The backbone of the 2026 PL-winning (and CL semi-finalist) team
We often flatter ourselves that albeit our current position – and often the performance – is not worthy of the club, but this is a transitional period, and we already have the young talents who are not only destined for greatness but will indeed achieve it in Arsenal’s jersey. I am a hardcore supporter, so I will not challenge this hope, but rather analyze which players already in the squad are capable of reaching world-class heights, and which positions do we need to focus are transfer activities to balance the team.
A few disclaimers in advance
- I expect this being a controversial topic, especially where I will put faith in players becoming first class that you consider Championship quality, and I apologize in advance if not including your favorite young talent.
- We don’t need 11-14 superstars to win the PL; every high performing team in history had a few ’just OK’ players, some even had free-riders, so unless you consider my nominee a particularly poor lad, we are not necessary in contradiction.
- I will break away from 2 major common knowledges of modern football: will not advocate for a mix of U21 and 30+ players, as well as discourage from buying/bringing 4-5 new players every summer transfer window.
- I will consider only the U23 squad with regards to future talents, so our promising contingent of the U18 team will not be included. Firstly they will be only about 20-21 in 4 years, and secondly we have very little intel at this time to foresee if some of them are indeed destined to greatness.
Rules of the „game”:
- Outfield players above 26 are disqualified. I will consider only guys born after 1993 – we already have a 2-years age gap there (nobody in the squad has been born in 1994). This will save me the conflict on Xhaka, of whom I have the highest regards, but including him in the title-winning squad would surely open Pandora’s box.
- Since goalkeepers are capable of performing on the highest level since their late 30s Leno has given a pass, unfortunately Partey had to be excluded. But this is only a game, so feel free to bend the rules when assembling your own preferred line-up including the then-32-years-old Ghanian.
- Under ’backbone’ I didn’t mean just 11 players, rather 17. For suspensions, injuries, substitutions and different formations we need extra legs. I will go into more details when discussing the particular positions.
Let’s go by position. Starting with the goalkeeper.
The goalkeeper question will be quick and easy. Leno is good, reliable and ’only’ 28. So although he is already in his prime, that period window could be extended to 2026. Having Martinez as the backup-keeper was great, and crucial for our 14th FA Cup winning campaign, but apparently it wasn’t sustainable.
There is no need to include a 2nd goalkeeper in the squad of 17, as this is a position that seldom gets injured, sent off or subject to rotation. Nevertheless I hope that Ryan turns out well (who is only 5 weeks younger than Bernd), and maybe we can nurture a good goalkeeper from Hein and/or Okonkwo.
What to do wit this position:
- don’t spend money on GK
- …beyond signing Ryan permanently if financially and professionally reasonable
I would like to have 6 capable defenders as the backbone. 3 CBs (for cover, rotation and sometimes even playing together in a back three), 2 full backs (one for each flank) and a deputy full back, who is capable of playing on both sides, and – more importantly – is comfortable with sitting on the bench for most PL games when both first-choice full backs are available. Of course there are no teams with only 6 defenders, but I would put minimal emphasis on the rest if we manage to get this 6 right.
When checking the current contingent, I’m quite optimistic. Luiz and Mari will be overage by 2025, but we have capable players in Arsenal. Apart from a couple of average games I believe Gabriel is already playing at a top level – let’s hope he stays fit and focused. He plays good with his feet and not error-prone. My other candidate for the 3 CB positions is obviously Saliba. While he is far from the required level at the moment, he only turns 20 in 5 weeks. He is tall and already got the ambition to try defense splitting passes from the back. If he continues his development (which is far from guaranteed), then we would be in the green zone. And call me naive, I wouldn’t look elsewhere for the 3rd center back either. Holding is clearly on the rise, Mavropanos is our most underestimated player (besides Nelson), and I secretly hope that one from Ballard or MacGuinness would come through. For the time being I would go with Mavropanos (to have 3 CBs where the shortest is 190cm), but I expect all of them to become reliable players in the next 4-5 years.
Regarding full backs it is easy to pick Tierney, as he is already probably the best left back in the league. I hope that he is on an unlucky streak and not injury prone, but the only priority with him is to stay fit. I have no shame or difficulties picking Belerin at RB, but I’m sure that this opinion is not unanimous. Nevertheless as long as he doesn’t leave us for a better team where he gets more appreciated I think we are not in a huge risk there. When Hector has his better games he is really good both defensively and offensively, but the proportion of his good games are slightly on the decline in the past years. If the coach manages to revert that, then we will have an exquisite defensive line in a few weeks. For the deputy full-back position Ainsley Maitland-Niles would be the obvious candidate, but – to be honest – I’m not entirely sure on his defensive skills, and he is not too keen on playing full back either. Which is a pity, as he has Arsenal DNA written all over him, he is a joy to watch taking penalties, and he has history on both flanks. And as stated above, it could prove difficult to sign a young starlet for a deputy position. But this is not in our hands, so let’s be patient as long as Soares can cover, and see what happens to AMN.
