Arsenal’s season this term can be defined in two halves, with the first part of the season being a disaster but the second half showing considerable improvements.
Mikel Arteta continues to push ahead with his plans to rejuvenate the squad and next season will be pivotal, with the Spaniard set for his second full season in charge and having overhauled his side significantly in the past few months.
The January transfer window saw Arsenal focus mainly on offloading high earners, trimming their squad rather effectively, but this summer will see the Gunners turn their attention towards securing incoming players once again.
Eye-catching deals occurred last summer with the signings of Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhaes, while the capture of Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid in January also laid out a statement of intent.
However, while the attention towards transfers will be fierce, Arsenal have also benefitted from seeing young players prove their worth in the first team fold – with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe standing out as the biggest success stories in this regard.
The Gunners will hope to see other young players have a considerable impact next season and the timing couldn’t be more perfect, with the squad at a turning point with a number of high profile departures on the cards and finances still relatively limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thankfully, young players breaking into the squad do not cost a transfer fee and we have highlighted five players who could save Edu millions in the transfer market.
The 19-year-old made an instant impact at Arsenal last season following his arrival in South America but his development was halted by a long-term injury issue, with opportunities restricted since his return to fitness this season.
Gabriel Martinelli is still highly-rated at the club though and the Brazilian could provide a considerable impact next season, as he has been training as a central striker – which could provide further opportunities as Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are both due to enter the final 12 months of their contract.
That would leave Arsenal void of depth in the final third and Martinelli could be the greatest beneficiary, even if another striker is brought in during the summer window.
Arsenal have already paid a considerable price to bring William Saliba to Arsenal but fans are yet to see the Frenchman in the shirt, spending last season with St. Etienne and returning to France in January to join OGC Nice until the end of the season.
Exits in January for Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi in January saw Mikel Arteta’s defensive options deplete significantly and the expected departure for David Luiz when his contract at the Emirates Stadium expires at the end of the campaign.
That could finally see Saliba take a role in the first-team, competing with the likes of Gabriel Magalhaes, Pablo Mari and Rob Holding for regular starts.
Folarin Balogun’s future remains under intense uncertainty as the young striker sees his current deal expire at the end of the season and is yet to put pen to paper on an extension, despite Mikel Arteta making it clear he intends to retain the services of the Hale End academy graduate.
If a new agreement is secured, Balogun could take the sort of role in the side that Eddie Nketiah currently fills – earning opportunities in cup competitions and the Europa League, providing him with an opportunity to prove his worth and potentially earn chances in the Premier League.
The first step, clearly, is penning a new deal and if that doesn’t happen, Arsenal’s need to sign a striker increases significantly.
Arsenal’s lack of defensive protection from midfield was solved last summer by the signing of Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid but alternatives to the Ghanaian are not present, which has led to problems this season when the summer addition has been unavailable due to injury.
Behind the scenes though, Miguel Azeez has been catching the eye after crafting his game the past year to shine in front of the back four – while still possessing the ability for a killer pass, like Partey, which has become pivotal in Arteta’s plans for his Arsenal side.
The 18-year-old could follow the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe into the first-team fold next season, before proving his worth to the squad over the course of the coming years.
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Currently on loan with Blackpool, Daniel Ballard has impressed with the League One side and has become a senior international with Northern Ireland after making his debut last year, earning five caps overall.
At 21, Ballard’s next step will be for more regular football at a higher level and, while that may not immediately come at Arsenal, it could be a crucial move in his development before earning a role in Mikel Arteta’s first-team plans in the coming years.
It has been a while since Arsenal have had a solid central defender coming through their youth ranks but hopes are high for the years ahead.