Arsenal's season, in short, has been a bit disappointing to say the very least. After 128 days at the top of the league (double that of Chelsea and eight and a half times more than eventual winners Manchester City), we once again found ourselves finishing in fourth place but also lifting the FA Cup, which numbs the Premier League title choke somewhat.
We should be in a strong position to fight in the window with yet another year of Champions League football and a recent trophy win to our name.
Despite indicating he'll stay, Arsene Wenger is still yet to tie himself down for another season or two in charge. Monaco are on the horizon offering him an option to go back to his homeland and play around with a team that could be potentially one of the best in Europe. We also have the World Cup to make things even harder to sign players before they leave. Although great for scouting players that you wouldn't ordinarily see at club level, any player that you're interested in and performs well or goes on to win the trophy will mean their price will double, if not triple, and competition to sign them will be strong. Perhaps it's best to sign these players before their prices potentially rise after a strong showing in Brazil? That's a gamble, though.
Arsenal are facing the departure of Bacary Sagna leaving to pastures new, as well as Thomas Vermaelen. The ageing Flamini, Arteta and Kallström (whom we will probably sign) and the overall lack of depth and quality in the playing staff at the club means there will need to be a major investment in the squad. We've heard that before, haven't we?
This summer I feel we need: full-backs, centre backs, a defensive/ball-winning midfielder and a world class striker. These are key to what the club needs in order to expand on what's been achieved this year and I'll be listing prime candidates for who I think can fill those spots. Of course you might disagree and feel we need more players, but that might not be achievable and is, possibly unrealistic. Here's my recommendations:
We clearly need to replace Sagna. King of the right back position for the club for years, his loss will be missed for sure but even more so if we don't replace him correctly.
The prime candidate is Serge Aurier from Toulouse. Quick, young and with bags of potential, this young Frenchman is exactly what Arsene wants in a player. Aurier has been a standout player at Toulouse this season and the World Cup is his chance to show the world that this is his chance to move to a bigger club and really make a name for himself. He’s got the quality available to him and should be classed as must buy even if Sagna does decide to stay.
Callum Chambers has also been touted as a potential buy and he would be a brilliant alternative to Aurier, however he would be lacking in first team experience and would therefore need a bit more time to adjust. Nathaniel Clyne could also be an option but he's still yet to prove himself in my eyes. Dani Alves has also been linked after some reported unrest at Barcelona, but we'd face strong competition should he become available.
In my opinion, we also need a left-back. Monreal is awful and Gibbs bombing on and forgetting his defensive responsibilities means he's a liability on occasions. I could name a few potential replacements, but Alaba would be fantastic but he's probably out of reach. Luke Shaw is off to Manchester United or Chelsea so it's unlikely we would be able to tempt him to us. Dortmund duo Durm and Schmelzer are impressive but perhaps similar to Gibbs in the fact they forget how to defend occasionally. Wolfsburg's Ricardo Rodriguez is another attractive option. He’s exactly what we would want and would offer a decent return upon his level with his age being just 21 years-old and Wolfsburg are known to be willing to accept selling a player off for a good level of profit. However, there's arguably a shortage of quality left-backs around, so Arsene may feel Gibbs is better than what we could possibly get.
With Thomas Vermaelen likely to be making his exit in the summer after a huge lack of appearances this season and his apparent lack of quality when you compare him to both Mertesacker and Koscielny, who where superb for most of the season, bar three very memorable score lines, of course.
Javier Mascherano is said to be facing the exit door at Barcelona this summer. He'd be ideal, although possibly not big enough to be a central defender in the Premier League. Holger Badstuber would be a fantastic prospect if we could lure him away from Bayern Munich as he is young, skilful and faces a good career ahead of him. Mats Hummels or Neven Subotic would be good signings also as they both have the experience of playing at the highest level and are arguably realistic options. Stefan Savic would also be a good player to bring back to the Premier League. Although not making a huge impact at Manchester City he has proven his worth at Fiorentina with a good set of games and could fit into the team easily.
Since Alex Song's departure that role hasn't been filled properly. Although Song wasn't outstanding, shall we say, and had a poor ethic during his time at Arsenal, he appears to have changed his attitude whist at Barcelona. He may also be available but with interest both appearing to come from Manchester United and Manchester City (the former seeming more probable) it may be a better idea to move on from Song.
One set of options that should be considered although may not be available are the Bender twins from Dortmund and Leverkusen. Although Lars has already pledged his future to the club this summer a decent sized bid could turn heads. The same goes with brother Sven. Although it appears that Lars is the better of the two brothers due to his lack of injuries that he’s faced, Sven seems to be the better work horse out the of the two and has arguably been the most successful whilst playing at Dortmund for the last 3 seasons. Another name linked is Bayern's Javi Martinez. With Arsenal having made an official approach for him the likelihood of signing him seems high, however apparent interest from Barca may see him move away from Munich and Pep Guardiola with whom he has an apparent discontent with due to a disagreement in tactics. Blaise Matuidi is another option. A big player in the PSG midfield, he's helped them go for a second title in as many years and is a sought after talent. Everton's James McCarthy has also been mentioned, but Everton are probably unlikely to sell, just yet anyway.
Something the team have been lacking in since the loss of Robin Van Persie, and although Giroud is good, he's not of the class needed to win a major trophy for the club. Karim Benzema has been linked nearly every year for the last 5 years in one fashion or another. Proven in La Liga as a competent goalscorer, he'd be a superb signing if Real Madrid decided to sell. Another possible option is Liverpool's Luis Suarez. After interest last summer, we're certainly keen but whether we can get him or not is another thing entirely. His cost has rocketed in recent times and with the World Cup coming up he is likely to have a whopping price tag attached, so it's unlikely that he will be affordable, perhaps. Morata from Real Madrid is linked heavily and at £21 million he would be steal. That's the price he'd reportedly set us back by. Wenger could work with him and develop him further, something we all know he loves. Wilfred Bony has also been mentioned after an impressive season with Swansea, but he's arguably not the 'world class striker' we do desperately need. Mario Mandzukic is also a possibility as he will see his role shrunk at Bayern with the arrival of Robert Lewandowski. If he does join he’ll be £25 million minimum but could easily return the investment that he would cost in the form of goals he would provide with 26 goals being scored for Bayern this season. Another Mario that has been previously linked with us and could still potentially join is Mario Ballotelli from AC Milan. Having supposedly grown up since arriving from Manchester City in January 2011 he's proven his worth and has developed into a fantastic player. It'd be hard to turn him down, put it that way.
Well, that's it. We certainly need to strengthen this summer and every Arsenal fan will be expecting a few quality signings. Hopefully some of the above become a reality and Arsenal put up more of a challenge next campaign.
By Lewis Martin - Arsenal fan -