Saka undroppable and Bellerin for sale: Arsenal’s squad roles ahead of summer transfer window


Mikel Arteta and Edu have got some big decisions to make ahead of this summer’s transfer window.

The Gunners boss may well need to strengthen at left back, centre back, right back, centre midfield, central attacking midfield and centre forward come the end of the season.

But before they can even think about that though Arteta and Edu have to start to consider who he wants to sell in order to raise funds.

Speaking ahead of his side’s clash with Burnley in the Premier League at Turf Moor on Saturday, the Spaniard did admit that plans were already in the works ahead of this summer’s window.

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“We are planning what is going to happen in the summer,” he said. “It will depend where we finish and how we finish in some cases.

“I think what we had to do in December is unprecedented for a club of this stature. To do the amount of transactions we had to make [In January] I think tells you where we are. But I think it was very much needed.”

“If you want to improve you want to do that. It’s whether you think you have things in house with which you can improve, or if not externally acquiring players to go to the next level.

“Everything is planned so let’s see what the market can bring and what the last few months can bring as well to the club.”

Mikel Arteta and Edu will be at the heart of Arsenal’s transfer plans in the summer.

So with that in mind here football.london breaks down the Arsenal squad into tiers of who Arteta should be looking to keep and who he should be looking to move on.

It should be said that in the cases of Dani Ceballos, Martin Odegaard and Mat Ryan it has been assumed that all three loanees in the current Gunners squad will be staying purely for the purposes of this article.

Undroppable tier

This tier is probably the easiest one for Arteta. Arsenal have several players who are nailed to onto start pretty much every big game if they are fit, and with the club having each and every one firmly under contract there is next to no chance that any of them will be moving on in the summer.

Bernd Leno

There were questions about whether Arsenal had made the right choice in keeping Bernd Leno over Emi Martinez at the start of last season, but its safe to say the German has answered them.

Yet again one of the team’s most consistent performers he has got the Gunners out of jail on several occasions this campaign.

Kieran Tierney

It’s rare that a left back can effect the way a team plays in such a clear and obvious way but that is the impact Kieran Tierney has on the team.

Without him Arsenal are a much worse defensive and attacking unit, and if he is fit, it is safe to say that the Scottish international starts.

Bukayo Saka

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about Bukayo Saka.

With the way that he has carried this Arsenal team and stepped up in crucial moments it is easy to forget that he is only 19. He is an undroppable for years to come.

Thomas Partey

The only bad thing about Thomas Partey this season is that we haven’t been able to see more of him in an Arsenal shirt.

The Ghanaian has hardly played due to injury but is already far and away the best midfielder the Gunners have got. He looks to be one of their best signings in years.

Emile Smith Rowe

Seemingly out of nowhere Emile Smith Rowe has burst onto the first team scene at Arsenal to become an undroppable in Mikel Arteta’s side.

Before the 20-year-old came into the side the Gunners were 15th in the Premier League table. Since he’s come in they are third based on form.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Some may question his status as an undroppable after the season he’s had, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is still Arsenal’s captain and biggest goal threat.

The 31-year-old has also showed that despite his relatively sparse campaign in front of goal, that he is capable of turning up in the big moments with two crucial goals against Benfica to keep the Gunners in the Europa League.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring against Benfica for Arsenal in the Europa League (Photo by Vasilis Sykas/MenReporterMedia/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Likely starter tier

This tier is filled by the players who aren’t going to be leaving Arsenal in the summer, but aren’t quite as integral to the side as those in the tier above.

Gabriel

If this list had been written around Christmas time then there is no doubting Gabriel would have been in the undroppable tier.

Since then though the Brazilian’s form has dropped off slightly and his confidence looks shaken. No doubt he is a key player for Arsenal though.

Rob Holding

Rob Holding has probably been Arsenal’s best and most consistent defender this season.

He does have the propensity to struggle when up against pace though so this counts against him in terms of being in the undroppable category.

Martin Odegaard

If Arsenal are able to keep a hold of him then Martin Odegaard has already shown what a key player he can be to the squad.

The Norwegian’s passing vision and creativity provide the exact spark that the Gunners’ lacked for most of the first part of the season and he has fit in seamlessly at the Emirates.

Granit Xhaka

This may not be a popular one given his reputation among some corners of the Arsenal fan base, but Granit Xhaka has established himself as one of the most important members of Mikel Arteta’s squad.

His recent consistency and steadiness in the midfield has been welcomed during a hectic time of the season in terms of fixtures and injuries.

Nicolas Pepe

There was a period when Bukayo Saka switched over to the right that it seemed as though Nicolas Pepe‘s Arsenal career might be over.

But the Ivorian has roared back to form recently with an impeccable run of form that has seen him score four in his last seven starts. He also seems to have a good relationship with Mikel Arteta and is a useful member of the squad.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary's Stadium on January 26, 2021 in Southampton, United Kingdom. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Pepe suffered an injury to his hand earlier this year

Rotation tier

This tier is for the players who are useful to the Arsenal squad in terms of numbers and ability, but not necessarily likely to be nailed on starters any time soon.

Mat Ryan

Mat Ryan has only played once in an Arsenal shirt so it’s trick to judge him.

But from what we saw in that display against Aston Villa it’s clear to see that the Gunners have got a solid enough back up for Bernd Leno if they are able to keep him.

Cedric

Many people turned their noses up at the idea of Cedric joining Arsenal last January, but the Portuguese international has diligently gone about proving them wrong.

With a professional attitude and a series of solid performances both at right and left back many believe he is now the best right back at the club.

