Rebuilding Arsenal: How Mikel Arteta can guide Arsenal back to being European giants
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on May 09, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Whilst league rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all look forward to European finals in the coming weeks, the focus at Arsenal is firmly on the future.

The Gunners, languishing in ninth position, are set to miss out on European football for the first time in 25 years- marking their worst campaign as a club since the 1995/96 season.

Mikel Arteta is poised to continue his tenure in North London next season as he looks to steer the ship around and reports have surfaced of his plans for next year.

Arteta looks to have learnt from his first 18 months in charge and will look for a long-term solution, rather than painting over the cracks for a ‘quick fix.’

The task ahead will be an uphill struggle, but here is what the Spaniard must do to transform Arsenal back into a competitive ‘top six’ side.

  • Trust the youngsters

Bukayo Saka, 19, and Emile Smith Rowe, 20, are two of Arsenal’s youngest players, yet, are two of the front-runners for the club’s Player of the Season award.

The Hale End academy graduates have been pivotal for the Gunners, scoring or assisting 31 of Arsenal’s 87 goals this term- 35.6% of all goals scored so far this season.

 

Saka and Smith Rowe’s excellence has paved the way for fellow academy graduates to follow in their footsteps, but it now rests on Arteta’s shoulders to give them a chance.

Folarin Balogun and Miguel Azeez headline the latest crop of academy players breaking into the first-team, having made their debuts in the Europa League last year.

Balogun and Azeez have been in red-hot form in the Premier League 2 this season and are expected to make the jump into the senior team next year.

William Saliba is another youngster who will be hungry to grab a spot in the first team, especially since the calamitous mismanagement of him that saw him end up out on loan for a second consecutive season.

 

The 20-year-old defender signed back in 2019 for a reported £27 million but is yet to make his competitive debut for Arsenal.

Over the span of 19 appearances for Ligue 1 side OGC Nice, Saliba has registered 4.1 clearances, 1.3 interceptions, and 91% pass accuracy per game and will hope to continue his stellar form upon his return to the club.

 

  • Squad overhaul

Whilst uncertainty looms over the future of the club regarding its ownership, it is beyond doubt that the Gunners need a revamp this summer.

Arteta has already shipped out the likes of Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi- freeing up money on the wage bill- but the Spaniard will need to continue in the same vein to change the Gunners fortunes.

Rumours indicate that Brazilian duo David Luiz and Willian will opt for a summer exit, whilst Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin may also leave the club.

Sources suggest that transfer activity is well underway at Arsenal as Arteta looks to build his squad to reinstate Arsenal as a competitive ‘top six’ side.

Brighton midfield dynamo Yves Bissouma and Norwich full-back Max Aarons are said to be high on Arteta’s wish list, as well as Sheffield United’s Sander Berge- who may come at a cut-cost price after being relegated.

 

The Gunners will also have a decision to make on whether they cash in on Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, both of whom are on expiring deals.

Lyon striker Moussa Dembele, on loan at Atletico Madrid, has been identified as a potential replacement for fellow countryman Lacazette, as part of a huge overhaul at the Emirates.

  • Finish in a European spot next season

Since Christmas- a 23-game stretch- Arsenal have the third-best league form, besting FA Cup winners Leicester and Champions League finalists Chelsea.

The strong second half of the season, however, has been overshadowed by the overall poor league performance and recent Europa League disaster.

European football may seem a distant ask at this current time, but the Gunners need to secure a top six finish next season to avoid being caught in a vicious cycle.

 

In the past six seasons, England’s notorious ‘big six’ teams have finished in the top six spots on four occasions.

The money they earn from these competitions helps to sustain them as the most financially powerful teams in the league as they are a more attractive destination for transfer targets.

West Ham's 3-1 win over West Brom confirmed Arsenal will not play in a major European competition next year, the Europa Conference League remains a possibility still.

Arsenal must be able to replicate their post-Christmas form over the course of 38 league games next season if they wish to bounce back next season.

A strong core including the likes of Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey, and Gabriel Martinelli must be developed alongside the club's other young talent to return Arsenal to the pinnacle of club football.

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