If this wasn’t clear by now, the Aston Villa defeat made it painfully so: Arsenal are a mid-table team, reminiscing in the glory days of the past and trudging along with unwanted baggage.
Villa completed their first double over the Gunners since the first season of the Premier League, as did Wolves. We’ve lost ten league games in 23. Echoes from top four may not reach where Arsenal are. Top six is also getting gradually distant.
For all the faults in Arsene Wenger’s teams of the 2010s, they were amazing to watch and put teams to sword. For now, wins are rare and comprehensive ones come once in a blue moon. Calling the team mediocre doesn’t seem like a stretch. Does anyone even fear facing us now?
The January transfer window was a win in the sense of shifting deadwood. Next window should follow suit in regards to selling players not good enough for the club, or those who won’t aid the transition to the next level. Simply, better players needed. Tough choices lie here, calls that will divide opinion, but need to be made.
Arsenal need drastic changes to shift out mediocrity rife within the squad
Hector Bellerin won’t ever be the speedster, bombarding full-back envisioned when he broke though, as sad as it is. The injury changed him, his pace has waned, and without pace, the defensively suspect Spaniard offers little at both ends and should be upgraded.
Backups for both ends aren’t great either. If it wasn’t for poor recruitment, Kieran Tierney’s injury wouldn’t have hurt as much as it has. Sead Kolasinac is bound to leave permanently and needs an upgrade. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has other priorities, ones that may not be realized at Arsenal.
Arsenal will be three centre-backs short come summer with the exits of Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis recently together with the contract expiry of David Luiz. Calum Chambers isn’t trusted by the manager and may be leaving as well. Gabriel, Pablo Mari, Rob Holding and William Saliba should be complemented by a new commanding centre-half, maybe even two.
Granit Xhaka may be solid in certain elements, but he can’t take the next step. There will always be deficiencies in his game. In an ideal world, he should be a squad player for Arsenal. What does that say about the squad players in the position, Mohamed Elneny and Dani Ceballos? Well, they shouldn’t be at Arsenal. Same goes for Lucas Torreira. Matteo Guendouzi is talented but enigmatic, and should be sold if a large bid comes in, but worth keeping otherwise.
Thomas Partey’s new partner has to be as crucial as the No. 10 we will certainly go for in the summer.
Developing Martin Odegaard for six months and sending a better player back to Real Madrid screams typical of Arsenal. It needn’t be. He looks promising and should be snapped up early if he plays well to focus on other areas in the summer.
Wings are well-stocked but can use another addition. Willian won’t ever work out, and should be sold, although, who would want him? Academy boys Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah haven’t developed and probably reached their peaks. Time to sell if justified.
And then there’s the elephant in the room: Arsenal don’t have a talisman. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a shadow of the FA Cup winning hitman. Alexandre Lacazette should be the one to make way for someone more clinical than him and more all-round than Aubameyang, more so since he will have one year remaining on the contract. Regardless of being the top scoring Gunner this season, he isn’t ruthless enough. Emotions and good-will should take a back seat in this decision.
The fact that there are so many of them needing an upgrade is an indicator of how far Arsenal have slipped. There won’t be much money but selling smart and targeting players like both Gabriel’s would help. While there is no chance all will be resolved at the end of the season, and a healthy dose of realism is urged, the summer is the time to set things straight and shift out mediocrity.
Otherwise, Arsenal will stagnate and continue to languish in mid-table for the near future.