Arsenal’s rebuild under Mikel Arteta could be completed this summer.
Since the Spaniard returned to north London in December 2019, initially as head coach before being named manager following the FA Cup win a few months later, he has overseen a major squad overhaul.
To paint a picture of how much has changed in the past 18 months, Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding, Granit Xhaka, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are the only players that featured in the FA Cup final win over Chelsea who are still at the club today.
Meanwhile, the likes of Emiliano Martinez, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Sead Kolasinac and the match-winner that afternoon Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are no longer at Arsenal.
It remains to be seen what the Arsenal squad looks like at the start of the 2022/23 season, but it’s likely that a number of new faces will arrive, with Jonathan David, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Youri Tielemans and Renato Sanches all on Arteta’s shortlist.
In his attempt to shape the Gunners squad into his vision, the Spaniard has now overseen 13 permanent signings as well as a few loan deals in terms of incomings following a £1.6m deal, as per transfermarkt, for Auston Trusty in January.
So after spending £142m in the 2021 summer transfer window to sign Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Benjamin White, Nuno Tavares, Martin Odegaard and Albert Sambi Lokonga, that fee added to the £80.6m to bring in Thomas Partey (£45m), Gabriel Magalhaes (£27m), Alex Runarsson (£1.8m) and Pablo Mari (£6.8m) in the previous summer means Arteta has spent £224.2m as Arsenal manager/head coach.
Although, what this season has proved is that Arteta and technical director Edu still have a lot of work to do when it comes to reshaping a squad that is clearly well behind many of their rivals in the Premier League.
Furthermore, the theme of big names leaving Arsenal could continue this summer, which could pave the way for talented youngsters such as Charlie Patino, Omari Hutchinson and Salah-Eddine to step up.
So who is certain of their place in Arteta’s squad by the time the 2022/23 campaign comes around? We take a look.
Unless Ramsdale’s form drops off a cliff during the final three months of the season or he suffers an injury setback, he will be Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper next season.
With Bernd Leno expected to leave in the summer, football.london understands that the Gunners have already moved to sign the Germany international’s replacement in Matt Turner.
The USA keeper is set to arrive in the summer and will serve as the back-up option to Ramsdale.
Arthur Okonkwo may need a loan spell to aid his development, but Arsenal can promote from within if the academy graduate does depart for a season.
It could even be that Karl Hein, currently on loan at Reading, returns in the summer and makes the step up to become the alternative option to Ramsdale and Turner.
Well, we already know of one change to this area as January deadline day signing Trusty is due to link up with the Arsenal squad in the summer after being loaned back to MLS side Colorado Rapids for the rest of the season.
He may serve as the fourth-choice central defender if Pablo Mari moves on, but the jump in level from the MLS to the Premier League could mean a loan spell in England for the 23-year-old.
The one new – albeit familiar face – many Arsenal supporters want to see in Arteta’s squad next season is William Saliba.
Since arriving from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019, the Frenchman still hasn’t made his competitive debut for the Gunners, but his loan spells at Nice and Marseille prove he is now ready to challenge White and Gabriel.
Should Arteta give Saliba a chance, it may raise questions about Rob Holding’s future as he could slip even further down the pecking order at centre-back.
Tomiyasu, Tierney and Tavares make up three-quarters of Arsenal’s full-back contingent, but Cedric Soares’ future could hinge on whether a new right-back is recruited in the summer.
It could be a case of Arteta and Edu finally signing Thomas Partey’s perfect midfield partner amid links to Tielemans and Renato Sanches, but Ruben Neves and Douglas Luiz could be two other players to keep an eye on.
If that’s the case, Xhaka’s long-term future would come into question as he has once again been linked with a move to AS Roma after a transfer last summer broke down at the 11th hour.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Elneny could move on in the summer when his contract expires as he’s seen as more of a squad option these days, even behind Lokonga in the pecking order.
In Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 formation, it’s between Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe for the No. 10 role behind the main striker, but the pair can play in the same side as the latter is comfortable operating out wide.
Bukayo Saka has nailed down his spot on the right-wing and that could spell bad news for Nicolas Pepe, who is at an age where he should be playing regularly.
At present, there’s an argument that Gabriel Martinelli is the only Arsenal forward in the first-team squad who is guaranteed of their future going into next season.
Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are expected to depart when their contracts expire, which means the Gunners will be signing a striker or two at the very least this summer.
Whether that’s two from Calvert-Lewin, David or even Alexander Isak remains to be seen, but it’s shaping up to be a new-look forward line for Arteta to choose from next season.
Other loan players
In Folarin Balogun and Saliba, Arsenal have two couple of players currently out on loan who will certainly return to bolster the squad next season, but it’s likely that the latter has a better chance of becoming a regular next season.
Reiss Nelson might have an outside chance of establishing himself as a squad player, but the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Bellerin and Pablo Mari could all join Konstantinos Mavropanos and Matteo Guendouzi in leaving the club permanently.
With every first-team player fully fit and as things stand right now, Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Saka, and Odegaard appear to be the only guaranteed starters for Arsenal right now for 2022/23.
Meanwhile, Turner, Saliba, Tavares, Lokonga, Smith Rowe and Martinelli should make up the rest of Arteta’s core group.
As for completing the squad, it will depend on who comes in during the summer and what decisions Arteta and Edu make in setting Arsenal up for a strong campaign next time out.