There may still be plenty of this season left to go but it’s difficult not to look to the next campaign for Arsenal.
Of course there are a lot of variables to consider but if things go right it could be a crucial season as Mikel Arteta tries to carry the team back up the Premier League table towards its former glories.
However, as the Spaniard seeks to do that he has already been dealt a massive blow after it was confirmed that two of his most important players will be missing for up to a month next year.
With the Premier League having confirmed that the next season will start on August 14th it seems as though that will not mean they miss as many games as they would have done had the tournament taken place this year, but it is likely that the Gunners will be without their star players for the early rounds of the FA Cup and possibly the semi finals of the Carabao Cup if they make it that far.
Mohamed Elneny will also be missing after Egypt booked their spot at AFCON 2022, while Nicolas Pepe helped the Ivory Coast secure their place at the tournament in Cameroon with a 3-0 victory over Niger earlier on Friday.
The absence of both Pepe and Aubameyang means that Arsenal will have to use the full extent of their squad if they are to get through what will undoubtedly be a tricky period of the season.
With Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun‘s futures all up in the air, the sparsity of forward options could create a chance for Gabriel Martinelli to be given an extended run in the time.
After impressing in games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Brighton following a six month injury layoff, the Brazilian has found game time hard to come by in 2021 playing just 62 minutes in the Premier League since the turn of the year.
With his best position in the front line still far from certain, the absence of Aubameyang could give the 19-year-old the chance for some games at centre forward, which is where Arteta has implied he sees his future.
The absence of Elneny and Partey though will be far less easy for Arsenal to fix.
With Dani Ceballos set to return to Real Madrid at the end of his loan spell as things stand and the futures of Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles undecided, the pair’s departure could temporarily leave Granit Xhaka as the only senior central midfielder in the squad.
While the Swiss international recently ended a 16 match run of playing every single minute for Arsenal in all competitions, but even still handing him the responsibility of marshalling the Gunners midfield all on his own for up to a month would be a big ask.
Arteta could look to solve this issue by promoting from within. Miguel Azeez has impressed for the under-23s this season and made his senior debut earlier this season.
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Far more probable is that the Gunners will look to recruit externally.
Yves Bissouma is one of the players football.london understands the club are looking at, but given that Mali have already booked their place at next year’s tournament in Cameroon he would not necessarily solve the problem.
As a result, the search for a central midfielder would probably have to continue for what is now arguably Arteta and Edu‘s biggest transfer priority as they look ahead to next season.