The rebuilding of Arsenal


Last Wednesday, Unai Emery’s Arsenal side capitulated in the second half of their Europa League final against Chelsea in Baku.

Emery – well-versed in the art of winning European football’s second-biggest prize – could only watch on as Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea took them apart, thanks largely to the talents of one Eden Hazard.

Arsenal lost 4-1 on the night and missed out on their last chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process.

The Gunners’ suspect backline was moved about at will by Hazard and co in Arsenal’s defensive third, leaving Emery with plenty of food for thought over the summer months. Punters will have to examine many a review of offers from matchbook to see the odds on his players staying at the Emirates for next term.

In goals, Petr Cech was playing his last professional game while Nacho Monreal, 33 and out-of-contract in a month, will most likely never wear the red and white of Arsenal again.

On the bench, Emery had Danny Welbeck, Carl Jenkinson and Stephan Lichsteiner – three players who will also be leaving the Emirates Stadium over the coming weeks as their current deals expire. Aaron Ramsey missed out on Wednesday’s final through injury and will make his move to Serie A giants Juventus in time for pre-season training. Ramsey, in particular, will be a huge loss for Emery.

Arsenal’s thinning squad needs definite reinforcements before August. However, with Champions League football ruled out for the next year, at least, with it goes one of the best bargaining chips a club can have when trying to entice a player to sign.

Emery will need to get creative. The former Sevilla and PSG boss will need a strong backroom team that knows how to sniff out a bargain or potential talent that has eluded the scouting departments of other clubs.

Emery certainly needs to buy for his defence. Laurent Koscielny was lost at sea in Baku as he looked every day of his 33 years. Monreal, as mentioned above, will be leaving while Sokratis never inspires confidence.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Arsenal. The club does have some impressive young players on its books – Matteo Guendouzi, Alex Iwobi, Mohamed Elneny – as well as some top-level footballers like Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil.

Emery’s limited options were evident against Chelsea as he had to turn to 19-year-old Joe Willock to try to make an impact when the game was slipping away from them. Willock may have a big future ahead of him but Wednesday night’s final seemed to come just a little too soon for him.

After a fifth-place Premier League finish and reaching the final of the Europa League, it would be harsh to view Emery’s first season in charge of Arsenal as anything less than competent. Yet, Emery knows that his report card will need to have a far more positive verdict on it at the end of the 2019/20 campaign. For that to happen, he needs to get to work now, recruiting some players who can make a difference for The Gunners.

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