This summer’s transfer window is the biggest that Arsenal have faced in their recent history after finishing eighth at the end of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign.
After missing out on a place in Europe for the first time in 25 years, the Gunners and Mikel Arteta know just how big a challenge they face this summer to transform their fortunes.
Arteta, alongside technical director Edu, require a mass overhaul within the squad, offloading substandard players who no longer figure in their plans and adding players of real quality, capable of pushing them closer towards the Champions League and helping the club regain some much-needed respect and competitive edge once again.
Initially reported by The Telegraph, Arsenal are expected to target at least two new full-backs, a centre-forward, and a central midfielder this summer, depending on outgoings. Since then, a whole host of names have been linked with moves to the Emirates Stadium to strengthen these specific areas within the squad.
Furthermore, as well as looking to add to those five areas of the squad, the Gunners are also on the hunt for a new centre-back and a striker.
With David Luiz recently leaving the club after his contract expired and the continued uncertainty surrounding the future of William Saliba, the Gunners have expressed their interest in signing Brighton & Hove Albion centre-back Ben White in the last week, seeing an opening bid within the region of £40 million knocked back by the Seagulls. However, they are expected to make a second bid closer to Brighton’s £50 million valuation for the highly promising young defender.
As well as being linked with a big-money move for White, The Telegraph has indicated that the Gunners are keen admirers of Everton striker Dominic Calvert Lewin, currently away with England at Euro 2020.
With the Gunners eyeing up a replacement for Alexandre Lacazette, who only has a year remaining on his current contract, it has been claimed that Arsenal are keeping on the tabs on the 24-year-old striker. Calvert Lewin, who scored 25 goals for club and country last season, would provide a more potent threat in attack and at the age of just 24, his best years are surely ahead of him and could prove to be a superb signing.
As well as being interested in White and Calvert-Lewin, Arsenal remain keen on signing Leicester City attacking midfielder James Maddison, valued at approximately £60million by the Foxes. Maddison is high up on Arteta’s agenda, especially after losing out to Aston Villa on Norwich’s Argentinian playmaker Emi Buendia, and the Spaniard sees him as a top target to strengthen the attacking-midfield berth at the Emirates Stadium this summer. Maddison would prove competition to fellow England attacking midfielder Emile-Smith Rowe at the Emirates Stadium and, if signed, would mark a real statement from Arteta’s side as they aim to fight for a Champions League position in the forthcoming campaign.
Additionally, Arsenal have also been strongly linked with Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma, but it is understood that the club are hoping to tie up a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga.
Arsenal saw a £12.9million bid for the Belgium defensive-midfielder rejected recently, but there is increasing optimism that a deal can be agreed to sign Lokonga, with reports on from Belgium suggesting Arsenal had made a new €14m offer plus €3m in bonuses for the midfielder. The indication is that it still wouldn’t be quite enough to tempt Anderlect into selling the highly-rated 21-year-old, but negotiations are ongoing and could be an excellent signing to partner Thomas Partey in a new look midfield for Arteta’s side, with Granit Xhaka expected to complete his move to Italian side Roma in the coming weeks.
With Hector Bellerin expected to depart the Gunners summer after 10 years at the club, Arteta and Edu are likely to sign a top replacement for the Spaniard. Being linked with the likes of Inter Milan’s Achraf Hakimi, Norwich’s Max Aarons and Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey, a player the Gunners could look to target in this position is PSV Eindhoven’s Denzel Dumfires, currently starting for The Netherlands at Euro 2020. Due to his attacking threat, excellent delivery and strong defensive capabilities, the 25 year old would be an ideal replacement for Bellerin and may be a financially more viable option then the likes of Hakimi, Aarons or Lamptey this summer.
Finally, another player Arsenal maintain a keen interest in is Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, with the Gunners in pole position to sign the 25-year-old. The Cameroonian has been identified as a suitable long-term replacement for Bernd Leno, should the German seek for a move away from the Emirates Stadium this summer. Onana is poised to be available for a bargain fee of just £7million this summer with just one year remaining on his current contract at Ajax. However, he is currently banned from playing football nationally or internationally until November after returning a positive drug test but remains a firm target for Arsenal and Arteta.
Should Arsenal get deals over the line for all six of the names mentioned this summer, what would be their strongest starting line-up ahead of the forthcoming season, but only when Onana’s ban has been lifted in early-November
Predicting that Arteta will stick with his preferred 4-2-3-1 system, Onana could line up between the sticks once he is permitted to play from November, presuming that he has arrived to replace current number one Leno.
From right to left, Denzel Dumfires could be lining up I the right-back position, with it looking increasingly likely that Hector Bellerin will probably leave the club this summer, could be joined in defence by White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney, reported to be close to signing a new contract with the Gunners.
Thomas Partey would be partnered by Lokonga to protect the defensive-line and form the midfield double pivot in front of the back four, while Bukayo Saka would take up residency on the right of the advanced midfield three, with Maddison operating in the middle and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming in off the left. However, after a particularly impressive end of the campaign last season, Ivorian Nicolas Pepe could consider himself unlucky not to have a starting position within the XI at the start of next campaign, but surely Arteta will not leave out his captain and talisman within his first choice XI at the start of next season despite his struggles last campaign.
Calvert Lewin would spearhead the attack as the lone striker, looking to provide the goals which can fire Arsenal to an elusive Champions League position and helping them become a real competitive force within the Premier League once more.
Predicted Arsenal 2021/22 First Choice XI
Onana; Dumfries, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Lokonga; Saka, Maddison, Aubameyang; Calvert-Lewin.