While players are away at Euro 2020, clubs will be planning for 2021/22 and there aren’t many clubs who need a summer reshuffle more than Arsenal.
For the first time since the 1995/96 campaign, Arsenal will be without European football, as they failed to qualify for the Champions League, Europa League and even the new Europa Conference League after finishing eighth in the Premier League.
As a result, this summer has been billed as the key moment for Arsenal to finally rebuild post-Arsene Wenger or risk falling away in the league once again. They have already confirmed the departures of David Luiz and Mat Ryan, while Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos return to their parent squads amid other reported planned departures.
Get an additional £25 in free bets if your selection wins. New customers only. Min/Max stake £1. Free bets credited on top of winnings. 5 x £5 bet token. Free bets for HR and football only. Free bet stakes not included in returns. Free bets are non withdrawable. No free bet expiry. Eligibility restrictions and further T&Cs apply. 18+. BeGamblAware.org.
18+ only. New customers only. UK only. Deposit £20 to receive free bets of £40. Free bets credited as four equal free bets of £10 each. All free bets unlocked when a total of £20 in of sports bets are placed and settled within qualifying period of 7 days. Minimum deposit amount is £20. Promotion T&Cs apply. Standard T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.
18+ only. New customers only. Min deposit £5. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.
18+ only. New members. £10 min deposit & bet on sportsbook, placed & settled at 1.5 min odds within 14 days of sign-up. Win part of E/W bets. 2 non-withdrawable £10 Free Bet Tokens: accept in 7 days, valid for 7 days from acceptance (ex. E/Ws & Multiples), stakes not returned. Full T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.org.
So, there is work to be done this summer in a few positions. But who could Arsenal go for? We’ve come up with a list of dream, realistic and wildcard transfer options for Arsenal’s big rebuild.
For quite some time, Arsenal fans have been crying out for a competent central midfielder who can provide at both ends of the pitch. The likes of Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi have all tried but their attacking let them down, while Ceballos couldn’t do the defensive side of the job.
One man who can certainly do both is Yves Bissouma. The Brighton and Hove Albion youngster is one of the top all-round midfielders in the Premier League but often goes under the radar simply because of who he plays for. With no disrespect to Brighton, opposing fans will only really focus on the Seagulls when they face their respective clubs, which means their talent is often unseen.
In Graham Potter’s Brighton team, Bissouma essentially plays the No.8 role, a box-to-box midfielder with more freedom to roam alongside a holding teammate, while still getting back to defend. His tackling is superb and only Luke Ayling (108) made more tackles in the Premier League last season than Bissouma’s 104, at an average of 3.01 per 90 minutes, while he also made 64 interceptions — the fourth-most in the division. But Bissouma is also composed with the ball at his feet (completing 53 take-ons) and a competent passer, which is exactly what Arsenal need. When Brighton are under pressure in front of their own goal, Bissouma is the one to take them out of trouble, whether by dribbling or setting a teammate free with his long-range passing. Bissouma may not have recorded an assist in the Premier League last season, but a good chunk of his 16 chances created came from deep.
If Arsenal were to make just one signing this summer, it needs to be Bissouma, and they are 4/6 favourites with Sky Bet to secure the Malian.
A different type of midfielder Arsenal are looking for is an attacking one, someone to finally fill the hole left by prime Mesut Ozil (in the creative sense). It was hoped one of Odegaard or Willian could do that after joining last season but both failed to really impress, despite the latter ending the Premier League campaign as Arsenal’s best assister.
He’s not the central attacking midfielder as Ozil was, but in Riyad Mahrez, Arsenal may be chasing a man who can be a game-changer from the right side of midfield.
Riyad Mahrez transfer odds: To sign for before 3rd September (via Sky Bet)
(Odds in this article are correct at the time of writing. 18+ only, BeGambleAware.org)
The Algerian had another solid season for Manchester City across all competitions in 2020/21, ending the campaign with 14 goals and nine assists. In the Premier League alone there were six assists from 44 chances created which may not sound like a lot, but it breaks down to 0.28 assists and 2.03 chances created per 90 minutes. Even without the average, the chances created and assists were more than any Arsenal player managed in 2020/21 in the Premier League, with Willian managing five assists and Saka creating 38 chances. Only Saka (45) completed more take-ons at Arsenal than Mahrez’s 45. While the young Englishman deservedly won Arsenal’s Player of the Year award and is very much their next star, he is not at Mahrez’s level.
According to reports, Mahrez may be up for grabs this summer with Man City looking to secure funds to spend big on a striker to replace Sergio Aguero, and the likes of PSG, Arsenal and Barcelona have all been linked. For Mahrez, the goal is to stay at Man City with whom he went close to winning the Champions League last season, with the Algerian reportedly saying: “There is nothing about my future. I am well in Manchester. I will stay, God Willing.
