Changes are afoot at the Emirates Stadium this summer.
Arsenal discovered their fixtures for the 2021/22 Premier League season on Wednesday morning, and for the first time in 25 years, there are no spaces marked out in the calendar for European games.
An eighth-place finish in the 2020/21 campaign has kick-started a planned overhaul of Mikel Arteta’s first-team squad.
Whilst the Gunners have been linked with the likes of Ben White, Andre Onana and Albert Sambi Lokonga, the biggest casualty could see the leadership group that Arteta turned to last season decimated.
That is if the expected experienced departures go through this summer.
So with the new season getting underway in two months, football.londonunderstands 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.
And a second core group could be formed next season – but this one relates to matters on the pitch.
With David Luiz leaving, Granit Xhaka on the verge of a move to AS Roma and Alexandre Lacazette’s future still not decided, Arteta could be without three of his regular free-kick takers next season.
Given Arsenal only scored directly from a free-kick once in the season just gone, some may argue that it’s time to find a more consistent free-kick taker.
And a new name could throw his hat into the ring.
James Maddison has been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium and he is dedicated to perfecting the art of dead-ball situations after taking inspiration from David Beckham – one of the best set-piece takers of all time.
“I used to watch David Beckham when I was younger, and we all know how good he was from dead-ball situations, so I’ve just always practised,” he said in the June 2019 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. “I’ve always loved taking free-kicks and put a lot of work into them.”
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.
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As per the Premier League website, five of Maddison’s 21 goals in the competition have come directly from a free-kick – including one in a 3-1 win over Liverpool in February.
So, if Edu is able to seal a £60m deal for the 24-year-old, he will have a strong case to become Arsenal’s next dead-ball specialist.
Although, he might have to convince Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe that he’s worthy to be the leader of this potential core group.