The season is approaching the halfway mark and for Arsenal and it’s fans like, there is a lot of reflection to be done. A season that started with much optimism turned sour along the way – events which eventually lead to the sacking of former boss Unai Emery.
Despite beating West Ham on Monday night, and securing Europa League qualification with a 2-2 draw against Standard Liege in Belgium on Thursday, Arsenal have been far from convincing during Freddie Ljungberg’s brief reign as interim boss.
In all, the Gunners have won just one of their last 11 games in all competitions (Whoscored), and have not tasted victory at the Emirates since beating Bournemouth 1-0 on October 6.
Based on that, the club would have some priority decisions to make across the park in preparation for the January transfer window and the second half of the season.
Squad balance: Sort out the unrest in the squad
You’ve probably seen this more than a million times but Arsenal’s defence is awful and that needs to be addressed and the midfield needs better balance. If there are players in there who aren’t good enough then they must make those tough decisions.
The likes of Lucas Torreira, Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka have all been linked with moves away from the club recently and it’s time for the club to look and think “who do we really need?”. Any player who is simply a luxury to the club or adds no real value should be moved on.
Arsenal have embraced mediocrity in recent years and until they pick on a ruthless approach like their rivals, they would remain at the same stagnant level.
Then there’s the duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. They need to be persuaded to sign new deals or potentially moved on, with Aubameyang out of contract in the summer of 2021 and Lacazette the following year.
Both are class forwards but if their hearts are no longer at the club, then the management should make the hard call of moving on from them. Especially with the fact that both players are aged and Arsenal stand the possibility of losing both elite players for little or nothing.
Leadership the next priority: Coaching void must be sorted
The norm all over Europe is quickly seeing club legends and former players try to come to ply their trade with their former clubs and try to create a nostalgic atmosphere around the fan-base. Since Guardiola was able to achieve serial success with Barcelona, it set the tone for many ex-players to try their luck with former clubs and as we’ve all realized, it’s never as easy as it seems.
Over the years, Arsenal have been accused of having leaders on the pitch and more recently, that has spread to off the pitch as well. It’s too early to make anything of Freddie Ljungberg’s short reign so far but the little we’ve seen pretty much shows that Arsenal need a coach with a better pedigree and a more proven track record. The delicate situation Arsenal find themselves in the league only makes that narrative burn brighter.
Carlo Ancelotti, Mauricio Pochettino and Mikel Arteta appear to be the prominent names linked with the manager’s role much recently. Whatever the case is, it would be wise for Arsenal to appoint a permanent manager before the second half of the season so as to give that manager time to salvage something from the current campaign. However, that only applies if the Gunners are not willing to let Freddie Ljungberg try out his luck till the end of the season.
The manager void then gives birth to the third and final decision.
Europa League or the Premier League: Which is the priority?
Arsenal qualified as leaders from group F to the next round of the Europa league but despite everything, the Gunners were not without struggles in the campaign. Barely keeping a clean sheet and having to rally from goals down, against opponents that should be dusted from the onset, the next round of the competition will tell a lot more about Arsenal’s ambitions.
It’s been the norm to see Arsenal use youngsters and fringe players for cup competitions as well as the Europa League. However, the scenario of things at the club means the Gunners must have a total re-think about this “normality”.
At the moment, the top four talk-less of the top six is not looking certain for Arsenal and it would be wise to consider the Europa league as a honorable lifeline for an European spot. Look at it this way,except Arsenal finish in the top four, it would still be back to the Europa league next season again.
Last season was a good summary of this as the Gunners missed out narrowly on Champions League qualification and lost the golden chance to Chelsea in the finals that didn’t exactly play out like a final.
In a nutshell, Arsenal must give the Europa League higher priority and try to win the competition for a longly anticipated spot back in the Champions league.
Also, this is important as the competitions Arsenal manage to qualify for could either interest or put off some top coaches that he Gunners are looking at.
It’s going to be a long season for Arsenal but to get back on track and salvage something, these decisions must be given proper thought.