Mikel Arteta has done a good job of shipping out the deadwood, but letting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang go without a replacement lined up could cost them in the race for the top four
Image: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal’s failure to strengthen their hand in the transfer window was baffling and could cost them a top-four finish this season.
But you could read it as a clear statement of faith in manager Mikel Arteta, a thumbs-up to build a team around a nucleus of young players.
In the five-way scramble – with Manchester United, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves – for Champions League football next season, I hope Arteta does not live to regret clearing out fringe players without reinforcing his core squad.
To let striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac, Folarin Balogun and Pablo Mari leave – permanently or on loan – may prove to be good housekeeping a year or 18 months from now.
But if Aubameyang scores goals for Barcelona, and Arsenal miss the boat in May, will it look such a good decision?
HAVE YOUR SAY: Should Arteta have kept hold of Aubameyang? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
If defender Chambers thrives under Steven Gerrard’s management, and Aston Villa become direct rivals in the top six next season, will Arteta’s judgement be vindicated?
Arsenal are thought to have missed out on Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, who signed for Juventus after leaving Fiorentina, and midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, who chose a relegation battle at Newcastle instead of a Champions League chase.
That is not going to make them more powerful than their top-four rivals.
No arguments, Arsenal have a core of young players who could lead the club into an exciting new era. I can understand Arteta building for the future around Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Ben White (all pictured, right), Aaron Ramsdale and Gabriel Martinelli.
Those young players should all feel 10ft tall that the manager wants them at the heart of his team.
And, in most cases, the players Arteta has allowed to leave were going to be only on the fringe of the first team. Sometimes it is better to work with smaller numbers than keep disaffected players who can’t get in the starting XI.
If Arteta is clearing the decks for a top-four push next season, then 2022-23 will be the defining campaign of his reign.
But I can’t help thinking that one major signing, along the lines of Liverpool bringing in Luis Diaz, could have made a big difference. to the Gunners this season
Diaz is a real statement of intent that Kop boss Jurgen Klopp means business – and means it now.
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As it is, Arsenal are already going to finish the campaign without a trophy after a terrible January in which they were knocked out of both domestic cups.
Now they appear to be risking a top-four finish while Arteta continues to assemble his young, dynamic team as part of a longer-term process.
For Arsenal’s sake, I hope it proves a sound judgement call.
But, in the short term, I fear they will miss out on Champions League football next season and have to make their comeback on the continent in the second-tier Europa League.
And that’s not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s pedigree.
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