Kieran Beckles picks out which positions Arsene Wenger needs to improve in his Arsenal squad ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Goalkeeper to succeed Petr Cech
Petr Cech swapped Chelsea for Arsenal in an £11m deal in 2014. The Czech Republic international was heralded as a signing capable of transforming the Arsenal defence with his leadership and organisation skills. The 35-year-old has been an obvious upgrade on Manuel Almunia, Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone but his arrival hasn’t translated into Premier League titles. Arsene Wenger placed his faith in Almunia and then Szczesny following Jens Lehmann’s exit in 2011. Neither goalkeeper was could fill the large void left by the experienced Germany international. Arsenal paid the price as their defence struggled with inconsistency. Wenger needs to learn from his past mistakes and make preparations for Cech’s retirement. Wenger must be ready when the Chelsea legend decides to call time on his distinguished Premier League career. Sunderland shot stopper Jordan Pickford has been one player linked with a move to the Premier League. At 21, the England international could dedicate a couple of seasons to being Cech’s understudy before eventually succeeding Cech as Arsenal’s number one. Joe Hart is available after being deemed surplus to requirements at Manchester City, but the 30-year-old wants a starting spot and wouldn’t be willing to deputise for Cech.
Right-back if Hector Bellerin goes
Arsenal will want to keep their best players this summer considering the rebuilding job required at The Emirates. Hector Bellerin has established himself as one of the Premier League’s best right-backs over the past three seasons. However, Barcelona have been linked with a move to re-sign the 22-year-old defender in what would be a blow to Arsenal’s prospects next season. Bellerin’s form tailed off in the second half of the 2016-17 campaign. This could be a result of speculation linking him with a move to Cataluna. Arsenal don’t have a lot of cover at right-back and centre-half Gabriel Paulista has deputised in the position in the past. Wenger switched to a 3-4-3 formation in the final months of the 2016-17 campaign. Should the Gunners boss stick with this tactic next term, Arsenal may consider selling Bellerin. Monaco defender Djibril Sidibe has been touted as a potential candidate, but it is remains to be seen whether the Ligue 1 champions would consider losing another of their impressive stars this summer.
Composed defensive midfielder
Granit Xhaka was signed in a £33m deal from Borussia Monchengladbach last summer in Arsenal’s first transfer deal in the 2016 summer transfer window. The Switzerland international’s arrived was heralded as Wenger finally listening to his critics and signing a midfield enforcer. However, Xhaka failed to live up to his price tag and reputation, in spite of a promising FA Cup final appearance. The 24-year-old lacked composure and suffered from ill-discipline. Xhaka has room to improve and could yet develop into an important member of the Arsenal team. But Wenger still needs a natural midfield general who has experience and leadership qualities to make an immediate impact. Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar would be a popular signing with Arsenal fans given his impressive Champions League performances last term. Perhaps a more realistic target is Aleksandr Golovin. However, questions remain about the Russian midfielder’s ability to step up to the Premier League. Given Xhaka’s slow start to life at The Emirates, Wenger should think twice about signing a player inexperienced at the top level.
Laurent Koscielny cover
Arsenal struggled when Laurent Koscielny was missing last season. The Gunners fell apart when he was forced off against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena before collapsing again when he was sent off in the second leg of the Champions League last-16 clash. Gabriel has struggled to make the step up to the Premier League since his move from Villarreal in 2016. Per Mertesacker is in the twilight of his career, while 21-year-old Rob Holding lacks experience. Wenger added Shkodran Mustafi to his squad in a £35m deal last summer but the German defender needs a long-term centre-half partner. Wenger is reportedly keeping tabs on Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling – the pair are decent centre-halves but perhaps not of the ilk that Arsenal fans want to see at The Emirates. Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane would be an exciting addition but perhaps unrealistic given interest from Champions League clubs.
Securing a big-name striker would certainly appease disgruntled Arsenal fans. It’s a position that has needed strengthening over the past few seasons. Wenger is thought to have made Olivier Giroud surplus to requirements at Arsenal. Their leading goal-scorer Alexis Sanchez has been heavily linked with a move to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich as his current contract enters its final 12 months. The future of the Arsenal duo could well dictate what business Wenger does this summer. Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette is a name familiar with Arsenal fans and has been linked with a switch to north London regularly over the past three summers. The 26-year-old would be an improvement on Giroud. Arsenal have reportedly made an audacious attempt to sign Monaco sensation Kylian Mbappe. However, the Ligue 1 champions have made keeping Mbappe a priority, barring a mammoth bid for the teenager. Indeed, Arsenal could be forced double their club transfer record to complete a deal for the 18-year-old, which is difficult to envisage.