If you’ve been following Arsenal Twitter today, you’ll no doubt be painfully aware by now that Mikel Arteta has won more trophies in just eight months in management than Tottenham have in over a decade, than Mauricio Pochettino has in his entire managerial career, and more than Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola managed in their first seasons with their current clubs.
So that must mean all is rosy in Arsenal land, right? Well, for anyone who’s followed the Gunners for the last 15 years or so, it should be obvious that that’s rarely the case, and especially now.
Arteta has certainly done a fine job to steer the club to silverware and to Europa League football, and deservedly so after seeing off strong City and Chelsea teams at the semi-final and final stages, with the Spanish tactician showing clear signs of turning this team into more than the sum of its parts with a renewed sense of spirit and determination that has been sorely lacking for so long.
But there is no hiding from the fact that Arsenal have also just suffered their lowest league finish in 25 years, and absolutely have to get this summer’s transfer window right to avoid another disaster next term.
Here’s our five-point plan for what Arteta needs to do next in order to build on Saturday’s Wembley triumph…
If Arsenal manage only one out of the five tasks on this list, make it this one. It cannot be overstated how important Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is to Arsenal. This was true before he hit a brace in both the semi-finals and final of the FA Cup (becoming the first player in 30 years to do so, by the way), but his big-game moments highlight just how much this immediately becomes a different team if he goes.
The Gabon international is an elite centre-forward who could play for any top club in Europe. Persuading him to see out the final few years of his career at the Emirates Stadium won’t be easy, but he has flourished under Arteta and there truly seems now to be a project unfolding that he could be a big part of.
Aubameyang is in the final year of his contract, so holds all the cards, and losing him for a reduced fee will surely mean Arsenal will have nowhere near the kind of money required to sign anyone half as good as him. Whatever money he wants in his contract, it’s surely worth Arsenal paying it, because his departure would be near-impossible to recover from.
Arsenal have been given a cash boost by securing Europa League football for next season, but they could do themselves another big favour by getting their highest earner Mesut Ozil off their wage bill.
The German playmaker is no longer in Arteta’s first-team plans, and there cannot be any justification for having this drain on the club’s finances sitting on the bench week in, week out for another year. Finding buyers for him will be tough, but the Gunners have to find some way of convincing teams to gamble on him, perhaps by setting a very low asking price, or by offering him out on loan on the condition that his wages can be split.
And it’s not just about money with Ozil; he remains a big enough name that any time he’s not in the team it’s a big unwanted distraction for Arsenal. Arteta has enough problems to contend with without the addition of this soap opera lingering in the background.
Whether it’s extending his loan by another season or signing him permanently, Arsenal have to keep hold of Dani Ceballos.
The Spain international got off to a slow start at the Emirates, but has recovered after some fitness problems and benefited hugely from becoming the departure of Unai Emery and the arrival of Arteta as manager.
Ceballos is now a key part of how Arsenal play, with his intelligent passing and work rate making him perfect for Arteta-ball and surely a big part of the club’s future.
Sign a midfielder
Even if Arsenal keep Ceballos, a new midfielder must also be a priority this summer as an upgrade on the struggling Matteo Guendouzi, while Lucas Torreira’s career has also not really panned out as expected.
Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey is a target for Arsenal, CaughtOffside understands, but there are concerns about affording his asking price, though if they can work out a way to structure the deal, the Ghana international could be an ideal signing to improve this team in a problem area.
Arteta has done fine work to get Granit Xhaka performing again, but there doesn’t look to be a similar way back for Guendouzi, so signing Partey or someone similar would be ideal.
Sign a defender
And finally, Arsenal’s defensive vulnerabilities haven’t gone away just after a few good games, with a new signing at centre-back surely another priority for the summer ahead.
David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi have improved under Arteta, and William Saliba is set to link up with the squad after showing huge promise at Saint-Etienne, but another big investment in that area of the pitch is surely needed.
It’s also worth noting that Arsenal have looked particularly solid with the use of a back three recently, so Arteta will require extra squad depth next season, particularly as the likes of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Calum Chambers surely aren’t reliable enough backup options.