The vacuum of power left by Arsene Wenger over 18 months ago has not yet been filled at Arsenal. With the club sleepwalking in what could turn into a relegation battle, the Gunners are due to announce a permanent replacement for Unai Emery. High-stakes managers like Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta are being considered. But, how do they turn the ship around?
Here are some of the most important issues plaguing Arsenal at the moment.
Build a squad that allows fewer shots on goal
Bar only two Premier League clubs, Arsenal has allowed the most shots to be taken on target. On average, the opposing team has taken 14 shots on goal per game. No wonder Arsenal has incurred 27 goals and sits in 10th place.
While Bernd Leno has proven to be a relatively capable keeper (he has the best ranking of any Arsenal player), clearly something is going amiss in front of the goal. Central defenders Sokratis and David Luis have been accident-prone. And, defensive midfielders Guendouzi and Xhaka have not provided the safe-gap that was expected. And, this does not even take into account possible Arsenal injuries that could further work against the club.
With former Arsenal captain, Mikel Arteta, likely to take over the team, his is one of the issues he will need to fix right away.
Wages & star wages
The tell-tale sign of a large team falling to bits is when payment of its biggest stars has no effect on results. It is the case with Arsenal now. While players like Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were right to demand top dollar for their services just a few years back, things have changed. Ozil is a rare presence and, frankly, Arsenal has been unable to shelve him out.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, on the other hand, has been loaned out in an effort to shave off some the 200K a week he earned at Arsenal. Incidentally, that was the sum earned by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the team’s star player. When Arsenal play, the players’ wages should reflect their true value.
The new manager will need to first balance the books before he can delve into the transfer budget.
Recruit players committed to the club
The Arsenal mania of the late 1990s was built on impeccable results and on a sense of pride from the club’s representatives. After all, this was a team battling Manchester United for the title year in-year out. Furthermore, they regularly featured in the Champions League’s final stages.
Arsenal results have decreased, of course. But, that’s no reason why the club’s pride should not remain intact. Signing journeymen players like David Luiz and Aubameyang may certainly help in the short-term But, it may also give the overarching sense that the club has fallen beneath the reputation of some of its rivals. Granit Xhaka’s decision to leave the club after one incident involving fans is also not a good sign. Ancellotti or Arteta may be better off recruiting players that are there for the long haul. The Arsenal youth team could prove a gold-mine for the club’s recruitment.
Get the Arsenal team, Arsenal TV and Arsenal supporter on their side
For a while now, the Arsenal manager has fought a lonely fight. On the opposing end have seemingly sat not just the other clubs, but Arsenal’s own supporters. After decades of having one man lead the club, Arsene Wenger, the Gunners need a similar deal now.
If the new manager is to succeed at the Emirates, he needs to get all opposing factions rooting for him. The Arsenal logo is to represent all members of the club with full confidence being given to the manager. The hasty rumors regarding job security only weaken a side, especially a club such as Arsenal. If they are to thrive, all those involved in the club need to back the same idea from the kick-off and until the end of a campaign.
The Arsenal Invincibles team would not sell their top players to rivals
Which is what Arsenal was forced to do during the days in which the club was busy building their Emirates Stadium. Only a few years prior, Arsenal legends dominated the Barclays Premier League. Fans will have a hard time forgetting how players like Robin Van Persie were let go to rivals Manchester United. They recently lost Alexis Sanchez to United again. That may have been a blessing in disguise. But, it also showed how the Gunners were now incapable of keeping their star players settled.
The London side now has a host of players that are, in theory, above the standard of 10th place EPL side. Aubameyang, Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe could comfortably play for any of Arsenal’s big English rivals. Promises of playing the Europa League are not going to hold them here.
Arteta will need to inspire his players in a way that will allow them to see the long-term plans of the club and how they fit into them.
The new Arsenal manager takes on the club at a difficult time. Long term positive results are no guarantee. The great Arsene Wenger still casts a big shadow over the club. But, given Arsenal’s reputation, their financial success and their fanbase, there is no reason why the club should not be aiming to once again be the top club in England.