It is set to be a summer of change at the Emirates.
After failing to qualify for European football for the first time in a quarter of a century, Mikel Arteta has promised a “ruthless” overhaul of his squad this transfer window and much of the work has already begun.
David Luiz has already left while football.london understands that Granit Xhaka is very soon to follow. Hector Bellerin is also likely to leave, while Alexandre Lacazette could also be moving on this summer as well.
While it is accepted that this turnover in the squad is necessary there are some concerns as to how such experienced departures may decimate the leadership group that Arteta turned to last season.
The concept of a ‘leadership group’ in its current guise was officially introduced by Unai Emery at the beginning of his tenure in charge.
After the departure of the former trio at the end of Emery’s first season the Swiss international was promoted to club captain with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bellerin and Lacazette stepping up to fill the remaining roles in the group of five.
While the concept was broadly dismissed as a product of Emery’s indecision it had a fan in Mikel Arteta who himself, alongside Per Mertesacker, had been part of a leadership group that helped instil a culture of accountability and self-discipline during the most successful period of the latter part of Arsene Wenger‘s reign.
Last season, during the 39-year-old’s first campaign in charge, he opted to continue with Emery’s second group of five for the most part, but was less public in defining who was involved.
Ozil was omitted for obvious reasons, with him playing little part in Arteta’s plans, while Xhaka was no longer officially a captain after his infamous clash with Arsenal supporters at the Emirates during a match with Crystal Palace in October 2019, although he has worn the armband since towards the latter stages of games when other players have gone off.
Rob Holding also wore the armband on occasion, while David Luiz was another unofficial member of the group whose influence on the Gunners’ young dressing room was respected by Arteta.
By the end of the summer transfer window in September though it is possible that Aubameyang and Holding will be the only survivors of the Spaniard’s leadership group from 2020/21.
As plans turn to 2021/22 football.london understands that a new group will be selected to form the core upon which Arsenal’s bid to return to Champions League football will be built.
It will be based on a mixture of the longest serving and most experienced players at the club.
Unsurprisingly Kieran Tierney will be included. The Scot has won over fans with his committed and consistent displays while Arteta has spoken publicly of his admiration for the left back.
“I think he can be,” said the Spaniard when asked if the former Celtic defender could become captain of the Gunners one day. “He has the respect and the admiration of every member of the staff and every player.
“It’s just the way he is, he does it in a natural way. He’s a shy boy but I think he represents all of the values we want to install and that are in the DNA of this club.
“He came here and it took him a while, he had a really bad injury… but he’s a natural leader. You see how he behaves on that pitch, and when he talks he says the right thing and it’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
Pablo Mari is also someone who has garnered public praise from Arteta since he joined the club in January 2020.
“He’s a leader, someone that trains really hard,” said the Arsenal manager of his compatriot.
“He’s a professional, a great communicator on the pitch and he gives you some security and stability.”
The summer window is officially open, and it’s going to be tough to keep up with the comings and goings in and out of the Emirates.
By signing up to our newsletter here, you’ll be kept up to date on the latest news and rumours as they break, all in one place. You’ll also receive exclusive insight and articles from club writers Chris Wheatley and Kaya Kaynak, all for free.
We also want to hear from you. Create an account here in just a few moments, so you can have your say on all things Arsenal, join the debate and take part in exclusive Q&As as well.
The 27-year-old is likely to be in the group as a result of these qualities and his good relationship with young players such as Gabriel Martinelli in particular.
Mohamed Elneny has worn the captain’s armband on occasion this season, and while he has just one year left on his contract at the Emirates, he will become the second longest serving player at the club if Bellerin leaves this summer, meaning he is a candidate to be involved.
The only player to have been with Arsenal longer than the Egyptian, Calum Chambers, is also a contender to make up one of the spots, but with his future also uncertain at the moment it is not yet clear if he will be involved.