Mikel Arteta has been allowed to oversee 25 player transfers and spend over £400million since he became Arsenal manager in December 2019.
The club’s supporters should expect that player recruitment number to rise to 30 and the spending by another £150million by the end of this summer’s window. Arsenal’s owners are ready to back their Spanish manager to prepare the club for a return to the Champions League and challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title again.
Arteta and his colleagues recognise their stuttering steps towards the end of this season were largely due to a lack of depth in their squad, when injuries to players such as defenders William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu disrupting their rhythm.
The Spaniard’s good track record in the transfer market and a collective desire to compete at the very top of European football has convinced the club’s executives the money will be well spent.
Arteta knows Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle and Chelsea will be stronger next season so there is no margin for error in the summer trading months.
In this special report, we will look at where Arteta wants to make changes and which players we can expect to be arriving and those who will be leaving…
Top of Arsenal’s most wanted list is West Ham midfielder Declan Rice. The England international’s contract expires next summer and the London club are ready to cash in on their captain. They want around £100m, but will do well to get that unless there is a bidding war for his services.
Manchester United and Chelsea, where Rice started his career as a youth player, are Arsenal’s main rivals here. My information is that Arsenal have offered Rice a slightly more attractive package and can assure him he will have an important role in a side which will have a more obvious chance to challenge for major trophies in the next few seasons.
One of the problems they face, however, is that Chelsea have deep pockets and the added factor that Rice grew up a Blues fan and his father, who looks after his interests, would love to see his son back at Stamford Bridge.
Rice’s defensive and attacking abilities perfectly suit Arteta’s style of play and he would offer a strong option alongside Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka in the Arsenal engine room.Embed from Getty Images
Other midfield options Arteta is known to be keen on are Southampton teenager Romeo Lavia and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo. Belgium youngster Lavia will be easier to sign, despite interest from Manchester United again, considering Southampton will be offloading players after their relegation.
And Arsenal made no secret about how much they want 21-year-old Ecuador international Caicedo towards the end of the last January window. They failed in a £70m bid that time, but Caicedo remains keen to make the move and Brighton will do well to resist an aggressive, big-money approach. Chelsea, once more, could retain an interest in the player they also tried to sign at the start of the year.
As well as a couple of central midfielders, Arteta also wants to strengthen in defence, with Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi of great interest to the Gunners. The concerns at Arsenal are over the long-term fitness of Saliba and back-up man Rob Holding is nearing the end of his contract.
It is thought Ben White could always revert to a central defensive role next season after a year at right-back – if needed – and this is where versatile England international Guehi, another Chelsea graduate, fits.
Born in the Ivory Coast, Guehi, 23 this summer, moved to London aged just one. He has been one of Palace’s most consistent players for the past two seasons and his times as captain of the team shows he also has the leadership qualities Arteta likes to see in all of his players – young and old.Embed from Getty Images
He will not be cheap, however, as he cost Palace £18m when signing from Chelsea in 2021 and has at least double in value since then. Another option is to give a chance to American defender Auston Trusty, who was recently named Birmingham City’s player of the season during his year-long loan there from Arsenal. AC Milan right-back Ivan Fresneda is an option to recruit too.
Arsenal’s attacking options are complicated by the return of highly-rated prospect Folarin Balogun, after his brilliant season on loan at French side Reims. Either way, Arteta wants more options in attack and Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby is of long-term interest.
The France international is not an out and out striker like someone such as Erling Haaland, but he scores goals and would compliment the current rotation of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli Leandro Trossard and Reiss Nelson (who might be sold).
Diaby is rated at around £50million, but Arsenal are not the only club following his fortunes and that could lead them to have another look at Palace’s Arsenal-supporting winger Wilfried Zaha. That said, the Ivory Coast international will have the pick of his clubs as he is out of contract and available on a free transfer.Embed from Getty Images
At 30, it is also more likely he is too old to fit the profile of player Arteta is looking to build on for the next few years. They have considered Brentford and England striker Ivan Toney too, but he will miss the start of next season after being banned for breaching FA betting rules.
Whoever Arteta and Sporting Director Edu go for, they are confident a return to Champions League football will make it even easier to attract their top targets.
Arteta explained: “To be fair, we are really lucky, because when you open the doors of Arsenal and you talk about Arsenal to any player, they want to come. My experience has been that regardless of Champions League football.
“Champions League helps because every player wants to be involved in that competition. It’s going to help us because we are going to have to nail the recruitment because we know that we are going to have to play a different level and the demands are going to be even higher.”
Alongside nailing the recruitment, another major task this summer will be to generate money from selling some players. If the money is right then any player could leave but the most likely candidates would appear to be club record signing Nicolas Pepe, who has been on loan at Nice, up against Balogun in France for the last season.
Emile Smith-Rowe and fellow products of the famed Hale End Academy such as Nelson and Charlie Patino might be sold on. Defenders Kieran Tierney and Holding too might be allowed to leave if the price is acceptable.Embed from Getty Images
There have been whispers that Chelsea signing Jorginho is keen to return to Italy and there could be interest in fellow midfielder Thomas Partey, who has also been unsettled, but it is more likely they will both stay.
Arsenal’s academy manager Per Mertesacker discussed his plans last month when he explained how his job was to produce first team players for Arteta, but also generate funds for further investment in recruitment.
He said: “In the last five, six years, if you look at £20million-plus sales, you have to look at Alex Iwobi, Joe Willock, Emiliano Martinez. These are the players that probably funded the investment we made.”