsenal’s previous sour history with injury-prone players they might think twice about a player who already struggles to stay fit.