If last summer’s transfer window felt like the most important one for quite some time, this one must feel that much more crucial to Arsenal’s ongoing rebuild. Held back by the pandemic, drying revenue streams, and discontinuity in their executive staff, Arsenal did what they could. Half the job, maybe.
Now they face a second summer transfer window with a lot at stake. Arteta will likely be entering his second year of management, a point in which serious scrutiny of his managerial production should begin, and the team will be within that two-to-three year range people generally agreed it would take the club to get back to a point in which top 4 finishes are less of an optimistic goal and more of must obtain.
With revenue streams like match day revenue likely to be still in question, and very possibly another season without Champions League football — barring a beautiful finish to the season that crowns the Gunners Europa League Champions — Arsenal will find themselves in a place that demands a ruthless characteristic define their business.
If the motto last summer was “almost everyone is for sale”, while seeing which clubs could scrounge together enough change from beneath the couch cushions, this year it has to see Arsenal going out of their way to hunt down deals for specific players saying, “let me show you what we have for you”.
As the season has gone on, certain players seem to have run into points where the writing may be on the wall and their time at Arsenal heading toward a conclusion. Some have worked their way off that wall, Pepe a prime example lately, although consistency hasn’t been an adjective I would use for his game, so let we will see. Granit Xhaka another that people are going in circles over, trying to decide whether to sell or keep. He fetches a fee, but with a little more time on his contract, maybe Arsenal hold onto him for one more season before making a sale.
Earlier in the year I wrote a piece about a few signs that put Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ future up for question. As he made his way to West Brom for the remainder of the season, we may have seen the beginning of the end of his time in north London. With a clear intent to be a midfielder with his career, Arteta doesn’t seem interested in entertaining that idea within his squad.
While it may have been a long time coming, and something that was being flirted with more and more as this season wears on, Aston Villa was the game that confirmed my belief that Eddie Nketiah’s name is joining that wall of writing. Aubameyang came back from his absence against Wolverhampton, and just like that, there’s no room for Eddie Nketiah in the match day squad. A situation that remained unchanged for Aston Villa.
Nketiah has made 24 appearances and 13 starts in all competitions this season, but 10 of those have come in competitions outside of the Premier League. Within the Premier League, he has 14 appearances but only 3 starts, and the dip doesn’t end there. Of his 1114 minutes this season, only 327 of them have come in the Premier League. Thats an average of 23.4 minutes per Premier League appearance. Maybe not surprising considering he is mostly a substitute.
When was the last time that Eddie Nketiah got over 10 minutes in the Premier League? December 19th in Arsenal’s 2-1 loss to Everton.
Eddie has put 6 goals/assists to his name this season, however, with his minutes in the league, he has only gotten himself 1 goal and 1 assist. For a “fox in the box” type of striker, it’s not the type of production you want to see, nor numbers he will be happy with.
Eddie offers Arsenal a lot of great workrate, he leads the line with great pressure numbers, but it’s fair to question some of the other skills that Arsenal’s striker offers, and whether they match the skill sets Arsenal are looking for in a striker.
Great use of body, ability to link up play, a good frame to combat with Premier League defenders, an ability to get on the end of a ball, but also the ability to help create in the attack. Arteta is pretty open about the fact that he also needs his striker to offer the ability to play on both sides of the ball. Honestly, it’s a major role and one with an immense amount of responsibility.
Certainly Eddie Nketiah has some of those skills, but when it comes to producing them consistently and at a high enough level to beat out his fellow teammates in head to head competition, he hasn’t been capable of it often.
Nketiah is hardly alone in the category of “Arsenal attackers not shaking the earth with their production” — the fact that we are only two-thirds through a season and already planning summer striker moves says a lot — but when you stack him alongside the options Arsenal have to consider, things don’t look great. A fact that makes selling him look like a good option.
Nketiah’s contract ends after the 2022 season which makes this summer the summer to sell, extend, or accept the likelihood he sees his contract out and walks out the door for free if he’s not being played.
Likewise, Lacazette’s contract ends at the end of the 2022 season putting him in the same place. Arenal need to find a suitable buyer and a replacement or accept that he too would leave on a free after the 2022 season. I say that with the belief that regardless of how he performs, Arsenal won’t look to extend his contract. That would put him and Aubameyang on pricey contracts while aging toward the end of their career which is a mistake Arsenal would make… right? I mean they wouldn’t make that mistake, would they?
According to Transfermarkt.com, Lacazette’s valued around £27m and Nketiah is around £15-16m. That’s not to say Arsenal could necessarily fetch that amount, but its a decent value for Nketiah, a player that hasn’t played much within the league for over a month and a half.
But why wouldn’t Arsenal sell Lacazette and keep Nketiah to see how his contract? It’s a great question, and given Nketiah is on roughly £45,000-per-week it wouldn’t be the largest hit to their wage bill to do so.
But when you consider the other options that Arsenal could have at the position, and likely will have after the summer, it makes you question if his role as depth is worth more than reinvesting a sale fee back into the team. Surely, there are other options in the side that are much more appealing.
As competition at the winger spot heats up, Arsenal are looking to see where Aubameyang fits in, and with a 10 behind him in Emile Smith Rowe, or attacking midfielders to fill in that space between the lines, Aubameyang is a striking option, and one that lets Saka stay on the right with Pepe or Martinelli on the left.
Martinelli is a very young and extremely promising player that has shown an immense amount of skill that may need fine tuning but could put his skillset right in between Lacazette’s and Eddie’s. He has the workrate, he has shown a knack for getting on the end of things to score, his maturity in making runs and knowing where to be is beyond his years. In a fluid front three, he also has a better capability to shift out to the wings, something Nketiah doesn’t really offer. It’s an ability that keeps defenders on their toes and makes him a handful to mark. A forward that can come short then go long, go long then come short is a dangerous one to mix with and prep for.
Balogun is certainly another name on people’s list of strikers that to see in the Arsenal side. While negotiations with his contract have been tough treading and his future is very up in the air, I think most people would like to see the complete skillset of Folarin on display. The fact that both Nketiah and Balogun have the same agent makes the situation a little bit trickier to navigate.
Finally, you have a long laundry list of striking options that people would like to see come through the door, and in all likelihood Arsenal will look to bring one in regardless of an Nketiah sale. Short of someone like Martinelli coming on so strongly in the final months of this season that satiate this need, it would be extremely disappointing to see Arsenal go through the entire summer window without making a purchase.
Arsenal have a long list of other positions to fill, which may be the reason they consider some situation in which Lacazette is kept, but even that wold see a sizable fee missed once more by a club that has been lambasted by its supporters for routinely losing players with nothing financially coming in the opposite direction. Additionally, Aubameyang hasn’t shown a level of play in that central role this year to label that position as tied down.
In a window that needs to see the club be stone-hearted, it seems time to sell one of their Hale End graduates but it’s no shame or disappointment if that’s the case. While everyone wants the graduates to end up like Bukayo Saka, the truth is, most don’t make it. And when that’s the case, producing sellable assets becomes just as important. Seems like the time for that switch from grow for the team to sell for the team is written on the walls.