Operation Arsenal: What The Gunners Need To Do To Escape Mediocrity Before Next Season

Operation Arsenal: What The Gunners Need To Do To Escape Mediocrity Before Next Season
May 19, 2017

Arsenal Featured

If you’re a fan of Arsenal Football Club, it’s a safe bet that you have experienced frustration, displeasure, indignation, or some other synonym for anger this football season in what has been arguably the worst since Bruce Rioch led his Arsenal side to 5th place in the 1995/96 Premier League season. For years, many would claim that Arsene Wenger was the professor, the right man for the job and the one to conclude Arsenal’s long awaited hunt for another Premier League title. But following the abysmal season at the club, he’s become the centre of repression, with no signs of turning back.

With many at the club on the hunt for major honours and confident ambition in Europe’s finest competition, major changes will be needed in the summer to “Make Arsenal Great Again” and prevent the London giants from stagnating into the realms of becoming a team challenging for a top 7 finish – perhaps reactionary, but certainly a strong possibility. With that being said, the following takes a look at everything the Gunners must do before the start of the 2017/18 season.

Sort Out The Arsene Wenger Fiasco

One of the key talking points amongst Arsenal fans this season has been regarding the future of legendary manager Arsene Wenger. After winning the FA Cup with the club in 2014, thus ending a nine-year wait for a major honour, the French manager agreed on a luxury new three-year deal, expiring at the end of May 2017. Whilst the critically acclaimed ‘Le Professeur’ has consistently denied talks regarding his future at the club, one thing for sure is that he will still be managing next season.

Albeit experiencing some of his worst moments as a football manager, in this three-year period, since taking the realm of the North London club over twenty years ago, the fan base, and reportedly the Arsenal board themselves, are divided over whether or not the Frenchman should still be managing the club next season. The debacle has seen banners be flown across matches, reported unrest between key members of staff, and even threatening abuse hurled towards the man many have claimed to be one of the greatest ever.

Despite there being many areas that the club need to work on in the summer, they must assure themselves that they prioritise the manager’s condition to assure the progress of the club in the long-term future. For years, Arsene Wenger has acted the role of the dictator, one who aspires for as much power as possible and maintains very little threat from those around him, even if he is failing.

Regardless of all the love, passion, and joy, that the man has brought the fans over the years, past achievements should not be able to dictate the future of the club, and this is something the board must seize control over. Should the Frenchman renew, those with power will need to assure that competent changes and improvements are made to enhance a difference for next season – such as the introduction of a Director of Football that has been reported on in recent months, which Wenger strongly objects, but I’ll go into more detail on that later. Howbeit, if the legendary manager relinquishes the keys to London’s finest club, it’s crucial that the man who succeeds him is capable of charging the Gunners to glory.

Taking into consideration the withstanding amount of managers who have traded clubs in the last twenty-four months, the list of capable candidates are limited. The dream of Pep Guardiola, or, Carlo Ancelotti appears as unlikely as ever, but this does not necessarily mean that the number of capable candidates is limited.

Take Massimiliano Allegri for example, the Juventus manager has revolutionised the Italian giants since the departure of Antonio Conte, leading them to two Champions League finals in three years. Seeing as the Italian has done everything in his power to bring success to La Vecchia Signora bar win the Champions League, moving for a new challenge to the North of London could tempt the manager.

Additionally, according to various reports, popular candidates amongst Arsenal fans, including the likes of Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel, and Ligue 1 winning manager Leonardo Jardim, could be looking at the prospect of a new challenge in the summer. Whilst there is a multitude of areas the club need to look at across the summer, their initial priority has to be sorting out this debacle, and should ‘Le Professeur’ depart, appoint the most capable to replacements.

Sorting Out Expiring Contracts

Although Arsene Wenger’s contract situation has been a hot topic of conversation throughout the season, another crucial detail regarding contractual information relates back to a large number of players at the club. As things stand; Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczęsny, Joel Campbell, Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla, and Carl Jenkinson all have their contracts expire in just over a year’s time.

Considering the large amount of star quality on that list, it’s especially surprising that the club have left it so late to agree terms of a new contract for some of these players. Whilst you could agree that the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker, and Carl Jenkinson do not warrant a new contract with the club, the fact that star players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Özil are yet to renew new deals portrays a lack of forward thinking and ambition by the club.

If reports are to be believed, essentially all of the top players in the list are currently reflecting on their options and could even depart the club in the summer, or for free the following year. As soon as the fiasco of Arsene Wenger has concluded, whoever is given the keys to London’s finest for the 2017/18 Premier League season must assure they can keep as players as possible, not just Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, and renew their contracts, whatever the cost. Should they fail to do so, it would be incredibly important to sell the respective players in the summer, but more on that later.

Introduction Of New Staff

In addition to this, the introduction of new staff members at the club could definitely bring about a lot of benefits to the club in the long run. To extend on a former point made, rumours have begun circulating that the club will look to appoint a Director of Football in the summer, highlighting that ambition amongst the board is still present. Albeit heavily criticised by the current manager; “Sorry, no, I’m the manager of Arsenal Football Club. I will decide what happens on the technical front. And that’s it”, the board should do whatever it takes to overrule Wenger, even if it means he departs the club.