What to do wit this position:
- don’t spend money on defenders either, but
- give the youngsters the best coaching and support available
- we already have the talent, let’s not waste them
I would prefer to have 5 players here: 2 DMs, 2 CMs and an attacking midfielder. Let’s start with the latter, as it is an easy choice: Emile Smith-Rowe is a great talent and based on his current skills he is destined to the top. If he can stay fit and continue his rising trajectory then our AM role is filled for a while. Still, if we have the opportunity to sign Odegaard I would recommend going for it, as we could see against Leedsand Benfica that they can play together in the same team, and will not suck the minutes from each other. And AM is a high pressing position anyway, so they can substitute each other to prevent late-game fatigue and/or injuries.
Moving back to defensive and central midfield, all our current 3 DMs are reliable, but unfortunately over 27. For those 4 players I think 2 or maybe even 3 of them are within our reach. While the jury is still out, I like how Ceballos is playing, Dani is surprisingly good defensively for a CM, and his passing is smart and reliable. If we can buy him for 20-22M that seems like a no-brainer, but let’s see in the next few months if he can regularly repeat the quality he demonstrated against West Brom, CP and Leeds. For the sake of simplification let’s consider him and Guendouzi to halves: maybe both deliver or both turn out to be a flop, but I count 1 position covered. And I would allocate the 2nd position to one of our U23 starlets, hoping that at least 1 from Azeez, Cottrell, Cirjan and Matt Smith will break into the first team in the next couple of years (so now we don’t have to rely on Bandeira, Hutchinson, Patino or Flores). I’m afraid that we have to purchase the other 2 from the market. Instead of going for the relatively unknown South-American starlets around 10M or gamble with 30M players from the ambitious teams in top leagues I would go directly for the cream. Obviously not now, as we have Xhaka, Partey and Elneny in the squad, but in 2-3 years. For the defensive midfield I would prefer to sign Camavinga or Declan Rice. And for the CM position let’s go for Aouar, unless there is a sale on Frenkie de Jong. Or maybe Gravenberch turns out to be a hit in a few years… Again, this is something we don’t have to rush, unless we sell Elneny and Willock in the summer – which I wouldn’t mind, but I belong to the minority on this matter.
What to do wit this position:
- carefully check whom we can reintegrate to the team or sell for the right price
- stop this terminating contract + free transfer madness (Mustafi – who did not only earn MotM in his 2nd Schalke game, but also became player of the week; Mkhi, Sokratis)
- wait for the right moment, trim the squad and sign only a few players but from the top of their tier
Since AMs were already covered in midfield, I would settle for 5 players of high calibre for the attack. 3 wingers – preferably all of them capable of playing on both wings and 2 classic attackers. The great news is that we already employ 3 of the finest wingers: Saka, Martinelli and Pepe, and all of them can still improve in the upcoming years. Plus we have Nelson, whose future is already in jeopardy, but maybe he can still be saved. The bad news is, that we are less fortunate in the striker area. Aubameyang and Lacazette are both great players, but the 2 of them leave hardly enough minutes to youngsters – especially in a single-striker formation – to gain experience, develop and keep a consistently high quality. The question here is no longer if we can save both Nketiah and Balogun, but whether we can save any of them. (Not to mention Möller, as we couldn’t keep Sam Greenwood at the club.)
I don’t see we have any other choice than to let Auba run down his contract. Lacazette doesn’t have such a high salary – and is 2 years younger – so we can theoretically sell him this summer, especially as his contract ends in 2022. It would be a shame, as he provided some of the most important sparkles this season, but losing Balogun and Eddie would be an even bigger shame. And I assume I’m alone with the „let’s not sign anybody this summer!” opinion, so if Edu wants to bring in a striker like Odsonne Edouard or Patson Daka, then he definitely has to sell Lacazette. However my preference would be to keep them both, send Nketiah on loan and give Balogun a few hundreds of EL and cup minutes, but this ship has probably sailed already, as it didn’t happen in January.) The Lacazette strategy should be a delicate one, because if we don’t sell him this summer for a proper price then we should extend his contract, as losing a player of his caliber (as well as value and signing fee) as a free agent is something only the lamest clubs do. Nobody knows what the market will be like this summer, and it would be unwise to sell Alexandre for 18M anyway.
Independent from my preference there is a slight chance that Balogun will stay if and only if Lacazette is sold, so let’s pursue that scenario and assume that Eddie and Folarin will compete for the bench and the EL/cup position thus 1 of Nketiah, Balogun, John-Jules and Möller will stay beyond 2023 and will become a top striker in the PL. Still I would recommend to sign a top forward in 2023 when Auba retires (he makes too much money to keep beyond his 33th birthday, unless he returns to his 30+ goals per season habit), and I would again prefer a TOP 5 stiker instead of someone from a French or German mid-table team. Of course a lot can happen in the next 2 and a half years, but based on the current ’supply’ I would rather break the bank for Mbappe or Haaland (or their equivalent in 2023). Which could prove to be beyond our reality – as they would not be keen on joining a team aspiring to get the 3rd-4th place of the Premier League, but financially could be possible if we don’t spend unnecessary millions every summer and winter transfer window. (Salary shouldn’t be an issue, as Auba and Willian already earn over 250k/month which should be enough to anybody who doesn’t have an ego on par with his talent. But in 2023 we will remove both Willian and Auba from the wage bill, so theoretically we can go beyond 300k if absolutely necessary.)
