Following Arsenal’s victory at the weekend in the final match of the 2015/16 English Premier League season and the improbable second place league finish there is a feeling in many of the circles around the club that transfer activity at Arsenal in the summer is likely to increase more than in recent years.
As Arsenal’s title challenge faltered too soon once again this year and with growing tension between Arsène Wenger and supporters, the long-tenured manager may be forced to abandon his usual conservative purchases and trusting youth strategy and dip into the market for more established and veteran players. With each passing season there are more and more cries for more Arsenal transfers each summer as charges of underachievement and record cash in the club’s coffer continue to accrue.
Some players such as Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, and Tomas Rosicky are definitely set to move on as their contracts will expire and will not be renewed. In the case of Arteta, the Spaniard is likely to retire and take up a coaching role on Pep Guardiola’s incoming coaching staff at Manchester City next season.
Others are likely to move on, with the English trio of Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all already linked with moves away. The recent long-term injury suffered by Danny Welbeck may have also given a stay of execution on Olivier Giroud’s time at the club—the same could apply to Walcott—as it had recently felt like the Frenchman’s time at the Emirates was also coming to a close.
Wlebeck’s setback has thrown open the door to speculation as to Wenger possibly being forced to purchase a striker who can either provide back-up to or an upgrade on Giroud. The 29-year-old’s time at the Emirates has been turbulent despite his decent scoring record over the course of his time in England. Every summer he’s been deemed replaceable or upgradeable at the very least by certain pundits and fans alike. It seems as though Arsenal will most definitely be in the market to purchase a striker.
In midfield, Granit Xhaka’s proposed move from Borussia Mönchengladbach looks to be nearing its final stages. The Swiss midfielder’s move looks set to upgrade the position currently held by Francis Coquelin. Coquelin’s presence in midfield has been steady since his return to the club last year, but he is yet to prove that he can provide enough consistent quality over the course of an entire season.
Xhaka’s imminent arrival and the January signing of Egyptian Mohamed Elneny should be enough for the Gunners in the centre of midfield. However, some of the younger players’ careers out on the flanks, such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s and Serge Gnabry’s, have seemed to stall or been disappointing. Jack Wilshere’s constant injury problems and fitness battles may also force Wenger to have a rethink about rotation options in midfield and the wider areas of the park in potential Arsenal transfers.
Nacho Monreal’s emergence as the first choice left-back has meant diminished playing time for Kieran Gibbs. If the player who came up through the academy at Arsenal were to move on it would mean a full-back would certainly be needed in the market.
Per Mertesacker is another who has seen diminished playing time of late at centre-back and it asks questions of his future. It is likely that he has been benched of late to give Gabriel a run in the side to see how he partners with Laurent Koscielny since the title change had faltered, so he may well still feature in Wenger’s plans.
With an improbable second place finish in the table there is one other thing that looms large on the Arsenal horizon which may force a summer of increased spending. Despite yesterday’s optimal outcome and fan goodwill, finishing behind North London rivals Tottenham for the first time in twenty years could’ve been seen as a club failure. The threat of Spurs nearly topping Arsenal for the first time in a generation may serve as a wake-up call to Wenger to be more proactive in the summer transfer window.
The feeling of rivals being in the ascendency, the growing financial power around the league from the influx of television money and the perception that Arsenal yet again underachieved may all be catalysts forcing Wenger’s hand to be more assertive than he has been in the last decade. When you add in the definite departures of Arteta, Flaimini and Rosicky in midfield, it seems nearly a certainty.
Record cash on hand, the possibility of finishing behind arch rivals, another year without a league title, players leaving, and a long-time manager in the last year of his contract. Interesting times are ahead in the very near future for the red half of North London in a possible summer of upheaval.