Arsenal are gearing up for a crucial summer transfer window.
The Gunners have had an impressive first season under Unai Emery, going on a long unbeaten run and qualifying for the Europa League final, but it is quite clear that the squad still needs a lot of work if it is to reach its potential.
So what does that mean for the summer? It means players coming in. What players? We’ve had a look at five different sources to suggest five signings the club are expected to make. Who are the sources, and what did they recommend? Read on!
1. What the manager wants
In general Unai Emery has refrained from speaking too extensively about Arsenal’s transfer targets. Partly because he doesn’t yet know the extent of his budget and also because he’s just not that type of coach. But when you’re linked with a bonafide world-class superstar who has won titles for club and country, you’ve got to say something.
Samuel Umtiti has had a troubled season at Barcelona. He played (and won) the World Cup with a knee problem, then declined to have an operation on his knee, preferring to let it heal naturally. This backfired and he basically missed the whole campaign, losing his starting place to Clement Lenglet. Now, Barcelona are looking to bring in Matthijs de Ligt, and Umtiti is far too good to sit on the bench.
Enter Arsenal. The Gunners are one of those linked with the Frenchman and for his part, Emery offered the succinct but accurate summary. “He’s a very good player,” Emery said, before adding: “I’ve always had French players in my teams. At Valencia, Sevilla, PSG and here at Arsenal. […] I’ve always been able to count on those players.”
Emery is correct that Umtiti is a very good player, in fact, that’s underselling it. When fully fit he’s world-class and top 10 in the world at his position (maybe even top 5; he certainly was prior to his injury). Arsenal’s defence is terrible, but if you put Umtiti at the heart of it then it could be transformed. Not only is he an excellent defender in his own right but his organisational skills are supreme too. Sure, you’d have to keep an eye on his knees, but it could be a risk worth taking.
2. A view from the press box
Speaking of risks, letting Aaron Ramsey go on a free transfer was a huge one. It’s left Arsenal needing a midfielder. BBC Sport’s transfer guru David Ornstein has weighed in with who the Gunners might be targeting to fill that position.
“Previously in January they came close to a deal for Christopher Nkunku from PSG,” he said in an interview with Radio 5Live. “Adrien Rabiot is among the players they’ve tried to sign in the past and have a long-standing interest in but he’s quite a complex individual and has had some issues off the pitch.”
Whilst Nkunku would be a signing similar to Matteo Guendouzi where they take a young French talent with a great skill-set and put them to work, the potential to snag a player of Rabiot’s class for free will surely be a temptation too good to pass up. The Frenchman has his issues, mostly surrounding the overbearing presence of his agent mother, but he has the ability and talent to comfortably slot into the hole Aaron Ramsey has left in the Gunners midfield. He can run, he can pass and he can shoot and he’s not renewing at PSG. Sign him up!
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3. An ex-player’s thoughts
Marc Overmars was an Arsenal sensation at the start of the Arsene Wenger era in North London. The Dutchman’s pace and threat in the final third was a huge gamechanger for the Gunners and he was crucial to Wenger’s first league title and FA Cup back in 1998. Overmars is currently sporting director at Ajax and as such is in charge of keeping as many of his superstars away from Europe’s big boys as possible.
He’s already lost Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona, and De Ligt could soon join him. Arsenal aren’t fighting in that weight-class but they are after the surprise ace Argentine left-back, Nico Tagliafico. The Gunners don’t really have an adequate alternative to Sead Kolasinac should the Bosnian get hurt, and Tagliafico would remedy that.
Overmars, however, has other plans. “We also want to keep Nico Tagliafico and David Neres here,” he said, before adding: “we are working with Nico to keep him here for another year. Let’s see that in the coming weeks.” So, if Unai Emery really wants Tagliafico to be a genuine option on the left alongside Kolasinac, he will have to play on Overmars’ affection for Arsenal to convince him to sell.
4. The neutral’s tip
Shaka Hislop was a legendary Premier League goalkeeper for Newcastle, West Ham and Portsmouth. Now he’s a pundit and analyst for ESPN and when Arsenal were linked with Bournemouth’s sensational assist-machine Ryan Fraser, he had his say.
“I don’t think he’d cost an awful lot,” said Hislop, continuing: “I think Arsenal can get him at a reasonable price.” Fraser has had an incredible season in the Premier League, registering a whopping 14 assists. So he’s the hot hand right now, and picking him up could see him take his game to the next level at Arsenal.
“When you consider the company he’s in, only Eden Hazard has more assists than Fraser in the Premier League this season,” Hislop added, before concluding: “I’d take a chance on him at the right price.” Given what he’s achieved and how much Arsenal could use a creative winger, Hislop has the right idea.
5. Squawka predicts
Arsenal need defenders. Even if they bring in Samuel Umtiti, they will still need defenders. Their current options right now are laughable. Shkodran Mustafi is a disaster waiting to happen, Sokratis is an error-prone centre-back whose sole redeeming factor is that he’s not Mustafi. Laurent Koscielny was a warrior for years but his ligaments are made of wet cardboard and Rob Holding… well, who knows? He could be great or he could take forever to come back from his injury.
So even if you bring Umtiti in, you need another centre-back. You need to get rid of Mustafi and maybe assume that between them Koscielny and Holding are capable back-ups. Then you can surely upgrade on Sokratis, so you do that by going to Getafe and signing Djené Dakonam.
The Togolese centre-back is the kind of relentless defender that Koscielny used to be all those years ago. He’s quick across the ground, brilliant in the tackle and absolutely fearless. His timing is on-point (no one made more interceptions in La Liga this season than his 74) and if partnered by Samuel Umtiti, would form the basis of a brilliant defence for Arsenal, a defence that will provide the Arsenal attack with the perfect platform to raid forwards.