What to do wit this position:
- rotate the 3-4 top players for the winger positions properly, so nobody gets untimely burnout, but still get the minutes necessary for their continuous development (this could be a challenge with Willian in the squad, but that ship has already sailed)
- make a wise decision on the Lacazette exit strategy taking only the club’s long-term best interest into account, independent from the supporters’ and agents’ pressure (this could also be a challenge as I’m not sure if the board possesses the required competency portfolio)
- nurture our current strikers so at least one reaches a level that all PL teams would be afraid of him
- when Auba and Willian leaves the club in 2023 purchase a top level striker in his early to mid 20s
Due to magnitude (character-count) reasons, this post ends here and returns in a few days with its conclusion rather than becoming TLDR.
How Arsenal’s 2026 PL-winning (and CL semi-finalist) team could look, what should Arsenal do and what should we avoid to get there?
Following and concluding my previous post on the backbone of our future golden generation, implying that we are only 4-5 years and 3 quality players away from becoming the best team in the UK and one of the best in Europe, let me wrap up with a few popular line-ups in different formations and the 12 laws to guide us on the path leading to it.
4-2-3-1 attacking (current)
5-3-2 counterattacking (a.k.a 3-5-2 Italian)
4-4-2 wing focus
4-4-2 central diamond with 2 forward wingers
4-3-3 RM/Liverpool style
4-1-4-1 (parking the bus)
So at the end of the day/season what should Arsenal do? And what should we avoid? Here are my 10 commandments on the topic – with some admittedly overlapping recommendations:
- Further trim the squad! While the current headcount of 26 is not insanely much, we have 7 players expected to come back from loan, and maybe a couple promotions from the Academy. So we should sell/release a few and find new, efficient loan destinations for those who are in Arsenal’s long-term plans.
- Don’t give in the temptation to sign players for non-critical positions. Manor Solomon could be a hidden gem, but we need a further winger like squirrels need wildfire. Same applies to Zaha, Dembele and Buendia, as well as attacking midfielders likeDraxler, Brandt and Coutinho. They are all evidently fine players, but – contrary to popular misbeliefs – would not make the team stronger, but weaker. I don’t fancy a new left-back either.
- When identifying positions needs strengthening, we cannot go and immediately purchase a superstar, unless/until the current players there are offloaded or retire. If we cannot resist buying, always sell at the same time or beforehand. The more is not the merrier any more. Make sure that the new guy is younger, and at the same time at least a clear level above our current player on the position, so only sign Odsonne Edouard or Jonathan David if we are positive they can score 20+ goals every season AND if we can sell Lacazette for a reasonable price. And it still wouldn’t help Nketiah’s case…
- Prioritize individual and team coaching. Focusing only on technical skills and tactical awareness is no longer enough. Motivation is key in order to reach a consistently high performance (which is painfully missing from Arsenal’s PL campaign), especially as the lads don’t play every minute of every game.
- When in debt, rather refrain from signing than going for lower quality players or unnecessary additions. Save money – and dressing room locker – on superfluous expenditures (including but not limited to astronomical salaries and transfers pressured by fans and pundits) to allow a critical addition a season later.
- Sign Ceballos or Odegaard permanently, preferably both of them. They are quality players, buying them permanently would be real reinforcements, so most of the above mentioned concerns don’t apply. Assess Ryan and buy him on the cheap if worth it.
- When we consider a utility/squad player for injury cover we shouldn’t aim for the best in position. To demand (the idea of) Fernandes competing with van de Beek and Wan Bissaka with Max Aarons for starting positions you have to be an entitled brat like most MU supporters. The competition among Giroud, Abraham and Werner didn’t turn out so well for Chelsea, so they are about to sign Haaland. I’m not even commenting that, TA would blue-pencil it anyway. J As I stated I’m not fond of buying a new left back, but if we must, shouldn’t look for Davies or Hernandes, but Dimarco or Karbownik.
- Give proper chances to the best academy players (maximum 1-2 per season), and sell or release the rest. But whoever makes it to the first team and proves themselves shouldn’t be hung out to dry.
- Forget about free signings combined with insane salary. It has never turned out well for us. Even if we must (?) go with a free transfer, better give a hefty sign-on bonus plus a salary on par with the other players in the team not to disrupt the balance in the dressing room. And no more swap deals involving players not on top of our shortlist.
- Review the coaching staff. Evaluate bringing Arsenal legends to the club (Bergkamp, Pires, Cazorla), or consider giving Luiz a player-coach role. Track record of past results could also play a role in appointing backroom staff.
