Due to our inflated wage structure and Europa League final defeat, our transfer budget for this summer isn’t as high as we’d like. Given the players at our disposal, there would be numerous areas in which it would be fair to say that we need a new first team signing. However, our limited funds won’t allow this to be straightforward. According to various media outlets, our budget lies between £40-45m. Whilst this mightn’t be entirely accurate, and it doesn’t account for potential outgoings, it is far from ideal, given the issues which need to be addressed. Subsequently, we might have to make use of the assets which we have at our disposal. Namely: players returning from loan and our youth academy. Throughout this article, I will examine four players who spent last season on loan across Europe who could prove to be very useful throughout the upcoming 2019/20 campaign.
- Reiss Nelson. The young English winger spent the 2018/19 season on loan in the Bundesliga, at Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim side. Out of all the players hat will imminently be returning to Arsenal, he is probably the one facing the most anticipation from fans. Despite being just 19, he managed to score seven goals and provide one assist in just 628 minutes domestically. That works out at one every 79 minutes. Obviously, the Premier League is played at a much higher level than that which he will have become accustomed to in Germany, but managing that sort of a return is very impressive for a nineteen year old in any division. Prior to last season, he was voted Premier League 2 player of the season. His ability is clear to see, even if his end product and decision making do require a bit of work. Whilst in Germany, he was also forced to mature off the field. He faced a period on the sidelines with injury and was out of the starting XI on many occasions. To experience these scenarios at such a young age can only benefit him, and his mentality appears to be clear during the summer. In a recent interview, he revealed that his focus was on the U21 European Championship before returning to prove himself at ’the club he loves’. Speaking of the U21 Euros, he featured in one game, in which he converted a penalty which he had won himself. Given our lack of a natural winger, I think Nelson will find himself with numerous opportunities to prove himself this season. Our schedule will be busy given the cluttered Europa League fixture list, so he could get the chance to play against European quality opposition on a regular basis. If he performs well in these games, then who knows. Let’s hope that he can seize the opportunity, solve our wide-man problem and develop into the winger that we all know he can be.
- Krystian Bielik. A player who Arsenal fans mightn’t be so familiar with is polish U21 international, Krystian Bielik. Although he has been at the club since January 2015, he is still only 21. He spent last season in League One with Charlton Athletic. Here, he featured in 34 games, both as a defensive midfielder and centre back. He excelled for the london-based side and was one of the key figures as they gained promotion to the Championship. He’s dangerous from set-pieces, comfortable on the ball, capable in various positions and not earning a huge wage. At the moment, he ticks all the boxes. He found the net on four occasions during last season and provided a further two assists. One of his goals was in the play-off semi-final and he was voted man of the match in the final itself. Meanwhile, he was also impressive at the U21 European Championsip, where he found the net on two occasions. The only real issue is that he only has one year remaining on his Arsenal deal. For me, I’d love to see his contract extended and him given a fair chance. It would also allow us to part ways with someone like Mohamed Elneny in the process. This would free up £55,000 per week and generate ~£5m in funds for the transfer fee itself. Also, the Egyptian has been given countless opportunities to prove himself and never really taken advantage. I’d much prefer to see the young Polish prospect given the chances instead.
- Emiliano Martinez. Although it seems like the Argentine has been around forever, he is still only 26. For a goalkeeper, he still has up to ten years left in the tank. He has had numerous unsuccessful loan spells throughout the years, but we saw a different outcome last season. He joined Reading in the January transfer window and was one of their best players during the second half of the season. When he arrived, relegation looked like a certainty. However, his side went on to lose just four of the remaining eighteen domestic matches, and finished in 20th place. Emi undeniably played a huge part in their survival. He only kept five clean sheets, which mightn’t look overly impressive on the surface. However, it’s important to consider that the defense in front of him was average at best. As we saw with Bernd Leno, clean sheets alone is not an accurate representation of a goalkeeper’s ability. He had many impressive displays during his stint in Southern England. He was also voted man of the match against eventual champions, Norwich. Given that Petr Čech has announced his retirement, the backup goalkeeper position is up for grabs. I think that Martinez deserves a chance. He’s patiently waited for the opportunity to present itself, and after a very impressive loan move, now seems to be the time. I hope that he will be given chances to prove himself in the Europa League group stage as well as the domestic cups.
- Calum Chambers. Despite his promising start for the club back in 2014, Chambers has never really fulfilled his potential. His versatility has worked against him in many ways, as he’s found it hard to nail down one position as his own. However, this season, he demonstrated that he can be a viable asset for the club. Despite Fulham having a disastrous season, he was one of the only positives to come our of their return to the Premier League. He played predominantly in midfield, but filled in at centre back on many occasions. Admittedly, Fulham’s defensive record was rather shambolic, but that can’t be used in order to sum up Calum’s performances. I think that the West-London side could have had Virgil van Dijk in their XI and they’d still have shipped two goals per game. One player can only do so much in such a calamitous system. Fulham fans speak very highly of him and he counts towards our homegrown quota. Given our record with injuries and our finances being limited, having a player who can fill in at centre back, right back and even midfield when required would be very useful, in my opinion. Whilst he has been linked with a move to Crystal Palace as part of a transfer to bring Ivory Coast international Wilfried Zaha to the club, I would personally give him one final season in which to improve himself. Given that Elneny/Mustafi are the alternatives, I think it’s fair to say that he deserves a chance to show what he can do under Emery.
There’s no denying it, our financial situation will severely hinder the squad improvements which we can make this summer, but I strongly believe that integrating these four players into the first team will allow us to strengthen adequately in other areas whilst providing valuable competition for the existing players in their respective positions. Let’s hope that all of the above can perform well a successful season for the club.