After a roller coaster of a summer, Arsenal can finally begin to move forward now that the transfer window has officially closed for Premier League teams. With the roster now set, let’s run through the five biggest topics of conversation about the Gunners looking ahead.
1. The Alexis Sanchez situation
Perhaps the most dramatic part of the summer transfer window was whether Sanchez would remain a Gunner or not. Manchester City wanted the Chilean superstar, but failed to make a deal happen due to waiting far too long to submit an official bid to Arsenal. City did finally offer a £55 million + £5 million bid for Sanchez on the final day, but the deal stalled due to Arsenal not being able to find an adequate replacement for the player before the window slammed shut.
Now that Sanchez will be an Arsenal player until at least January, it will be interesting to see how the forward gets on with the team going forward. A motivated Sanchez gives the Gunners a very strong attack alongside Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Özil. However, the season could go from bad to worse for the north London club if the Chile international does not give 100% on the pitch.
2. Selling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Liverpool’s move for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a deal worth up to £40 million appears to have made both fanbases fairly content. The Merseyside club are receiving a 24-year-old England international that will give them depth in multiple positions, and also now have a long-term replacement for an aging James Milner. Arsenal, on the other hand, picked up a huge chunk of change for a player that did not tie down a regular starting spot during his six years with the club.
The Ox was used as a wing back during his last 10 games or so as a Gunner. While he did find some success at the position, he ultimately wanted to leave Arsenal to play more of a central role with Liverpool. With Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac now penciled in at the two wing back spots at Arsenal, the club should not experience a drop off in these areas.
3. Alexis Sanchez/Mesut Özil contracts
The two biggest concerns heading into the current campaign were the contracts of Sanchez and Özil. Both stars are in their final year in their deals, and will walk away for free come June. The Gunners have not given up hope in re-signing both players to new deals; however, an agreement with Sanchez seems extremely unlikely now. Securing Özil to a long-term contract is still possible though. The Germany international appears to like life in London and gets along well with his teammates.
Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund are rumored to be interested in Özil, but Arsene Wenger is keen on bringing back the star midfielder past this season. There is no doubt that these contract issues are currently affecting the team though. Putting the negativity behind them and sorting out any new contracts must be a priority moving forward.
Prior to the last two matches, Arsenal recorded victories in 11 out of their previous 12 matches in the 3-4-3 (or 3-4-1-2) formation. The switch to three at the back has worked, and also helped salvage their disappointing 2016/17 season by beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final in May. Included in these 11 wins are triumphs against Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton, and Chelsea (twice).
Despite this recent success with the formation, Wenger may chose to abandon it and return to the 4-2-3-1 configuration that he deployed in recent years. While the Frenchman may make the change partially due to the team’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat away to Liverpool in the end of August, sticking with three at the back would still work in most scenarios.
Arsenal supporters are down. They are not only upset at the team’s woeful performance against Liverpool, but also with the fact that the sixth most valuable soccer team in the world actually made a profit during the summer transfer window for the first time in six years. As frustrating as the last week or two has been for Gooners, the roster is now set and finalized moving forward in the 2017/18 season.
Despite the frustrations, the current group of Arsenal players are (on paper) at least an improvement on the 2016/17 side. Along with Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Gunners also lost Lucas Perez, Kieran Gibbs, and Gabriel Paulista. Wenger has essentially replaced this trio with Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, and the returning Calum Chambers, who performed well on loan at Middlesbrough last season.
If this was poker, Wenger essentially just pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table. Holding on to Sanchez is a massive gamble, and will only pay off if Arsenal (at least) are able to secure a spot in the top four at the end of the campaign. Finishing outside of a Champions League place and losing Sanchez would be disastrous. The Chilean is capable of truly magical things on the pitch, and it appears as if the Gunners are going to need plenty of that magic for the 2017/18 season.