The current season is not yet over but Arsenal have already begun planning their squad ahead of the next campaign.
The Gunners sit eighth in the Premier League and after being eliminated from the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Unai Emery‘s Villarreal, it looks highly likely that they will not be playing European football for the first time in 25 years next season.
Speaking after their continental exit last week, Mikel Arteta admitted that his side would need to be “ruthless” if they were to progress to the next stage of the project he is trying to implement at the Emirates.
And it seems as though that policy has already begun after reports emerged on Friday that David Luiz will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of this season.
The 34-year-old Brazilian had not been offered a new deal despite his key leadership role within the dressing room and decent performances on the pitch this season.
It seems as though he will not be the only centre-back to leave the club this summer as football.london understands that Arteta has decided Dinos Mavropanos is not in his plans for next season either.
This is despite the Greek international’s impressive displays on loan at Stuttgart, where former Arsenal Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat has publicly stated his desire to extend the Greek international’s stay.
It appears that the Gunners are streamlining their squad in line with Arteta’s preference for a reduced pool of centre-backs to work with.
“I just want a really strong core of defenders, central defenders, four to five,” he said of his dream defensive squad make-up in January.
“And then generate that competition and also that cohesion which is really necessary.
“A back four in my opinion needs that cohesion and the regularity of minutes to understand each other, to understand that communication, those relationships and we haven’t managed to do that in that period.”
This would seem to open a pathway into the team for William Saliba.
Gabriel and Pablo Mari have generated the healthy competition Arteta wants at left-sided centre back, taking up two of the spots, while Rob Holding – who signed a contract extension with the club in January – appears to be occupying the third.
football.london understands that Saliba will be offered a chance to impress in pre-season when he returns from his loan at Nice, and with the imminent departures of Luiz and Mavropanos, it’s easy to see how he could take up the role of the fourth centre back in Arteta’s squad, challenging for a place with Holding at right centre-back.
Two years after signing for Arsenal, it appears the Frenchman is finally going to be given the opportunity to make his mark in the first team.
It was expected that this would happen last summer after he returned from his original loan spell with St. Etienne.
However, Arteta decided that the Frenchman – whose 2019/20 campaign was disrupted by a hamstring injury and a metatarsal fracture as well the suspension of the Ligue 1 season due to COVID-19 – was not ready to join up with the Gunners squad and sent him out on loan to Nice in January.
It isn’t definite that the 19-year-old will be a part of the group for next season, though.
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football.london understands that Calum Chambers’ fine recent form is going to be rewarded with the offer of a contract extension this summer and although the England international has featured largely at right-back this season, there is a possibility he could return to his preferred centre-back role next season.
But with Hector Bellerin likely to leave in the coming transfer window and Cedric having slipped down the pecking order in recent weeks, Arteta may well decide to keep Chambers as a right-back option, paving the way for Saliba to make his way into the squad for next campaign.