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What does next season have in store for Arsenal?

arsenal opinion

It has been somewhat of a Groundhog Day season for Arsenal fans. The annual league collapse and predictable Champions League exit to superior opposition has led frustrated fans to call for the manager exit. Will he stay? Can he persuade star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to sign new contracts? What does the future hold for the Gunners?

Wenger in or out?

Arsenal’s legendary boss has never been under more pressure. Since Wenger’s first full season in charge, when the club won the Double, they have never failed to qualify for the Champions League. However, poor run of form in the early months of 2017 has left Arsenal with the unenviable task of winning all their remaining games to make it back to Europe’s top competition.

The calls for Wenger to go have grown more vociferous, especially after disappointing defeats to Watford, West Brom and Crystal Palace, but Arsène has yet to announce a decision about his future. Wenger’s current contract expires at the end of June, and the big question on the lips of everyone at the Emirates is whether he should be allowed to sign a new one.

Sanchez, Özil to stay or go?

Another big issue at Arsenal is the future of the club’s two world-class stars, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil. Sanchez is the club’s top scorer this season, while World Cup winner Özil, although quiet in spells, has chipped in with goals and assists aplenty across the campaign. Both men are contracted at the club until June 2018, but new deals have yet to be signed. This means that Arsenal would have to sell this summer or risk the pair - valued at around £80 million combined - leaving on free transfers.

While the sticking point could be wages, it is believed that Sanchez and Özil could be waiting to see whether Arsenal will be playing Champions League football in 2017/18. If so, they might choose to stay a while longer; if not, they’ll look to leave the club, possibly replicating the choice of the likes of Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri in moving to a rival.

2016/17 hopes

With Liverpool and Manchester City currently occupying third and fourth places and Manchester United hot on their tails in fifth, it appears unlikely that Arsenal will make the top four. This would be the first time in two decades this has happened. The Gunners have an FA Cup Final to look forward to against Chelsea at the end of May, but after winning the competition in 2014 and 2015, will another victory really be enough to save Wenger’s job and convince Sanchez and Özil to stay?

Looking to the future

Should the Wenger Out brigade get their wish and the 67-year-old leaves the club, it is likely that he’ll be replaced by another foreign manager. Bookieplanet bookmakers currently have Juventus boss Max Allegri and Atletico manager Diego Simeone as favourites to replace Wenger, although Thomas Tuchel and Leonardo Jardim, with their attacking style of play and emphasis on youth, could be a better fit for the Arsenal philosophy.

If a new manager comes in, we’re likely to see a squad upheaval, with underperforming England trio Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs first out of the door. Players who have come through the ranks, such as Francis Coquelin and Alex Iwobi, may also find their places under threat because a new boss would likely look to bring in players who are familiar to him.

If Wenger stays, don’t expect much to change at the club. Despite the recent switch to a three-at-the-back formation, the manager has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary in recent years, keeping faith in a solid core of players while adding one or two big names to his squad each summer. The likely departures of Sanchez and Özil could force his hand, however.

arsene wenger press conference

Likely transfer targets

The loss of two marquee talents in Sanchez and Özil should result in a large windfall for the club and Arsenal will look to reinvest that in several bona fide stars. Antoine Griezmann is a target, as is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but both are likely to join other clubs. Champions League surprise package Monaco could be a good club to raid given Arsenal’s previous French connections, although the club might have to break the world transfer record to attract teenage star Kylian Mbappe to the Emirates. Wing-backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy or midfielders Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayako would be more realistic options.

Central areas have long been a priority to strengthen for Arsenal. The club need a long-term partner for Laurent Koscielny in defence and still haven’t managed to find another Patrick Vieira in midfield, with 2016 signings Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka flattering to deceive for much of the campaign. Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk will be a top target for many clubs, while Hull’s impressive Harry Maguire has also been linked with a move.

In midfield, the club need to halt the reliance on the perma-crocked Santi Cazorla, while an upgrade on Coquelin and Xhaka is desperately required in the big games, which Arsenal tend to lose. Barcelona’s Arda Turan, who is more of a playmaker, has been touted as a potential buy, but do the club really need another attacking midfielder? Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi, who has impressed since joining the champions in January, is also being considered.

What of Petr Cech? The Chelsea legend has started to show his age this season, and it’s clear that David Ospina is not of the standard required to be number one. Could we see a return of the on-loan Wojciech Szczesny, or will the Gunners go all out for a keeper in the transfer market?

It seems that Europa League football beckons for Arsenal next season. With Sanchez and possibly Özil heading for the exit and an uncertain future for Arsene Wenger, Arsenal fans will go into 2017/18 with some trepidation, but also plenty of hope. 

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