The Hard Tackle takes a look at five players Arsenal must offload as Mikel Arteta looks to undergo a squad overhaul at the Emirates this summer.
Mediocrity has been a keyword when describing Arsenal and their progress in the Premier League over the past half-a-decade. The club has never really been able to reach the heights over the past decade, with the inconsistencies late in Arsene Wenger’s long spell only being made worse by Unai Emery’s disastrous tenure at Emirates.
However, perhaps for the first time in quite some years, Arsenal have shown promise – thanks to their new manager and former midfielder, Mikel Arteta. A disciple of Manchester City’s footballing genius, Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard has been making waves in the managerial world, having steered the Gunners to a promising finish in the Premier League before winning the FA Cup.
And as we head into the summer transfer window, it is time for Arteta to make some changes. There have been rumours that the 38-year-old is looking to offload a host of existing Arsenal stars in an attempt to undergo a massive squad overhaul.
It does make sense given how much Arteta has changed things since taking over from Freddie Ljungberg back in December. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will be taking a look at five players Arsenal must offload this summer as the Gunners look to usher in a new era under their new manager.
Matteo Guendouzi is an absolute no brainer given the disputes he had with Arteta and his coaching staff back in Dubai earlier this year. The fallout, during the mid-season preparation, played a crucial role in minimising the midfielder’s overall game-time under the Arsenal manager.
Although Guendouzi was given a chance when football returned in June, the Frenchman’s row with Neal Maupay in the defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion was enough for Arteta to once again freeze him out of the starting lineup. And quite rightly, the youngster did not feature in a single game after that.
Guendouzi’s aggressive and impulsive attitude has never really tuned in well with the man-oriented managerial style of Arteta. And as the Spaniard looks to rebuild the Arsenal squad with proper identity, the midfielder’s mentality could be problematic.
Therefore, the Gunners must offload Guendouzi this summer despite his apparent qualities, with the player still being regarded as one of the most talented young midfielders in French football. That is why Barcelona have already expressed their interest in signing the 21-year-old, and it will be interesting to see how much the north London giants demand for the services of their midfield asset.
Sead Kolasinac has been by far Arsenal’s worst performer since football has returned. It is partly because Arteta has played him out of position, in an unnatural centre-back role. He was forced to do so rather as players like Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers and Sokratis were all unavailable.
Kolasinac, however, has not really managed to thrive in that left-sided centre-back role, often lacking positional sense as well as defensive solidity. He even made some noticeable defensive errors before Kieran Tierney eventually replaced him in that role, later in the season.
In general, Kolasinac’s spell at the Emirates has been marred by injuries. He has endured numerous spells on the sidelines and now sees himself trailing down the pecking order as Arsenal prepare themselves for the new season.
Indeed, the Bosnian international may struggle to find regular game-time, even in his preferred left-back role, mainly due to the emergence of Bukayo Saka. Additionally, Arteta has other options, including Tierney while Ainsley Maitland-Niles has also shown promising signs during the final phase of the campaign.
A transfer away from Emirates, therefore, is the most logical option for Kolasinac as he looks to revive his career following a few tough and unlucky years in English football.
Among all the other options on this list, Sokratis Papastathopoulos is probably the only player who should leave purely due to tactical reasons.
The Greek international is still regarded as a top-quality defensive outlet due to his sheer will and determination, which are combined with impeccable physical and aerial prowess. Having said that, the centre-back has a few glaring weaknesses in his game, especially when it comes to building the play out from the back.
Indeed, the ex-Borussia Dortmund star is incapable of providing precise forward balls and generally relies on short, meaningless horizontal passes. Sokratis is also generally weak with the ball at his feet and has been caught in possession numerous times throughout his career at Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund.
It certainly doesn’t bode well for Arteta’s system, that relies heavily on efficient build-up and possession. And in that regard, the 32-year-old clearly cannot compete with his teammates like David Luiz, Pablo Mari or even William Saliba, who has returned from his loan spell at St. Etienne.
Hence, Arsenal must sell Sokratis this summer. The Greek veteran should attract a lot of suitors given his quality and experience at the highest level of football, thus significantly helping Arteta push for a squad overhaul.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is by far the easiest choice on this list. In fact, there is a good amount of chance that the Armenian might already be on his way out of the Emirates, having impressed on his loan spell at AS Roma this past season.
The playmaker was involved in 14 goals in just 22 Serie A matches for the Giallosrossi and is tipped to play a vital role as the club take on Sevilla in the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League.
For Arsenal, however, Mkhitaryan has constantly struggled to make an impact. His dynamic style of play has not tuned in well with the club’s tactical philosophy, and the ex-Dortmund midfielder is unlikely to fit in under Arteta either.
On the contrary, the 31-year-old could unnecessarily stack up the offensive unit, obstructing young players like Bukayo Saka or Reiss Nelson from getting a more prominent role in the first-team. Therefore, a move away from Arsenal certainly makes sense.
Mkhitaryan is expected to return to the Emirates at the end of August. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how he performs in the Europa League as a strong impression in the competition might help Arsenal raise his valuation. It also remains to be seen whether AS Roma will be able to sign the playmaker permanently this summer.
It was always going to be a difficult choice between Lucas Torreira and Shkodran Mustafi. But, we pick the latter given the fact that we have already chosen a midfielder while the defensive unit is unnecessarily stacked at the moment.
David Luiz signed a contract extension last month – a move that has panned out surprisingly well despite the fair share of critics. Additionally, Kieran Tierney has emerged as a reliable option at centre-back while Rob Holding, too, has been able to make an impact.
Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers are waiting in the wings as well. The latter is hoping to return to full fitness soon, with the Gunners also welcoming the arrival of Saliba, who actually returns from his loan spell at St. Etienne, having initially joined the club last summer.
It leaves Arteta with a host of options at the heart of the Arsenal back-line, and although the Spaniard has needed three centre-backs in his newly implemented 3-4-3 setup, he must offload at least two of his options this summer.
We have already discussed why Sokratis must go and Mustafi, in that regard, should be the one to accompany the Greek international on their way to the exit door. Unlike Sokratis, the German hasn’t exactly struggled for form or due to tactical incompatibility. But growing competition in Arsenal defence only leaves Mustafi as surplus to requirements.