Arsenal have found themselves in a precarious position in the early stages of the season, already suffering defeats at the hands of Liverpool, Stoke City and Watford to find themselves nine points behind early pacesetters Manchester City.
The Gunners now look set for a fight to qualify for the Champions League, after being absent from Europe’s elite competition for the first-time in 22 years this season, but the majority of the talk is surrounding off-field problems.
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’ future remains in the forefront of many of the discussions concerning Arsenal this season, with the duo likely to leave in the next year as their contracts are due to expire at the end of the season- and there’s a real danger they could move to Premier League rivals, which would see them follow in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s footsteps.
Replacing this pair will be the priority for Arsenal, although Wenger remains hopeful they will stay, but the Gunners will have to go big in January to keep their fans happy if the pair do move elsewhere.
Big boots to fill
Arriving at Arsenal in 2013, Mesut Ozil was at the time Arsenal’s most expensive ever signing and he proved to be a tremendous capture. Whilst sections of the media have remained unconvinced on his performances, he’s played a key-part in the side that’s won three FA Cups in the past four years and was a PFA Player of the Year nominee in 2016.
Alexis Sanchez, who joined a year later after the 2014 World Cup, has become equally crucial to Arsenal and hit the elite level last season with his electric performances in front of goal, after a change led to him leading the line.
The reliability on Alexis in front of goal has decreased with the summer signing of Alexandre Lacazette, who replaced Ozil as the club’s most expensive ever recruit when he arrived from Lyon, but the Chilean still provides a spark that gets fans excited- and one that Arsenal seem to struggle finding elsewhere.
Ozil, although he continues to divide opinion, is in a similar boat. On his day, he’s one of the best attacking midfielders in the world and there’s still a consensus that the Gunners are yet to get the best out of him- although that could change this year with Lacazette.
Who could come in?
In reality, despite their hopes, the odds are that the pair will leave and Arsenal must prepare for a future without this pair. They need to identify quickly exactly who they want to bring in- with the stand-out choice likely to be Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, a player who was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal in the summer.
One signing won’t be enough to appease fans though and Lemar would likely take Alexis’ slot on the left-hand side of the attack, leaving an attacking midfield spot free- and Arsenal could again look to France for the ideal signing.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Julian Draxler, another player regularly linked with Arsenal, could provide the spark that the Gunners would lack with a loss of Ozil and the 24-year-old would provide a long-term boost.
With Lemar being just 21, Arsenal would replace their top-class pairing with two extremely talented and highly-rated young players who could go on to become superstars at the Emirates Stadium- and that might just appease the angry supporters.
The money problem
The issue, as it’s regularly seemed to be, is money. Arsenal regularly state they have the finances to complete big deals and have shown that with the captures of Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, but they’re still regularly eclipsed in the market by their Premier League rivals.
Neither Draxler or Lemar would come cheap, so Arsenal would have to show their financial prowess to get the deals over the line, and selling clubs would be aware of the Gunners’ desperation- which will only drive the price up.
That’s the cost in modern football though and Arsenal need to literally put their money where their mouth is if they’re to fight for a Premier League title that’s eluded them since 2004 and quell their noisy neighbours Tottenham Hotspur, who’ve been a better side in the past two or three years.
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