Unai Emery’s debut season at Arsenal showed signs of progression, however familiar flaws from the previous era were still often evident.
A second summer in charge will allow the Spaniard to mould the side further in his image, with the Gunners squad set to take shape under Emery’s regime following a third transfer window at the helm.
How was their 2018/19?
Emery’s first season in the Premier League showed some signs of promise, however, the club’s dismal away form raised questions over their progress. Arsenal had the third-best home record in the Premier League, behind only champions Manchester City and runners-up Liverpool, however they won just seven times away from the Emirates and kept one clean sheet on the road all season to finish fifth.
Progress in Europe was a positive, the club reaching their first European final in over a decade in the Europa League. Key to their success was the form of strike partnership Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the former was crowned as the club’s Player of the Year after an impressive campaign whilst Aubameyang’s total of 22 league goals earned him a share of the Premier League’s Golden Boot.
Of the Arsenal manager’s signing’s last summer, young midfielders Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi have huge potential, whilst goalkeeper Bernd Leno has cemented himself as the club’s number one. Greek centre-back Sokratis arrived from Dortmund and added experience to the backline, however, veteran free transfer Stephan Lichtsteiner and January loan signing Denis Suarez failed to impress.
What do they need?
Much will depend on the club’s finances, with Champions League qualification to have a major impact on the club’s budget. The club’s £300m kit deal with Adidas also begins this season, which could further boost funds for Emery in the summer market.
Arsenal’s vulnerability has long been their backline, dating back to the latter Wenger years with questions over the strength of the team’s spine. The tenacious Torreira and physical Sokratis went some way to resolving their problems, however the form of the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny’s advancing years mean a central defender must certainly be a priority.
An imposing physical midfield presence may also be targeted, whilst a box-to-box replacement for the departing Aaron Ramsey will also be required. Emery’s tactical versatility saw him revert to a 3-4-1-2 formation, accommodating flair players such as Lacazette, Aubameyang and Ozil whilst also adding numbers to a leaky defence. Whether the 47-year-old will stick with the formation, or whether he was just accommodating for his squad’s shortcomings remains to be seen.
Left-back and back-up forward and goalkeeper options could also be amongst Emery’s priorities, whilst a pacey wide player is also reported to be on his radar.
Who could leave?
Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Petr Cech are confirmed departures, with the latter announcing his retirement and the former duo leaving at the end of their contracts.
Ramsey’s departure is a major blow, the club unable agree a new deal with the Welshman who has joined Italian champions Juventus on a free transfer. Losing key players in their prime has been a problem for Arsenal, with Ramsey following the likes of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Alexis Sanchez to have departed in cut-price deals following contract issues in recent seasons.
Elsewhere, Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny could leave after falling out-of-favour whilst Carl Jenkinson will almost certainly move on. Decisions must also be made on several players who spent last season out on-loan, including the likes of David Ospina and Calum Chambers.
Who could they target?
Matthias Ginter – Borussia Mönchengladbach – Centre-back
Having found opportunities limited at Borussia Dortmund, 25-year-old Ginter moved to Bundesliga rivals Mönchengladbach where he has continued to improve with first-team football.
Comfortable on the ball and playing out from the back, the German international also has experience playing in both a back four and a three-man defence, an invaluable asset for a manager with Emery’s tactical flexibility.
Christopher Nkunku – Paris Saint-Germain – Midfielder
Emery was linked with a move for the 21-year-old midfielder in January, with the Arsenal boss familiar with the player from his time in charge of the French champions.
Nkunku can play centrally or out wide and has so far failed to sign a new deal with PSG. With his contract set to expire in 2020, there is a feeling Arsenal could secure a deal for the talented youngster for a sensible fee with the French side believed to want €20m.
Steven Nzonzi – Roma – Defensive midfield
Having won the Europa League under Emery’s management at Sevilla, the Spaniard could make a move to reunite with Nzonzi this summer. The Frenchman joined Italian side Roma in a deal worth around €30m last summer, however there is a feeling the midfielder could move on after just a season in Serie A.
At 30, Nzonzi would represent a short-term option for Emery’s midfield, but would offer a physical presence that has been lacking in recent seasons whilst also provides Premier League experience after previous spells at Blackburn and Stoke.
Yannick Carrasco – Dalian Yifang – Winger
The Belgian international has admitted he would like a move back to Europe, having left Atletico Madrid for the Chinese Super League in 2018.
The 25-year-old has experience of playing at the highest level, scoring in Atletico’s 2016 Champions League final defeat. Arsenal are believed to have expressed January interest in a player comfortable on either wing or at wing-back, and Carrasco could prove a realistic and high-quality addition to Emery’s squad this summer.
Ryan Fraser – Bournemouth – Winger
Fraser enjoyed an outstanding campaign for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, with the diminutive winger’s form believed to have attracted the interest the Premier League’s biggest clubs.
Only Chelsea’s Eden Hazard registered more than the 25-year-old’s 14 assists last season, and the Scotland international’s productivity would provide welcome ammunition for the likes of Lacazette and Aubameyang.
Fraser would bring pace and energy to the flanks at the Emirates, and give Emery the option to shift away from his use of wing-backs.
Bournemouth are unlikely to part easily with one of their most prized assets, but the temptation of European football may see Fraser leave the South Coast.
There was a very left-field suggestion for the Player of the Year from our end of season award podcast this week. ?
— Football Faithful (@FootyFaithful_) May 25, 2019