After the Arsene Wenger dynasty came to an end last summer, Arsenal boss Unai Emery enjoyed a mixed debut season having taken charge at the Emirates.
The Spaniard’s impact was largely praised, leading the club to a first European final since 2006, however familiar flaws were once again exposed as the North London side missed out on Champions League football for a third consecutive season.
The former Sevilla and Valencia boss now has a second pre-season to exert further influence over his squad, as he bids to restore the club to former glories.
Ahead of the new campaign, here are five major issues facing Emery at Arsenal this summer…
Lack of funds
Arsenal’s absence from Europe’s elite is reported to have hindered their ability to compete on the financial front, with the club facing the prospect of Europa League football for a third season in succession.
A lack of lucrative Champions League money will hinder Emery in the transfer market, the Spaniard believed to have a budget of just £40m before player sales.
Arsenal’s squad is in serious need of strengthening in several areas, and in the mega-money world of modern football a budget of that size will not be able to address the club’s problems.
Emery will have to be clever in this summers window, targeting talent at the right place as he bids to improve his squad. The club have an abundance of deadwood which needs to be moved on, and attracting decent figures for unwanted stars may prove crucial.
The club need an injection of quality this summer, whether they can find that on a comparatively modest budget remains to be seen.
Let’s be honest, Arsenal’s defence is piss poor. Their defensive fragility has long been their Achilles heel, yet season on season the problems have not been rectified.
Since finishing second in 2016, Arsenal’s defensive record has progressively worsened as they’ve slipped out of top-four contention. Their refusal to address their major flaws has caused frustration within the fanbase, with a series of poor acquisitions partly to blame.
Prospects such as Rob Holding and Callum Chambers have so far failed to show they have the ability to be top-six defenders, whilst captain Laurent Koscielny is now 33 and has refused to join the club’s pre-season tour as he seeks a move away.
In the past five seasons, Arsenal have spent just £86m on strengthening their defence, with a huge £36m of that accounting for the calamitous Shkodran Mustafi.
Mustafi is now 27 and has been an Arsenal player for three seasons, without showing any indication he can be a top-level defender.
Expensive mistakes can happen in the transfer market, though now is the time for these to be addressed. Once a side containing defensive leaders such as Tony Adams and Sol Campbell, Arsenal need defenders they can rely on once more.
The club have been linked with Saint-Etienne’s highly-rated young prospect William Saliba, though he is likely to be loaned back to the French club.
If Arsenal begin the new campaign with their current options, the club’s supporters should prepare for another season of frustration.
Average midfield talent
Whilst Arsenal’s defence is undoubtedly their weakest area, their midfield talent hardly screams elite. Forward duo Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can only do so much, often let down by a lack of quality around them.
The much-maligned Granit Xhaka has failed to become the midfield general the club had hoped, whilst the likes of Mohamed Elneny are simply not good enough.
Last season’s summer signings Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira have showed initial promise, however, both are raw and need time to develop.
The lack of an imposing midfielder has often been cited as a key reason for Arsenal’s defensive fragility, and Emery could look to address that this summer.
The club’s incompetence with securing the long-term future of their best talent again reared its ugly head this summer, as arguably the club’s finest midfield talent in Aaron Ramsey was allowed to leave for Juventus on a free transfer.
Another key area which needs an injection of established quality, Emery’s lack of finances could see him have to choose between areas of concern in the summer window.
It seems whenever Arsenal are discussed, there is a constant debate over the contribution and future of Mesut Ozil.
Having previously flirted with the idea of leaving the club, the German signed a new £350,000-a-week deal, a staggering commitment to a player who’s finest displays have been infrequent at best.
The 30-year-old remains hugely talented, however his tendency to drift through games on the periphery, as well as his inability to influence the biggest occasions, has seen him targeted for criticism.
The playmaker needs a team suited to his needs, though Emery is perhaps unwilling to gamble on restructuring his side around a player who struggles for consistency.
His substitution for teenager Joe Willock in the club’s Europa League final defeat to Chelsea was the clearest statement yet of Emery’s frustration with the midfielder, who has been linked with a move away.
Ozil is Arsenal’s highest-paid player, however, he is no certainty to make Emery’s first-choice team. This represents a problem and waste of limited finances, but the problem is, who is going to take him on on those astronomical wages?
Laurent Koscielny’s refusal to join the club’s pre-season tour has given Emery a major headache, with the French defender throwing his toys out of the pram after Emery refused his request to return to France.
Koscielny is Arsenal’s club captain and his behaviour will no doubt anger the club’s supporters, the 33-year-old’s status as a favourite at the Emirates unlikely to last following his actions.
Even if Koscielny accepts he must honour the remaining year of his contract, he must surely be stripped of his role as captain.
The Arsenal side has lacked leaders for several seasons, and following the departures of Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey this summer it has been depleted further.
Granit Xhaka would likely be a contender, his influence having grown in recent seasons, however, his appointment is unlikely to be unanimously popular having been a much-maligned figure in the past.
Hector Bellerin or Alexandre Lacazette would perhaps be more popular choices with the Arsenal fanbase, however neither are proven on-field leaders.
Emery’s Arsenal tenure is about to begin its next chapter, the Spaniard will want to choose the right leader for his project.
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