“I feel great at Manchester City, and I have no wish to look elsewhere. I don’t yet know what my situation will be, but I am happy at City, and they are the club where I want to be.
“People have spoken about me ending my career with Marseille, but that is not something I think about. I want to finish my career in England, with City.”
One of the other positions Arsenal are reportedly looking to fill is at left-back, providing back-up for Kieran Tierney with the idea of keeping Saka further up the pitch where he can be an influence. But, as they did with Cedric at right-back, Arsenal may opt to look for a slightly older option that will provide experience while allowing Tierney to continue.
They may even opt for a full-on Cedric copy and sign his former Southampton teammate, Ryan Bertrand. The English left-back leaves Southampton this summer and will be available to anyone on a free transfer. Bertrand has over 250 Premier League appearances under his belt and has played in both the Europa League and Champions League, winning both and playing in the final of the latter in 2012.
At 31 years of age, Bertrand isn’t the youngest player, but he can still provide excellent cover at both left-back and wing-back. He will also count towards their homegrown quota, which is growing increasingly important. There is one problem, though. Arsenal aren’t alone in their reported interest, with Leicester City and Manchester United also said to be eyeing up Bertrand.
Back to the midfield, Arsenal are reportedly interested in signing Norway international Sander Berge from recently-relegated Sheffield United. The Gunners are favourites to sign Berge, with Sky Bet offering odds of 2/1, and according to reports, they made a £17.2m offer for the midfielder in May.
Berge signed for Sheffield United for £22m in January 2020, becoming their record transfer, and impressed in his first half-campaign with the club. However, he didn’t really play in 2020/21 due to injury, making just 15 Premier League appearances, with all but two of those coming before Christmas.
Fans didn’t see the true potential of Berge at Sheffield United, where he was more restricted, but his performances for Genk in the Champions League and Europa League across 2018/19 and 2019/20 show what he could bring to the Arsenal side, a good passer who can take people on, tests his luck but will also win you the ball back.
Sheffield United want £35m for Berge (his reported release clause), which may put off fans but his quality is there to see, which is why Arsenal are chasing the 23-year-old, as he would provide the defensive cover should the likes of Xhaka, Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira leave.
If Emi Buendia is a no-go, Arsenal can’t go wrong in looking at his Norwich teammate, Todd Cantwell. Although he doesn’t rack up the numbers that Buendia does, Cantwell has sauce and showed glimpses of what he can do in the Premier League in 2019/20.
Cantwell plays on the opposite wing to Buendia, but his potential arrival would allow Nicolas Pepe to stay on the right and make that spot his own, while providing good competition for Bukayo Saka. The 23-year-old scored six goals and recorded six assists in the Championship last season and managed six and two in his Premier League season, but Cantwell is known more for his work in the build-up to goals, not essentially having the finishing (or assisting) touch.
Cantwell moves well with the ball, completing 53 take-ons in the Championship last season while also ending the campaign with a passing accuracy of 82.12% with 424 passes completed in the final third. He did also create 52 chances, with an Expected Assist tally of 4.43, setting his teammates up for good opportunities. So while he won’t be Arsenal’s main creator, he’s a good supporting act.
Then there’s the small fact that he is an Arsenal fan, growing up idolising Thierry Henry, while also shushing Tottenham fans when scoring a goal against them in the FA Cup.
Arsenal are the team of 2014! I feel it #loyalfan
— Todd Cantwell (@ToddCantwell_10) January 4, 2014
Arsenal do also need cover on the right side of their defence, with Hector Bellerin not impressing enough and Cedric only a short-term option. If they want someone for now and the future, Tariq Lamptey could be the man.
Lamptey made his Premier League debut against Arsenal, for Chelsea, in December 2019, coming off the bench for the final 30 minutes to play at wing-back. The Englishman received plaudits for his performance, both from Chelsea fans and the neutrals watching, but just over a month later, he had left the Blues with Brighton the destination.
With every passing game that was looking like a mistake (though Lamptey wanted to leave) as the Englishman has been a quality addition for Brighton, an extremely attacking wing-back who is more than capable in defence too, despite his stature. The good thing about Lamptey for Arsenal is that he can also play as an out-and-out right-back, giving them the option to play either four or five at the back.
Lamptey didn’t play too much in 2020/21 due to injury, but everyone knows of his quality, and Arsenal are 3/1 with Sky Bet to sign the 20-year-old this summer. According to reports, Arsenal’s interest has dropped, but it could be worth reigniting it.