This summer transfer window comes at a very critical point in the history of Arsenal Football Club. After Arsenal signed Ozil in the summer of 2013, Wenger and the club led its supporters to believe that their days of financial restrictions were over. Wenger alluded to the fact that they would once again compete for the top honours now, and wouldn’t be held back by having to sell their top players. Since then, although Arsenal have won 3 out of 4 possible FA Cups, their performances in the league and Champions League have failed to improve. They’ve retained their annual tradition of exiting from the Round of 16, and have finally finished out of the top 4 for the first time in the domestic league.
Arsenal’s best players—namely Ozil and Alexis—currently have contracts that run out in a year, along with those of several other important first teamers like Cazorla. Negativity surrounding the club has reached unprecedented levels, largely due to social media, Arsenal Fan TV and the likes. A number of ex-Arsenal players have been vocal in expressing their opinions, and many believe that Arsene Wenger might no longer be the right man for the job, most notably Mr. Arsenal, Tony Adams. It puts the club’s image in a very compromising position when its greatest former players and alumni seem to differ from the views of the incumbent management. There has been internal instability in regards to the tenuous position of CEO Ivan Gazidis—who seemed to be at loggerheads with Wenger over the direction of the club’s future.
Gazidis has seemingly lost that battle as he has failed to deliver on his promises of radical changes at Arsenal. It makes one wonder whether he’s merely a placeholder CEO, seeing as his range of influence seems so limited. Arsenal’s kit contract has been gazumped by their rivals. The revenue streams at Arsenal seem to bring in only a percentage of what Manchester United and other top elite clubs rake in.
There have long been questions about goalkeeping coach Gerry Peyton. His competence has regularly been questioned by different goalkeepers throughout the years, and little has been done to rectify it. Wenger seems loyal to his staff of 20 years. Petr Cech has been known to train with ex-Chelsea goalkeeping coach Lollichon in the final few months of the season, and it might not have been a coincidence that his form saw an upturn in that period. Questions have also been raised about the fitness coach at Arsenal, amongst other coaching staff.
However, Wenger has stuck to his guns and refused to change his staff. The lack of new coaching staff has resulted in a lack of fresh ideas and has brought about stagnation at the club. It would do Arsenal a world of good to keep their former players in some coaching capacity. Mertesacker has already spoken about how he’s been in talks with the club regarding a non playing role next year. Efforts should be undertaken to bring back Arteta to Arsenal in the near future. Former legends of the club should also be appointed in ambassadorial roles, if not coaching ones. Arsenal needs to be re-Arsenalized.
This transfer window represents an opportunity to reinforce some key positions, like center forward, which has not been addressed for the last 6 years. It’s a shame to let Giroud take the fall for Arsenal’s shortcomings when there’s no other out-and-out striker in the squad. Managing to sign Mbappé would represent a huge shift in the outlook at London Colney. It will go a long way to setting things right with the Emirates faithful.
Arsenal did good business by wrapping up the transfer of Kolasinac early in the window. They also need to show a bit of shrewdness when it comes to selling their players. For far too long, Arsenal have sold players at a cut price rate. In a world where Jordan Pickford goes for 30 million pounds with just one season under his belt, that too with a relegated team, it should be suicidal to let Ospina go for a mere 3 million, or Szczesny for anything under 20 million. Chelsea has managed to offload their deadwood to China for amazing prices, and though Arsenal would find it hard to replicate that, they should at least be shrewd enough to aim for it and negotiate better prices with buying clubs. Arsenal has a lot of deadwood they need to get rid of this summer, with the likes of Debuchy, Campbell, etc. rotting on the bench. Getting rid of Wilshere would be a decision Arsenal would regret, and it might be interesting to keep an eye out on how they deal with his situation.
Therefore, it’s more than just about Alexis with his contract situation. It’s about the state of things at Arsenal, a more comprehensive condition of the club going forward. Wenger mentioned in an interview prior to the FA Cup final how he thought some of the fan behavior this past season had tarnished the image of the club and that he refuses to accept that. This brings up the biggest question regarding Arsenal’s image.
Are they still the Arsenal of the last decade, who sell their best players, regularly come up short on the big stage and fail to win any top honors? Have they perhaps even regressed further? Or is Arsenal serious about the direction of their club, and recognize this moment as a crucial make-or-break period in the history of this club? There’s a spark missing that needs to be brought back to the club. The spark of a good feeling about Arsenal. With the change in system to 3-4-3, a little turnaround has been managed. However, it will just be paper over cracks if it’s not supplemented and overseen by changes at the club level as aforementioned.
In the past, fans were wowed by Arsenal’s core footballing essence, its values. Fans have had their breath taken away in seasons where Arsenal has had academy youngsters, like Wilshere, breaking through to the first team. Other times, it’s been the quick combination play through the likes of Rosicky, Cazorla, Hleb, Fabregas that has excited them. Or even the artistry of Van Persie, in his excellent season. The only way that good feeling around Arsenal can be re-created is if come August, they still have Ozil and Alexis in their ranks, along with the player and coaching staff contracts sorted out. The 3-4-3 is Arsenal’s future, their players seem to love it as well since it allows their individual strengths to be highlighted whilst coping for a systematic way to deal with their individual weaknesses. Arsenal needs to splurge big and desperately fill that pacy, clinical CF spot. The writing’s on the wall, Arsene, do whatever it takes and get Kylian Mbappé to London Colney.