To say that it has been an eventful past seven days for Arsenal Football Club would be an understatement.
First, the Gunners agreed to be one of the 12 founding members of the widely criticised European Super League, before, alongside the other five English clubs involved, opting to reverse their decision just 48 hours later.
On Thursday, Arsenal director Josh Kroenke held a Fans’ Forum meeting online and was subjected to some strong and angry views being aired.
Just 24 hours after that Zoom call took place, thousands of Arsenal supporters staged a mass protest outside the Emirates Stadium against owner Stan Kroenke. Also that night, the Gunners fell to a disappointing 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Everton, with goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s blunder gifting the Toffees a huge away win.
To cap off a week like no other, reports emerged on Monday morning that Gunners legends Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp are interested in joining Spotify founder Daniel Ek in potentially buying the club.
With all of that said, the Gunners also have the small matter of a UEFA Europa League semi-final first-leg against Villarreal to contest on Thursday evening, which, of course, will see them go up against former manager Unai Emery.
Should the Gunners fail to reach the final of the competition and win the trophy, they will be under huge amounts of pressure to transform the club’s outlook ahead of next season, which would see Mikel Arteta embark on his second full season in the job.
But whatever happens on the pitch between now and the end of the campaign, you can be rest assured that a quiet summer is not going to be on the table for the Gunners and technical director Edu.
football.london understands that the north London club, who have not faced Villarreal since 2009, are prepared to sell four first-team members this summer in a bid to raise funds to allow themselves to bring in fresh faces. Those facing the prospect of leaving the club on permanent deals this summer are Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Eddie Nketiah.
Uncertainty also surrounds the future of Hector Bellerin, with the Spaniard open to leaving the club if the right opportunity arises.
Should Arsenal be in a strong enough position financially to then invest in the transfer market, they will do so, with a left-back and central attacking-midfielder at the very top of their respective to-do list.
Whilst retaining Martin Odegaard is likely to be Arteta’s top priority, the club may also take a fresh look at Brighton & Hove Albion midfield star Yves Bissouma.
football.london reported back in January that the Gunners have been watching his progress on the south coast and would be interested in signing him if the opportunity arose. To add to that, Bissouma is also said to favour a move to Arsenal over any other potential Premier League suitors.
Should the Gunners’ finances allow and they are able to land Bissouma this summer, it would be a move that would be met with a wave of appreciation by former striker Ian Wright, who recently admitted that he would love to see Arsenal sign the Mali international.
“You need someone next to [Thomas] Partey of real calibre,” Wright said, as quoted by the Mirror.
“People keep mentioning [Yves] Bissouma, if only. Someone like Bissouma, but Arsenal have to be in European competition.
“We need that player next to him, we want to play out the back – get it to Partey, and have that solidity of Partey and – I know I’m dreaming, but Bissouma – to get the people to a player like [Martin] Odegaard, if he stays. A massive if.”
With Wright having declared his admiration for Bissouma and how much he’d love to see him at Arsenal, football.london has taken a close look at how the Gunners, factoring in or or two other transfer rumours currently doing the rounds, could line-up next season if they were to sign the Brighton ace.
German Leno would retain his place in between the sticks, despite it being understood that the Gunners will be on the hunt for a new shot-stopper this summer.
Ahead of him, the back-four could be made up, from right to left, of Achraf Hakimi, who is being heavily linked as a potential successor for Bellerin, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney.
Thomas Partey would then be accompanied at the base of the midfield by Bissouma, who would both offer a sense of steel and protection to the defensive-line behind them.
In front of those two, Bukayo Saka would operate down the right, Odegaard, should he stay at the Emirates, would play down the middle, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would man the left-wing.
Alexandre Lacazette, should he extend his stay in north London and sign a new contract, would lead the front line.
Of course, the displayed line-up above has absolutely no guarantees that it would come into fruition, with the Gunners’ recruitment drive this summer set to be dictated by the funds available and the likelihood of targets continuously changing.
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However, if Arteta were to be able to assemble a squad of similar nature he would most probably be confident that the Gunners could improve their league table position next term.
As well as that, the Spaniard would also be able to name a substitutes bench consisting of the likes of Pablo Mari, Granit Xhaka, Nicolas Pepe, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal XI: Leno; Hakimi, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bissouma, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Aubameyang; Lacazette.