- Stop signing players because we have a good relationship with their agent, because they are currently cheap, to land a blow to a rival or to make ourselves look fancy again. In fact, preferably refrain from signing anybody represented by Raiola, Felicevich, or any other disagreeable or unpleasent agent.
- Always have the club’s long-term interest in mind, nothing else. On one hand that means no individual comes before the club (player and staff alike), and on the other hand to prefer long-term gains over instant gratification.
55 thoughts on “How Arsenal’s Dream Team is Going to Win the Title in 2026”
Thanks for the publication, TA.
You didn’t split it in half after all. 🙂
Wow that is a mega post PB, kudos to you for all that hard work.
I’ll read it when I go to bed, it deserves to be enjoyed.
Thomas Partey joining in the training, is he going to be the surprise pick or on the bench?
Cheers PB, it was up to you to split it but it is okay as it is, and I would not have known where to split it anyway 😁
The teams you put up are all exciting, and you argue your case v well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
For me it is a bit too far in the future. I like to think about next season though, and if we can get a better RB for Hector and a left footed left attacker who can hold onto the ball this summer, then I will be over the moon.
Wow great job Peter! Just started reading and I’m with you on keepers and defenders already. We are pretty strong there if we have the solid backup like Ryan or similar. I think we’ll be envied for our young CBs by every team. We just need to use strong buyout clauses and make sure they don’t walk away like every other valuable asset we lose eventually. If someone wants to take our guys, make sure they pay well. I’ll get to the rest tomorrow, I want to read and enjoy the rest.
Thanks PB. Good food for thought.
Don’t mind a good teaser puzzle, and don’t see too much I’d disagree with.
Watched Dortmund take down Sevilla in the CL last week (3-2). EB Haaland assisting on the first. Scoring goals two and 3. What a beast. Runs like a winger. He might be the second coming of Ibrahimović. Feel you’re right on this– if Arsenal were to break open the piggy bank for a player? He’d be one of two, with Kylian Mbappe the other.
Many would argue that no player of that caliber would choose to come to Arsenal. Right now, I’d agree. But I’m of the mind that over the next year or two– what Arteta is building will become more attractive to top-flight talent. Arsenal again a desirable destination.
Develop Balogun, or find a functional striker through 2023/24. The following year, if all goes to plan? Begin pursuit of the frontman who can win a championship.
You can win with above average defenders. But you can contend with one great CB– and two more who compliment him well. Arsenal may already have those ingredients in the pot. The FBs seem to be more crucial in attack for MA than outright defenders. Only Tierney ticks all the boxes Arteta requires. Sometime earlier this season a similar question arose– and I expressed how much I like BHA’s Tariq Lamptey (age 20), if I were to look for a potential upgrade at RB (with Hector departing).
Other than The Kidz trio of Martinelli-ESR-Saka? The verdict is still out for me– on the others in your mix of players already in the Arsenal stable. Odegaard is possible, more so than the rest. Pepe would have to change his current stripes distinctly. The rest of the midfield (other than U23 Miguel Azeez, likely) has yet to be identified in my Team XVII. Maybe a player who hasn’t yet found their feet– or now playing a position they may prove less-suited for.
Other than a third winger, a reserve FB, a DM and a DM/CM? Eleven of 13 of my Team XVII are in the house. Buy Lamptey (sell Bellerin). Find a winger (possibly Pepe). That pair of MFers. Target one/two each Summer. The squad becomes deeper and more talented in the process.
By this point the team should have matured and progressed. Good, relative to the league. Finishing in CL places for a season or two would be the level to hope for and expect– by 2024. If it all looks right? Open the vault to land a Mbappe or Haaland type to play up front.
(If we’re going big?)
No injuries. Everybody stays happy and motivated. All the fans are exceptionally patient with the process too.
(Go really BIG! 😎)
Arsenal crowned 2025-26 Premier League Champions.*
With an FA Cup Double!
*at THOF with a clinching 6-0 win over Tony Pulis’ already-relegated Sp*rs.
(A boy can dream– yes?)
Fantastic press conference from Xhaka – Speaking on social media abuse:
“I’m the guy on the pitch, it’s not my wife, my little one or my family. If you want to criticise, criticise me. I wish I could meet these people, sit with them and ask ‘why are you writing these things’?”
The Social Media companies have a responsibility for what they allow on their platforms, this stuff would never be allowed in newspapers, on Tv and radio…
PB agree with your assessment of the goalkeeping position, Leno is as good as anyone out there and Ryan, if we sign him, seems a solid deputy, we just need to decide who is the No.3 from out of our many young goalkeepers at the club.
Interesting to read that Arteta is thought to be looking for another right-footed centre back, I’m not sure of the veracity of that rumour but it seems surprising if true?
As it stands I think that Holding, Mari and Gabriel are more than adequate and all we need is one more right footer to compete/cover/replace Rob depending on Arteta’s decision.
