Discover more from Cannon Stats
Building a Summer Shopping List
What do Arsenal need to focus on in the summer to build the squad for the challenge ahead?
We have gone through which players we think are on the way out in our Exit Interviews series and now it is time to do a little more planning on what types of players Arsenal need to bring in to bolster the squad.
We are going to break this down into a few sections and impose some limitations on ourselves (just club I am sure will as well). We will have three categories of roles that we can use:
Must Have - just like it sounds, if the team don’t get this filled it is probably a failure of a window. Pick one
Should Have - these are important and you really should fill these needs but you might be able to survive and make do without. Pick two
Nice to Have - Not pivotal to the project but the type that really help fill the final spots on a team and help for the future. Pick as many as you want
The last wrinkle is that we are going to assume a budget of £200 million and you have to allocate that to each of the positions.
Cannon Stats is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Adam: A midfield monster. Arsenal need a dominant, physical and fleet afoot midfield general. To replace Granit Xhaka, the club needs a player who’s a leader, unflappable and will give everything off the ball while also adding technical ability on the ball. No surprise, that player is Declan Rice. £100m.
Scott: I go back and forth on what exactly I want as my number one spot but I think it is and has to be a midfielder.
Granit Xhaka is all but the final official tweet out of the club and they team can’t go into next season with jus the current midfield and they will need to break the team’s transfer record to fill this whole. I too think that this is either Declan Rice or Moisés Caicedo or some other player to be named later.
I think you need a player with an incredibly high IQ in this spot, they will need to know the right time to go forward and join the attack, the right time to cover the left flank for Zinchenko, and they will need to be able to progress the ball, while also being a secondary offensive threat. They will on top of all of that need to add solid defensive skills, with each of these changing depending on who Arsenal up against.
It is a tough role to fill and this is probably taking half of my budget. £100m.
Should Have Number 1
Adam: Another powerful midfielder. I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know whether Arteta thinks Rice can play number 8. When I was so adamant Arsenal wouldn’t get him, it was with the mindset that he was a 6 and a 6 only. But as of now, I have to believe he spends some time in the “Xhaka role,” regardless of how that may be tweaked next season.
With a midfield of Rice, Partey, Jorginho and ESR/Vieira, I’d want one more veteran who takes up either Xhaka’s role, or if the move is to keep Rice as the long-term 8, I’d like another 6 who becomes Partey’s heir. I do hope that player is Moisés Caicedo, but he won’t fit Scott’s restrictive budget!
So for this exercise, I’ll pretend the play is for Rice to be more of an 8 next season, Partey and Jorginho to sit deep, and I’ll sign my preferred next 8: Mohammed Kudus for £40m.
Kudus can be a strong option at left 8 right away and has spent time at either wing as well as 9. He’s got pace, power and strength, but Arsenal will have to work with him a bit to get him up to Xhaka standard as a defender. I think he definitely can.
A shout here that I almost did go with would be Sergej Milinković-Savić, by the way. He’s a very good player and is available for as little as £32m, but I don’t love the idea of adding a 28-year-old to a very gray midfield.
Scott: I think my second priority is attacking depth, can see needing a second midfielder but I am not sure it would be right to allocate another £60-70m towards that given I think we have two other positions to strengthen. It looks like Arsenal are bringing back Reiss Nelson but I still feel like the team is one short in the attacking line with no real trusted option behind Bukayo Saka. I really don’t want to have to play Saka 50+ matches because we don’t have anyone else. It might still end up that way because he is just so good and important but I would love to have another player who be trusted to take a few starts off of his plate and maybe the last 15 minutes of some matches.
I would allocate £35-40m to this position, that’s probably not a starter caliber player but could be enough for the role that I envision.
Should Have Number 2
Adam: A versatile defender. I do think that Tahekiro Tomiyasu’s injury really threw things into flux this season. Ideally, he could’ve come in at RB and allowed Ben White to move inside, where’s he’s still got buckets of quality. But Tomi’s fitness worries me still, so I’d like to add a capable Saliba backup who can play elsewhere as needed. My choice to date is RB Leipzig’s Mohamed Simakan, who can play RCB, LCB and RB and has split time between multiple defensive systems. If Arsenal could get him for £35m, that would mean Saliba-Simakan-White-Tomi on the right of the defense, bringing us closer to City-level defensive depth than before. The left would be Zinchenko-Gabriel-Kiwior-Tomi, with another fullback a possibility if Arteta doesn’t like Kiwi and Tomi as backups for an injury-prone Zinchenko, however I could see it working as a seven-man unit.
Scott: I am with Adam (I also have the advantage of writing this after him, to help myself sound smarter) thinking that a right back/right center back hybrid defender is next on the list.
I have seen various reports on how long Tomiyasu is out and right now I am erroring on the side that the team shouldn’t depend on him (I actually like him more as the left-back rotation option anyway) for meaningful minutes.
I have seen enough of how the team struggled with missing William Saliba and being unable to shift over Ben White that I don’t think that the team can afford to leave that as is. It feels like too big of a weakness to chance and that one more player to help provide cover would go a long way to providing some peace of mind.
I would allocate £25-35m for this.
Nice to Have
Nice to Have Number 1
Adam: Truth be told, I’d be fairly happy with a Rice-Kudus-Simakan window, and think Reiss Nelson’s extension (and the Kudus signing) would overstock Arsenal in attack. One thing my hypothetical side doesn’t have is a dedicated left back to spell Zinchenko, but we do have options there. So how about trying to make a new Zinchenko?
There are a few left-back types who do interest me, such as Piero Hincapié, Milos Kerkez and Adrien Truffert, but how about Quilindschy Hartman? The 21 year old had a good season as a first-time starter for Eredivisie champs Feyenoord. He’s six feet tall, strong in the air and has good creation numbers. He’s a good progressive passer - can that be turned into a Zinchenko-like inverted left back? Let’s find out! £7.5 million.
Scott: I have already allocated upwards of 170 million here so it has already been a big window and I am not sure I can really make a big impact here. I think I go back to the midfield as the area that can still use investment.
The age profile of the midfield is still pretty ugly, even after replacing Xhaka with a player just entering their prime and getting another player that help give depth in these spots feels like the most logical choice. The Rice-Caicedo are still for me long term more DM’s but can play further forward and maybe the other midfielder is a more advanced but still a midfielder (rather than an attacking-midfielder pushed back).
I would allocate £20-30m for this.
Nice to Have Number 2
Adam: Honestly, I felt good as I made each step here. And I like the guys I’ve added. But if Arsenal did this in real life, I’d probably react by saying more midfield experience is needed. I’d love a Caicedo on top of Kudus, or Caicedo and Xavi Simons, etc. But I know that doesn’t fit the exercise (crying emoji). I’ve only got £18 million left, and that’s not getting anyone extra special, so I guess I’d hang my hat on this and hope for the best! I’ll send Edu to Brazil to scour up a couple of prospects with the rest, or use it to sweeten extensions for Ødegaard and Saliba.
Here’s my lineup after this window, for the record.
Not quite as good as Caicedo joining, in my mind, but pretty good.
Scott: I have pretty much exhausted my budget at this point but I feel that if something close to this can be accomplished I feel like I would be happy with how this window goes. It would feel like this is a 9 out of 10 type window and give Arsenal and excellent platform to challenge on multiple fronts next season.
This is what my team looks like now:
I would be very happy with this but if I had a bit of money left, it would be for Edu to do his magic and find the best prospect he can from South America or Europe for the remaining £5 million left in my budget.