In Focus: Where Arsenal need to strengthen this summer
Arsenal’s transfer record in recent years has been patchy at best — but the Gunners have to get this summer’s recruitment right if they are to challenge for the top four.
Mikel Arteta’s squad needs major surgery and the time has come for technical director Edu to prove he can construct a side worthy of Champions League qualification.
Ahead of a busy period of wheeling and dealing at the Emirates, we have taken a look at what Arsenal need to do in the market to enjoy a successful 2021-22 Premier League campaign.
Early signs suggest the Gunners are going to spend big.
Owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment will be fully aware that finishing eighth last season fell short of expectations and — perhaps more significantly — will be keen to avoid the financial hit of another season without European football.
While that investment is likely to be financed via loans rather than boardroom generosity, we can expect to see the North London outfit targeting a number of big signings, backed up by a supporting cast of budget acquisitions.
Big at the back
That transfer strategy is reflected in Arsenal’s plans to strengthen in defence.
Despite having the third best defensive record in the top flight last season (conceding just 39 goals), Arteta views a new right-sided centre-back as a priority.
The Gunners are putting their money where their mouth is and going after Brighton star Ben White, 23, who will command a fee of around £50million.
Spending that kind of cash while £27m central defender William Saliba goes on loan to Marseille has certainly raised a few eyebrows.
But Arsenal can afford to be more extravagant after securing bargain buy Nuno Tavares, 21, who has arrived from Benfica to provide cover for Kieran Tierney and cost just £6.8m.
They will be after a similar budget acquisition in goal as the search continues for a back-up keeper to support regular No1 Bernd Leno.
Exits dictate agenda
The extent of Arsenal’s transfer business will largely be shaped by how many players leave the club, with a host of stars waiting in the Emirates departure lounge.
A new right-back could be in order if one or both of Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles make a move, while the Gunners will be light in central midfield if Granit Xhaka or Mohamed Elneny join Marseille loanee Matteo Guendouzi in leaving London.
In truth, Arteta would be keen on shifting a remarkable number of players — the question is whether Arsenal can find buyers in a difficult market.
From Sead Kolasinac to ex-Chelsea star Willian, Edu’s ability to move on unwanted squad members will be key to raising funds for signings.
Making moves in midfield
Arsenal desperately need creativity in midfield as they look to improve on the paltry 55 league goals scored last season.
The Gunners intend to commit significant funds to this area, with a bid of over £60m expected for Leicester’s 24-year-old creator James Maddison.
Another name in the frame is Sassuolo’s Euro 2020 winner Manuel Locatelli, 23, though there are mixed messages around the chances of him heading to the Emirates.
Locatelli is believed to favour a transfer to Juventus but Sassuolo chief executive Giovanni Carnevali has indicated a move abroad is more likely.
Speaking earlier this month, Carnevali said: "We’re in talks for Locatelli with one club from abroad... and it’s really advanced.
"We’re going to meet with Juventus in the next days but there are no negotiations yet as Italian clubs are in a difficult financial situation."
Changing the profile
Signing veterans on high wages has been an unsuccessful policy for Arsenal in recent seasons, which is why they are aiming to bring down the average age of the squad.
Burnt by the long-term wage burden of Willian and Mesut Ozil before him, the Gunners are taking inspiration from the likes of Leicester and Atalanta — clubs who target players in their early 20 to sell for profit in the future.
White, Tavares, Maddison and Locatelli all fall into that category, as does incoming midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga, 21, who is set to join from Belgian side Anderlecht.
This represents a sensible approach from Arsenal but players of that age do not come cheap.
The Gunners will have to speculate to accumulate and spend their money more wisely than ever this summer.