Saliba is a possible, Chambers I’m beginning to think we should move on to generate funds, Luiz to go, then there’s Ballard, McGuinness and Clarke who could be No.5 or No.6 in the pecking order depending on how Arteta rates them after the summer pre season?
Full backs, well Tierney is a given, Soares can fill in but I’d go for Max Aarons to replace Hector who seems to be angling for a change, depending on what we get for Hector and what Norwich want? Aarons is English so that would help the balance of the 25 man squad. Lopez and Brooks-Norton are the two full back shining lights in the academy.
DM is where it all happens, it’s where you Shield your back four, break the press and support the guys in the half spaces, it physical and it takes its toll so I’d have 3 in the engine room. Partey has shown us the level and size we should aim for so I’d go for another big unit who can be regularly rotated with Xhaka and Partey to keep them fresh and protect them from fatigue, you know similar to how we were when we had Vieira, Edu and Gilberto. So spend on a DM
Emile Smith Rowe has been an absolute gift from the Gods, none of us saw him coming and at the level he is attaining and the fitness he’s retaining, now I’m wondering if Miguel Azeez, whose in the process of a new contract, is going to be the guy who can cover for him because he certainly has all the tools to do so on what I’ve seen from him so far?
Arsenal will have limited funds this summer and must target the areas I feel are most in need of an upgrade and that might scupper a deal for Odegaard because I fear that Real Madrid are going to want £50/£60m for him and we might not be able to afford him and do everything else, but maybe we could take him on a loan again next season?
We’re gonna need to sell to generate funds this summer imo, so there might have to be some unpopular decisions insofar as outgoings. Maitland Niles, Willock, Chambers, Lacazette, Nketiah, Nelson, can they generate £120m? It won’t be popular but needs must if we are to upgrade and nobody is going to want to give us anything for Willian or maybe Elneny?
Saka is wonderful, he’s the cherry on the cake, Pepe is still a bit of an enigma but nobody is giving us our money back so Arteta has to maximise what he can from our mercurial winger come inside forward for the time being.
Balogun staying would be a major plus, but I’m not confident and Arteta doesn’t mention him anymore, Martinelli though is probably close to recovering from all his injuries and might have a productive end to the season and set himself up to join Smith Rowe and Saka as our three musketeers for next season.
Signing Haarland would be magical but how could we ever hope to afford him, so unless Edu is going to be very very very smart in the market we might be looking at an internal solution and as mentioned John Jules, who was playing centre forward before he got injured.
You are in fine form this morning, Kevski. I like reading those short and to the point comments a lot. 🙂
Xhaka at the press conference:
While the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe have dominated the Arsenal news agenda in recent months, Granit Xhaka’s excellent displays have not gone unnoticed.
The Switzerland international is enjoying arguably his best run of form in our colours, so what does he put it all down to?
“It is difficult to say if this is my best season, or if I’m just in good shape,” Xhaka told the media ahead of our Europa League clash against Benfica.
“The only thing I feel is I have a lot of confidence from the coach, I am in very good shape physically and as well mentally, and this is key to my game. For me everything has to be clear, what we want to do on the pitch and at the moment it is like this.
“The coach is helping me a lot, everyone knows he is one of the reasons why I am still at the club and I have a very good relationship with him and he is helping me every day, on the pitch and off the pitch. I am very thankful for him, because if you have a coach like this who gives you the confidence and the freedom, it is easier for the player.
“He was a midfielder so he knows the position exactly, this is very important for me because he can show me on the pitch my position, my body position with and without the ball, where I have to stay, how I can improve my game but as well the team’s game.
“For me everything is clear for what I have to do on the pitch and this is the most important thing for me to help the team. Of course from the outside some people speak and say this is not good or this is good, but in the end for me the most important thing is that the team, the manager and the staff are happy with me and of course myself. At the moment I feel very important for the team and I am in good shape.”
Thanks for the comments, guys.
It seems the player in the current squad that was subject to be replaced for most of you is Bellerin.
While I think Hector is having a good year (1 goal and 4 assists: more than Lamptey [1/3 but in less than half of the minutes], Aarons and only an assist short of TAA [1/5, who played 300+ minutes more and worth 4x Bellerin]), but I understand the expectations. And he is always rumored to Barcelona and PSG, so it is a possibility that he leaves this or the next summer. If this summer will be devoted to midfield improvement (my proposal: Willock, Elneny, Chambers and maybe even Maitland-Niles plus some cash for Ceballos and Odegaard) then we can deal with the full-back situation next year and the attack in 2023.
Buying a young player is always tricky, because if we buy the 20-year-old Lamptey that is a risk, as he is probably not yet on the level of Hector, and it takes time to become a clear improvement at RB. However if we wait until he proves to become a consistently high quality full back, that would increase his price and will attract more suitors – significantly reducing the chances of Arsnela’s offer get accepted. Tha same has already happened to Aarons, who is already associated with MU and Bayern Munich.
I like Kev’s recommendation on Lopez and Norton-Cuffy, but if we were going to town for a RB I would go for Nordi Mukiele of RB Lepizig (4 goals & 2 assist).
