Do we need to change everything?
Arsenal’s sixth place position in the Premier League table is unfamiliar to both club and supporters. There is an assumption that there needs to be wholesale changes at the club. This is not exactly the case.
Despite the north London club’s position in the table, the Gunners have been sufficient in attack. This is even more the case since the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubamyang in January.
Since the Gabon international made the record £56 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund, the Gunners have averaged two goals per game during Premier League play. That sort of goal output should, theoretically, be enough to win a fair share of matches.
While Arsenal have lost four of Aubameyang’s first eight league matches, it has very little to do with the offense. During these eight Premier League games, the Gunners have allowed 11 total goals.
When looking at the season as a whole, Arsenal have given up 45 goals in 33 league games.
This is the worst defensive record of the ‘big six’ Premier League clubs. More than Burnley and Newcastle as well. The Gunners, however, have not shown to be a dominating defensive team under manager Arsene Wenger. In fact, they have only had the Premier League’s best defense (goals allowed) once in the last 19 seasons. They’ve had a top two defense only once in the last 14 campaigns.
Making a managerial change to a more defensive-minded coach could be the ticket to correcting the club’s defensive woes.
While the long-running Wenger in/out debate has been circulating for some time now, let’s assume that the Frenchman will return to the Emirates for the 2018/19 season. If this is the case, Wenger and the newly acquired Sven Mislintat (head of recruitment) and Raul Sanllehi (head of football relations) should focus on defense this summer.
Acquiring a new goalkeeper and center back is top priority
Age is certainly a concern with Arsenal’s current defense. Goalkeeper Petr Cech is 35 (36 next month), and regularly starting defenders Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are both 32. As these three prominent players exit their prime, it is time to think about bringing in reinforcements.
There has been plenty of speculation surrounding a potential bid for Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno, but the Gunners would do better to secure either Genoa’s Mattia Perin or Roma’s Alisson instead.
In central defense, Arsenal do already have two young center backs in Rob Holding and Calum Chambers. While both are highly regarded at the club, it does not appear likely that Wenger is ready to hand the reins over to either of the two just yet. Atletico’s Jose Gimenez and Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos have both recently been linked with a move to the Emirates.
Although either would be a decent addition to the current mix of defenders at Arsenal, the Gunners should consider a physically dominating center back such as Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij or Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
Central midfield and the wing positions are also places of some concern when looking at the roster. These two areas are, however, no where near in need of help as the team’s defense.