There is an exciting summer on the horizon for Arsenal as they prepare for life back in the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17. It has taken longer than many might have expected for the Gunners to make it back to Europe’s most prestigious competition having found it difficult to compete with their rivals in the transfer market.
The pulling power that Champions League football brings to clubs is immeasurable and Arsenal can start to bargain at the table with the big boys again when it comes to making new signings.
Manager Mikel Arteta is expected to be very busy in the summer and it is being reported that several players could be sold by the Gunners to raise funds for a huge transfer raid of their own. Having pushed Manchester City all the way in this year’s title race, it is clear that this young squad would be aided by reinforcements to help them get closer to Pep Guardiola’s side. But where do they need to strengthen?
Arsenal’s back line picked up plenty of praise throughout the season due to the partnership developed by William Saliba and Gabriel. Once Frenchman Saliba had his season curtailed back in March, the Gunners were less comfortable dealing with attacks, only keeping one clean sheet in his absence.
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Both he and Gabriel have shown that they are viable options for the long-term future at Arsenal, but they need quality in depth. When you consider that their most experienced understudy at centre-half is Rob Holding and Manchester City’s is Aymeric Laporte, it says a lot. Jakub Kiwior has been brought in as one for the future but he will need time to develop.
Another defensive position they could bolster their ranks at is right-back. Ben White, a natural centre-back, has played there for much of the campaign and while his performances have largely been commendable, the Gunners could maybe benefit from having him in his natural position as a starter or as valuable cover. Cedric Soares, currently on loan at Fulham. is reportedly up for transfer. That could leave Takehiro Tomiyasu as the only recognised right-back in the squad come August
This is the area of the pitch Arteta is said to be looking to fortify the most. Arsenal have been linked with West Ham United star Declan Rice and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Moises Caicedo, the latter of whom Arsenal tried to sign in January. Both would be quality acquisitions with time on their side at 24 and 21 years of age respectively, and each would significantly boost the Gunners’ ranks.
With Granit Xhaka reportedly set for a return to Germany in the summer, Arsenal’s midfield options could be sparse heading into pre-season and you can imagine they will want to act swiftly.
It is hard to say right now if Arsenal need to pay a lot of attention to bolstering their forward options. Gabriel Jesus has had an excellent first season at the club and even after suffering a lengthy absence through injury, he still scored 10 goals and posted six assists in the top flight. He may not be a traditional number nine who always gets 20 league goals a season, but he is integral to how Arsenal play under Arteta and it is difficult to see him being dropped for another striker.
Eddie Nketiah remains a dependable deputy but it remains to be seen how content he remains playing second fiddle to the Brazilian. Folarin Balogun will return to the Gunners in the summer after a fruitful loan spell with Stade Reims in Ligue 1, scoring 19 goals in 34 appearances. He will be hoping that he can earn a place in the Arsenal team now but he could also be open to looking for an opportunity elsewhere to lead the line. Arsenal will only need to act here if either one or both of Nketiah and Balogun move on.
As for wingers, the Gunners need to reach a decision regarding Reiss Nelson’s future as his contract is almost up and there is yet to be a breakthrough in striking a new deal. The 23-year-old has done well when called upon this year and would be a worthy squad member to have. He still has time on his side to develop and become a more important figure in the team.
After not having the most productive loan spell with Norwich City, it would be fair to assume that Marquinhos could head out on loan again in 2023-24. In that scenario, combined with the potential loss of Nelson, Arsenal would need to secure a winger, preferably one to play on the right side, to compete with Bukayo Saka - while Gabriel Martinelli would compete with Leandro Trossard for the spot on the left flank.