Great post btw way Pete, it took me awhile and I read and responded piecemeal, yeah I get what you mean about full backs and any business we do in that area, which may or may not depend on whether Hector stays or goes and if Arsenal get a tempting offer because that offer may not be there in 12 months time?
Bellerin of course is registered as home made so he fits into our 8 English contingent of the 25. That’s why I suggested Aarons because he’s English and it’s a one in one out situation, it’s a fine balancing act.
Cheers Total, I’m actually quite interested in what Arsenal are going to do this summer because squad wise we’re at a bit of a crossroads, Edu set the ball rolling in January and this summer will be like part II where we move away from the Raul/Emery signings and move on a few more big earners, possibly…
TA, I know I’m getting boring for using every opportunity to advocate the small team concept and demand squad trimming (and it will get worse, my friend), but who would you sacrifice when shopping for a left footed left attacker? Martinelli, Saka, Pepe or Willian? Our team is already so big, that Nelson, who was voted young player of the month in the Bundesliga 2 times in 2018 has no choice but to play for our U23 team. Unless we reduce the number of attacking players it would be suicide to sign a new guy. The reason Balogun won’t sign a new contract is not that he doesn’t love Arsenal, but because he has no chances to play. He is the #4 attacker, but even if we sold Nketiah and Balogun “inherits” his 1100 senior minutes he would not be satisfied. Especially when our #2 attacker is also underutilized, as Lacazette’s 1650 minutes look pale when compared to youngsters like Nunez (2400+), Haaland, David (both 2200), Kean, Felix, Isak, Sargent (all around 1900) to keep them on their massively developmental trajectory.
Kev, when you said: “Emile Smith Rowe has been an absolute gift from the Gods, none of us saw him coming” I b(r)eg to differ. Almost 9 month before his introduction to Arteta’s line-up (with only a single starting debut under Ljunbgberg) I forecasted him becoming our long-term AM, and you yourself called our attention on him back in 2018.
It was mostly a matter of time, persistence, opportunities – as well as some luck – to board on the train to fulfill his potential.
I think Pepe needs replacing, PB. And possibly Willian if he doesn’t improve soon. I would also sell one of Auba or Laca this summer.
Pete, my memory isn’t what it used to be…. 😉
But an interesting theory on Balogun you made there Pete, let’s expand mio amigo.
You are Foloran Balogun and you’re looking at the present Arsenal situation and you can see that your team mate Nketiah has flatlined and you’ve scored in a couple of goals in your nascent 1st team career.
Your stock is high and the two senior guys in the 1st team are moving into the veteran stage, would you not think that the opportunity to nail a starting berth at one of the biggest clubs in Europe is within your grasp? All you have to do is sign the contract and by now you’d be on the bench regularly in Premier League games and maybe have 10 appearances under your belt?
Instead his agent is hawking him around Europe…
I seldom read long comments but I started to read yours and could not stop reading.You have a fine understanding of the players in both the 1st and U23 squads which makes for a very enjoyable read.
I have little of no knowledge of the European players – to me they are just names but you obviously know them well.
I wish I could have a more interactive discussion with you on the subject of our long term hopes but I don’t think of our squad as far out as 2026 -I just hope I’m still around to see them.
Further on Balogun per Arteta from Arseblog about 6 weeks back:
“Again his progression and the use of the time he’s had with us, has been incredibly good, and he will keep having chances when he is with us.
Pressed on the contract situation, after Balogun Tweeted that he was ready for a big year, Arteta said, “Well, you need three parties to make a deal.
“For sure the club wants to make a deal and the manager wants to make a deal; the player wants to stay; and I’m not sure about the agent.”
Then asked if the agent, who also represents fellow Arsenal youngsters Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson, was a problem, he clarified, saying, “I’m not saying he’s stopping it, but we need to find an agreement with him.
“We are negotiating in the end with an agent, and a player who wants to stay at the club, and we need to find an agreement.
The idea that the same agent reps that contingent of players– specifically Eddie? To me means there is great potential for conflict of interest. Likely why Arteta and the club are playing this hand close to the vest.
Look, Kev, I’m merely speculating.
But I think he has not yet signed for a decent PL, Bundesliga, Championship or La Liga club where he is guaranteed 2500 minutes next season, because he is hoping for a scenario where Lacazette is sold this summer (which makes sense, as his contract runs out next year, and Arsenal either sells him while he has some market value or renews his contract, risking perpetuating a senior striking partnership and also that he will leave for free at the age of 33), and Nketiah goes for a loan next season. He can become the #2 striker behind Auba, substituting him occasionally, spearheading the attacks in cup games, plus whenever Auba is injured or suspended and even he could play up front in 4-4-2 or with the captain on the wing.
If these events don’t happen he will leave, and it will be completely justified. The club will officially wish him all the best along with many supporters, but I will not be among them – which is also justified I guess.