The juvenile and arrogant comments made by the Frenchman link back to the “dictator” role he still has at the club, and that needs to stop once and for all. Whilst the true role of a Director of Football alters between each club, the appointment of one at the North London club will finally cease to exist the prodigious power clasped by Wenger over the years, forcing him to deal with the same amount of power as the average manager should. In contrast, if the legendary manager, in fact, departs the club on the horizon of June, the election of a Director of Football will offer much-needed support to the man chosen to succeed at the club, to bring glory to the club in years to come.

To extend on this, the club have been known to experience their fair share of injuries between each season, but have failed to find proper success in their methods to change this. The inclusion of AirFibr pitches at London Colney has seen some success and somewhat reduced the injury rate at the club this season, but the appointment of Shad Forsythe in 2014 hasn’t reached the same levels of success, evident with the denunciation Bournemouth officials gave the club for their training and fitness methods for loanee Jack Wilshere.

In order to improve the current medical team, one staffing role I’d recommend hiring would be the inclusion of a sports scientist. Taking into consideration the large amount of long-term injuries a number of players have (Santi Cazorla’s ankle, Laurent Koscielny’s achilles, Jack Wilshere’s everything, etc.), the inclusion of a sport scientist could allow for these particular players to be monitored and tracked in the best way possible to maximum the prevention of the injury in future. Also, the remaining members of the squad could also get similar treatment to study what works and what does not work for their body between each respective training session and football match.

Elsewhere, if you’re a non-Arsenal fan still reading away at this article, you are probably aware of the fact that as each new year begins, the Gunners are known to severely drop in form, lose their spot in the title race, and challenge for a place in the Champions League by the start of May. The reasoning behind this sudden, and drastic, change in form has never been explained, but the permanent inclusion of a psychologist could prove to be a solution.

The North London side were reported to have agreed a deal with Doctor Ceri Evans, the man credited with turning the All Blacks into Rugby World Cup winners, late last year to offer a mental and psychological boost to the players to surge their quest for Premier League glory.

Nonetheless, although a positive sign of change and ambition performed by the club, it remains unknown if Dr Evans is still working at the club, or how long he was working there for. Given the awful form of the Gunners earlier in the year, you could infer that he was not there for long. The inclusion of a psychologist could finally add back that mental boost and ambition into the side that has lacked to perform on the big stage for many years now.

The Perfect Transfer Window

Last but not least, the final major factor the club must pay attention to across the summer is how they conduct business in the Summer Transfer Window. For years, the club have been stuck in a “transfer limbo” which has played a factor in the stagnation that has occurred over the years. Apart from, perhaps, the signings of Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, and Granit Xhaka, the club has been known to attract the interest of, and later purchase, players of insufficient quality that are more suitable to the Europa League rather than for a club who should be challenging for the Champions League. Don’t believe me? In the last few years alone, some of the most expensive signings the club has made include the likes of Lucas Perez, Danny Welbeck, Mathieu Debuchy, and also, Gabriel.

To make matters worse, as a result of the increasing faith Arsene Wenger has in his players, the club has also failed to sell players of inadequate quality, increasing the damage in the long-run. To put this into perspective, the last time the club sold a player for more than £10 million came all the way back in August 2014 when Thomas Vermaelen transferred to Catalan-giants Barcelona, before that, you would have to go all the way back to the summer of 2012 to see major departures in Robin van Persie and Alex Song.

Before going into more detail regarding potential targets the Gunners should be looking at, it would be important for the North London side to offload unnecessary players to help balance the books and increase the likelihood of new, better, faces joining the club in the summer.

Although you could argue this is coming from a biased perspective, some of the players the club should look to sell in the summer (along with their estimated fee) includes the likes of; David Ospina (£3m), Mathieu Debuchy (£2m), Kieran Gibbs (£7m), Gabriel (£15m), Carl Jenkinson (£3m), Francis Coquelin (£15m), Danny Welbeck (£22m), Lucas Perez (£20m), Yaya Sanogo (£500k), Chuba Akpom (£1m), and Jon Toral (£500k).

If the club could make just some of these departures a reality, it would definitely bring about benefits in the long run as more money could then be spent in the summer, seeing as unnecessary players would no longer be playing at the club and the wage structure would be relieved to an extent. As for possible targets, the club will definitely have a big task to fulfil should they miss out on Champions League football next season.

Taking into consideration the lack of star power who will want to play in Europe’s B competition (unless you’re Manchester United and can pay the crazy money), the club will need to target younger talent with the potential grow along with backup players at top clubs rather than aspire for new world class players. In light of this, here is a list of players the club should target in the summer transfer window in the different positions they should strengthen in, both for the first team as well as backup players.

Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny, Alban Lafont, Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Timo Horn, Sergio Rico

Central Defender: Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Jonathan Tah, Emanuel Mammana, Daniele Rugani, Kostas Manolas

Midfielder: Corentin Tolisso, Naby Keita, Leon Goretzka, Andre Horta, James Ward-Prowse, Franck Kessie, Manuel Locatelli, Ruben Neves, Youri Tielemans, Casemiro

Wide Forward/Creator: Thomas Lemar, Christian Pulisic, Nathan Redmond, Julian Brandt, Isco, Keita Balde, Gelson Martins

Forward: Alexandre Lacazette, Andre Silva, Luka Jovic, Moussa Dembele (the Celtic one), Sebastian Driussi, Antonio Sanabria, Andrija Zivkovic, Paco Alcacer, Gabriel Barbosa, Patrick Schick

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.