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Building The Arsenal: Now, Summer 2019 & the Future - Center Midfielder

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Examining Arsenal’s center midfield position.

Arsenal v S.S.C. Napoli - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final : First Leg Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Welcome to part five of the ‘Building The Arsenal’ series, which is taking a look at the current depth chart and contract situations for each of the players at a particular position. I’ll attempt to project their individual futures, and the club’s objectives for the upcoming transfer window this summer. Up next is the crucial defensive center midfield role.

Previously: Goalkeeper | Right Back | Left Back | Center Back

Steel. Vision. High work rate. Tough Tackling. Excellent positioning. Passion. These are just some of the attributes of the ideal defensive center mid. It’s a position that has seen a lot of turnover at Arsenal over the past five years, and is still looking for the perfect partnership and form. So what do the Gunners have to work with at the moment and what needs to be addressed in the summer?

Current Depth Chart

Note: Aaron Ramsey, and the action needed to address his departure, will be listed in the next part of the series covering the attacking midfielders.

  • Starters: Granit Xhaka (25 years old, £45 million), Lucas Torreira (23 years old, £49.5 million)
  • Backups: Mattéo Guendouzi (20 years old, £27 million), Mohamed Elneny (26 years old, £9 million)
  • Future Prospects: Joe Willock (19 years old, N/A), Ben Sheaf (21 years old, N/A), Charlie Gilmour (20 years old, N/A)

*Transfer values taken from Transfermrkt - Arsenal.

Arsenal FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Contract Situation

  • Granit Xhaka - Under contract through June 2023.
  • Lucas Torreira - Under contract through June 2023.
  • Mattéo Guendouzi - Under contract through June 2022.
  • Mohamed Elneny - Under contract through June 2022.
  • Joe Willock, Ben Sheaf, Charlie Gilmour - Willock and Shead signed extensions back in 2017, but detailed weren’t released. Beyond this year contract specifics aren’t available, but all three likely have options for next year.

Objectives for Summer 2019 Transfer Window

There are a lot of positives looking at Arsenal’s current situation at the position. All four players have multiple years left on their contracts, which allows Arsenal to sell if needed for new funds (ahem, Elneny). Plus there are several good prospects in the U23 ranks at the defensive midfield role. The main thing lacking is a new top tier CDM - that Ramsey sized hold in the squad.

  • Granit Xhaka - No action needed. Only 25, and already several years experience in the Premier League.
  • Lucas Torreira - No action needed. Torreira will only get better in the years to come, as his value continues to rise. Purchased for £27m and now valued at nearly £50m.
  • Mattéo Guendouzi - No action needed. Still three years left on his initial deal, but like Torreira, his value has shot up after his first season in England. Bought for just £7m, he now has an estimated value of £27m. He is the perfect example of the type of purchases Arsenal need to continue with as the club reshapes its contract and wage structure.
  • Mohamed Elneny - Even with Ramsey leaving, Elneny is a likely candidate for a summer exit. Under Unai Emery, Elneny saw his impact reduced, going from 32 appearances in 2017/18 to 17 matches this past season. The club would be lucky to break even on Elneny at this point (bought for about £11m), but of the entire CDM ranks this is where Arsenal will look to strengthen.
  • Joe Willock, Ben Sheaf, Charlie Gilmour - All three players contributed to a strong season for the U23 squad in Premier League 2. While Willock made the most impact on the senior team this year. Extend all three for 2019/20, send two on loan and allow the third to serve as the 5th player in the rotation. By next summer the club will have a better idea which player(s) are ready to move into the senior side.
Burnley FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Projected 2019/20 Depth Chart

Even if no signings happen at the CDM position this summer, Arsenal are still in good shape. Torreira and Guendouzi will be improved, Xhaka has the talent to help the Gunners be a top four team, it’s just down to consistency. And if needed, Willock could function fine as a 4th option. Someone will be signed to replace Aaron Ramsey, but exactly where they land on the defensive to attacking spectrum will determine the depth chart and Elneny’s future.

  • Starters: Xhaka & Torreira
  • Backups: Guendouzi & New Signing
  • Future Prospects: Joe Willock & Ben Sheaf

Elneny is probably sold in the summer, and a new CDM is signed, in a similar mold to Guendouzi - young, under £10m, with a high ceiling. Willock and Sheaf get time in the 18 for European Group Stages and both Cup competitions. Overall, the net should be under £5m on either side of the ledger, and with that Arsenal have a young core of six defensive midfielders available for the senior side. This is a great future to build on, whether that’s on the field, through future profits from sales, or both.

How would you feel about a similar starting pair of center midfielders next season, if the defensive and attack received more attention over the summer? Any issues with Elneny exiting? Which of the three young prospects are you most excited about? Or is there another name in the U23/U18 ranks that you think will ultimately be the one to break through as a Premier League starter?