I know you are Pete and I enjoy what you write, I’m just putting a different spin on things to generate debate, I’m actually still hopeful that we can come to an arrangement with Balogun and this agent has previous because he did the same when we were trying to persuade Reiss Nelson to sign.
That’s a very good point regarding Lacazette and then there’s the Celtic guy you mentioned apparently available for £15m, which seems a steal and I find hard to believe unless Celtic are desperate for finance.
That is some write up there, PB; followed by some good comments and insights. I shall just make a preliminary comment, not going to be as in-depth, as a lot has already been said above.
I am not looking that long term for our team to start challenging for the title or going far in Europe. I feel with two good transfer windows and promoting right, we should be ready to challenge by 2023 season and I am serious about that.
The likes of ESR, Saka, Martinelli and Nelson are already getting minutes or around and about the first structure. We have Saliba, Gabriel, Chambers and Holding who would have come of age in the next two seasons, defensively. I do feel we need to do better than Bellerin at right back to win the league, though. You mentioned Mavropanos, who looks a proper EPL CB. We may have to keep buying, at least, one player each summer to improve our midfield, otherwise I won’t be mad if we still had Xhaka and Partey about; Miguel Azeez is bound to be a factor too, in the next 4 years. All that put together suggests a side good enough to challenge and win the title if we continue on the current trajectory, with Arteta.
We have a good side already and they only need to develop greater trust in one another, try to look after the ball better; get a good right back and a striker who can hold the ball and refuse to be pushed about by defenders…… we would be good to do great things.
Here are my predictions for the choices:
West Brom vs Brighton… Home
Leeds vs Aston Villa……. Draw
Newcastle vs Wolves….. Home
Leicester vs Arsenal…… Away
Chelsea vs Man Utd…… Draw
Sevilla vs Barcelona….. Draw
Appreciate the reminder Eris–
West Brom vs Brighton = Away
Leeds vs Aston Villa = Home
Newcastle vs Wolves = Away
Leicester vs Arsenal = Away
Chelsea vs Man Utd = Home
Sevilla vs Barcelona = Home
Thanks again GN5!
You have some good points there, Eris, and we are in agreement that Arsenal is only 2-3 quality players away from being a serious title challenger. The problem is, that unlike Chelsea (Havertz, Werner, Chilwell, Kovacic, Kepa, Pulisic, Jorjinho, Morata, Kante) we cannot afford to go and just buy a top player whenever we want, so we have to be better at selling and succession planning. Both that is painfully missing from the club’s portfolio of competency (with the exception of the smart sales of Iwobi, and partly AOC). So we have to take into account the contracts of the players and making smart decisions when is it time to sell, renew, run out or terminate.
It is simply not sustainable to have a situation like the beginning of this year where we started with 9 (!) CBs, and while we managed to loan Mavropanos and (unprofessionally) demoted Saliba to the U23 team – excluding him from the playing lists – even with Chambers and Mari being injured for the first 3 months we couldn’t give enough minutes to Sokratis and Mustafi to generate some demand for themselves. Basically we managed this season with relying on the services of Holding, Gabriel, Luiz adding Mari and Mustafi to the rotation for a pathetic 500-500 minutes (out of the possible 3500) while paying the full salary of further 3 CBs who didn’t play and their market value diminished.
I’m not saying that buying Mari – as we needed a left footed CB – or Saliba – whose signing looked like a steal for his age, performance and price – were mistakes, but buying players to positions where we don’t have vacancy without selling is just burning money. Which – unlike Chelsea – we don’t have. The same applies to the goalkeeper situation. This is insane to have 4 first team keepers and further 4 at U23 level when Leno plays practically every game. And the winger contingent as well.
So while I agree that we need midfield reinforcements I would recommend to ‘kick-off a single improvement project’ every transfer window, not more. This summer we should sort out the striker situation, deciding the mid- or long-term fate of Lacazette, Nketiah and Balogun. (We could replace Bellerin if – and only if – there is a good offer for him, as I don’t really see him playing second fiddle, and I’m not sure we should sell Soares at this time either.) And we have to find out what to do with the current midfield players, and keep maximum 3 out of Willock, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Ceballos and Odegaard. Assuming we have a saying in the latter two letting them return from loan would be the least costing solution, but also the one least improving the team.
Taking it all round, we should not look for new faces this summer, but trim the squad – which would inevitably improve the playing level consistency. While it is custom to sign a few players every window I seriously think we should stop doing that. Even if they arrive at a young age, with such a large squad we don’t have the proper process to introduce them to the first team before they rightfully start demanding senior minutes. Saka is obviously a success story, and maybe AMN too in some (albeit small) extent, but there were a lot more potential in Willock, Nelson, Nketiah, Balogun, (Gnabry, Malen, Bennacer, Reine-Adélaïde). Hell, even ESR had to wait for 2 years and 3 months to play for Arteta after he debuted in the EL under Emery, and injuries had played only a small part in that. He is really good now, but imagine how good he could be if were treated like Saka from the beginning…
No new faces this summer… and that is your advise, PB?! Well I have to give it to you that you don’t mind to put your head out!