Pablo Mari

Pablo Mari was another who concerns were raised about when he first came into the side last January.

But after a lengthy period out with injury the Spaniard has come in to establish himself as a steady presence at the back. The fact that Arsenal have lost once with him in the team speaks volumes of his impact on the squad.

William Saliba

Despite all the hype when he arrived and continued demonstrations of his potential on his second loan spell at Nice, the jury is still out on William Saliba.

The 19-year-old is clearly talented but probably not ready to start regularly in the Premier League for Arsenal and will be a rotational player most likely next season.

Dinos Mavropanos

Another young centre back who is impressing on loan is Dinos Mavropanos.

The Greek international is performing consistently well in his loan spell at Stuttgart and could be a useful defensive option next season.

Dani Ceballos

After wowing towards the end of his first loan spell at Arsenal Dani Ceballos hasn’t exactly kicked on his second.

The Spaniard would be a useful squad player who is capable of the sublime on his day. Unfortunately that day just doesn’t come often enough.

Gabriel Martinelli

This will likely be a controversial one given the excitement around Gabriel Martinelli, but the Brazilian is in the rotational tier for now.

He impressed on his immediate return to the team but has found game time hard to come by since the turn of the year and will likely be used as a squad player next season.

Willian

This one will probably be equally controversial but an element of realism is required when it comes to the Willian situation.

At 32-years-of-age and having just signed a three year contract on big wages it is unlikely that the Brazilian is going to be sold this summer. He will instead be used as a rotational member of Mikel Arteta’s squad like he has been this season.

Willian registered two assists as Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday.
Willian registered two assists as Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday.

For loan

This tier is for young players who are beginning to see their development stall at the Emirates and are clearly in need of a more game time.

Reiss Nelson

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Reiss Nelson who just simply hadn’t had the luck when it comes to breaking through at first team level. Just as it appeared he might be in with a shout of some minutes at senior level he picked up yet another niggling injury.

The 21-year-old looks low on confidence as in danger of losing his chance at Arsenal altogether if he does not impress elsewhere.

Eddie Nketiah

It’s a similar situation for Eddie Nketiah who is in desperate need of some game time elsewhere.

The England under-21 record goalscorer is clearly talented but hasn’t been given a run for long enough at first team level to prove himself.

Eddie Nketiah has seen playing opportunities at Arsenal decrease significantly since Christmas.
Eddie Nketiah has seen playing opportunities at Arsenal decrease significantly since Christmas.

For sale tier

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s the list of players who Mikel Arteta should be looking to move on come the summer.

Runar Alex Runarsson

It’s no slight on the Icelandic goalkeeper himself but he simply isn’t good enough for this level.

The move hasn’t worked out and Arsenal should look to cut their losses.

Calum Chambers

After seven years at the Emirates Calum Chambers is probably no closer to becoming a regular at centre back for Arsenal as he was when he joined.

The 26-year-old would be a good option at centre back in the squad if there weren’t so many others in contention. He is an England international and will probably fetch a decent price in the summer.

David Luiz

David Luiz‘s contract is up at the end of the season and on balance Arsenal probably shouldn’t extend it.

The Brazilian is a good leader who can provide experience to the back line, but it is time for the Gunners to allow their younger talents to shine through.

Lucas Torreira

Lucas Torreira is a good player but it just didn’t work out during his two year stay at Arsenal.

It’s not exactly going to plan again at Atletico Madrid for the Uruguay international, but there is still plenty of interest from Italy and it is time for the Gunners to cash in.

Matteo Guendouzi

After well and truly burning his bridges with Mikel Arteta at Arsenal it’s difficult to see how Matteo Guendouzi can make a comeback into the side.

His concentration and attitude problems have reared their head again at Hertha Berlin and if the Gunners can get a fee for him they will move him on this summer.

Mohamed Elneny

Elneny has been a decent squad player this season but it’s time for Arsenal to move on from the Egyptian.

His attitude is impeccable, but he is far too conservative in possession for the type of football Arteta wants to bring to North London.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

There is a pathway into the Arsenal first team at right back for Ainsley Maitland-Niles if he wants to take it. Unfortunately though it seems like he has his heart set on playing in central midfield.

With that being the case it’s difficult to see how he gets into the Gunners first team, so, with regret, it is time to cash in on the England international.

Alexandre Lacazette

Alexandre Lacazette would be a great player to keep around the squad due to his experience and understanding with the younger players.

Unfortunately though he has just one year left on his contract and if Arsenal want to make any money from him then they will have to sell him this summer as keeping him on a long-term contract makes little sense with the wealth of talent coming through the youth ranks.

Sead Kolasinac

Many seem to have think Sead Kolasinac has left the club permanently already, but in fact he has only joined Schalke on loan.

With the Die Königsblauen almost certain to go down it seems as though they won’t be able to afford to keep him permanently. Still there are likely to plenty of other suitors for the Bosnian come the summer who will be able to do so instead.

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Joe Willock

This is a tough one as it’s difficult to tell if Joe Willock will ever be able to fulfil his potential as a potential heir to Aaron Ramsey as a goal-scoring box-to-box midfielder.

As it stands though it is not looking likely and with the 21-year-old looking decent on his loan spell at Newcastle it might be the time to cash in while his stock is high.

Arsenal’s players ranked by tiers

And so we have it. The full Arsenal squad assessed ahead of the summer.

Whatever decisions Mikel Arteta and Edu end up making, it’s safe to say that they have plenty of tricky ones to make.





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