I think few will agree with you, maybe our warrior from Normandy would. 🙂
But well argued nevertheless and I hope you will NOT get your way, as we really are a couple of quality players short for next season, as others have pointed out. Yes some young players can make it but not straightaway to the required level, even though ESR and Saka have been exceptional this season. I have no doubt that Arteta will let go about five to seven players again this summer – yound and ‘old’ – and will buy between 3-5 players and promote a few youngsters.
I have not much to add to what I wrote in last week’s Arsenal v Benfica preview. I predict a very strong team with Partey partnering Xhaka if he is fit enough to start:
Bellerin (ideally Soares) – Rob – Luiz – Tierney
Partey – Xhaka
Saka – ESR – Auba
——- Laca ———–
Gabriel instead of Holding as Rob is off with concussion Total but the rest of that team seems the logical starting XI…
Oh yeah of course, Kevski. Big Gab will work well in that formation.
Remember fellow BKers….. It is an E A R L Y K I C K O F F !!!
PB, obviously you have put a great deal of thought into this and, in that form, it is hard to argue with you. I agree we need to improve on succession planning and your allusion to the potency of a “single improvement project” is appealing too. However, some may feel this is a Utopian outlook to the matter, which never works so precisely.
I am sure we could use some addition(s) in midfield, which must be an upgrade on what we have presently. That singular action can reduce pressure on our defence and help the attack too. It gets better if you add a striker who can score, hold up play, retain possession and won’t be pushed about.
As for having a quiet summer, that will surely cause disquiet among the fan base and elicit further bashing of the club management. We must keep trying to add till we get it right, over the next few windows.
All in all, PB, you make a good case, worthy of a look-in by the club’s management. 👌
Really nice temperature in the Edinburgh of the South for the boys today. 🙂
23 David Luiz
32 Smith Rowe
14 Aubameyang (c
17 Cédric Soares
Lasa IS on the bench 😊
Nine out of eleven Total – pretty good…………I also wonder about Laca Kev – maybe he’s injured?
They have two version’s of the team on Arsenal.com Total – one with Laca the other without?
I guess we’ll find out shortly which version is correct.
Well… it’s not full of rotation, but an exciting line-up with a ball-playing defense, a strong midfield and a really young and creative attacking trio behind Aubameyang nonetheless.
This is not a final, “just” a must-win based on the capabilities of the players.
Vertonghen has always, I mean always, been a dirty player. On those Poch Tottenham teams with many other dirty players including Kane, I hated them.
He never got over being spurned by us. We wanted him as a left back, he wanted assurances of being CB. So had to go to spuds.
Ceballos! Bad foul. Damn it! He’d better make up for that. Today.
Well talk about handing it to them on a silver platter, what a dumb goal to concede, it’s all about game management and some of our players could do with going on a management course.
Not sure about this referee though, why do we attract all the dorks, surely that was an over the top challenge in the opening minutes and a straight red card?
The Benfica players certainly looked to have a spring in their step at half time…
Yeah painful goal to concede as it rules out our away goal advantage. Every goal conceded next means we have to score two to not lose it.
I can’t believe Ceballos potentially, single handedl, knocked us out of the competition.
All well that ends well, guys.
Well J, you can’t say I have not said many a time that Ceballos cannot defend positionally. He picks a good pass so play him, if you must, in the Three behind Auba.
Proud of the team’s response and the Saka Auba combo was fabulous. Tierney… What a tiger!
Tierney made that happen. It was force of will. Our real captain.
I was watching that ball Ceballos misplayed and it was like watching a car accident in slow motion. I wanted him to back up more and head forward… could see he wasn’t gonna reach it.
Aubameyang like so many other great strikers can be feast or famine. We saw in these 2 legs, it just about evened out because he really blew the first leg.
Nobody quite puts you thorough the emotional wringer like Arsenal, what the hell do they think they’re doing to us?
As for Ceballos, did he have a bet on the result, what a clot…?
Auba was great tonight. Saka plays like he is 29.
Agreed re Tierney but Partey also makes a difference.
That was one roller coaster ride of emotions. Arsenal would be the death of me,….
I thought Willian did his fair bit to change the game, at a crucial time for us. In a game when we needed to be patient towards the end, the subs had to be spot on. And they were. We move onto Sunday.
Eris, to be fair, Willian has clearly been trying very hard to make impact when he comes in, on both sides of the ball. I’m cheering for him. I get the feeling that he understands why he isn’t starting, despite his career, salary etc. I think he wants to play for pride, and I respect that. I’d love to become his biggest fan.
Everybody must still be in shock, we’ll wait until the draw because I reckon we’ll get Man U or Tottenham to cut down on travel issues.
Yes Eris, good point about the subs as they did make a difference and Willian did what we needed him to do and not least set up Tierney.
So J, you are now the anointed chairman of the Willian Appreciation Society of BK, US branch, congratulations and we all now know who to blame in future… 😆
New Post 🙂
Lol Kev 😀