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Building The Arsenal: Now, Summer 2019 & the Future - Attacking Midfielders

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Examining Arsenal’s attacking midfield line

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

Welcome to part six 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 during this summer transfer window this summer. Up next is the odd mixture of attacking midfielders Arsenal has.

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

Pace, dribbling, vision, goal focus, and being great at creating shooting opportunities are some of the attributes a team looks for when putting together their attacking line behind a central striker. Arsenal’s current selection at the position offers little in the way of cohesion for Unai Emery, something that must be addressed in the summer.

Current Depth Chart

While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played on the left attacking wing for Arsenal, we will evaluate him during the analysis of the forward position in the next part of this series. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was included in the right back post, which is where he will remain slotted until the club signs a new backup for Hector Bellerin.

  • Starters: Mesut Özil (30 years old, £30.5 million) & Aaron Ramsey (28 years old, £36 million)
  • Backups: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (30 years old, £27 million) & Alex Iwobi (23 years old, £22.5 million)
  • Future Prospects: Emile Smith Rowe (18 years old, £3.6 million), Reiss Nelson (19 years old, £15.3 million) & Xavier Amaechi (18 years old, N/A)

*Transfer values taken from Transfermrkt - Arsenal.

Arsenal FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Contract Situation

  • Mesut Özil - Under contract through June 2021.
  • Aaron Ramsey - Leaving for Juventus on a free.
  • Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Under contract through June 2021.
  • Alex Iwobi - Under contract through June 2022.
  • Emile Smith Rowe - Under contract through June 2020.
  • Reiss Nelson - Under contract through June 2022.
  • Xavier Amaechi - Under contract through June 2022.

Objectives for Summer 2019 Transfer Window

Emery needs six viable options for this role to have depth across competitions, protect against injuries and allow flexibility in the formation. Ramsey is gone (for nothing) and the two most expensive players of the group turn 31 during next season. Arsenal need a regroup, but can they?

  • Mesut Özil - He doesn’t fit Emery’s system. And the it’s unlikely the coach is going anywhere before at least next summer. Ozil wants to stay, but his wages are killing the club. Will anyone really make an offer this summer - even if Arsenal subsidize his wages? Unlikely. Push for deals, even as low as £20, but anticipate that Ozil and Emery must coexist for another year.
  • Aaron Ramsey - Learn from this repeated episode Arsenal have been through over the past few years. If players aren’t signing new deals heading into their final year, and aren’t close to retiring, sell them. Make the difficult moves.
  • Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Sell. £120k a week salary, they can’t keep him and Ozil and rebuild. Mkhitaryan is the easier of the two to sell and there should be more suitors out there with a reasonable salary compared to Ozil.
  • Alex Iwobi - No contract action needed.
  • Emile Smith Rowe - Offer a new deal for two or three years, and bring into the senior squad for next season.
  • Reiss Nelson - After a great loan spell in the Bundesliga Nelson will enter 2019/20 with a fair amount of hype among the Arsenal fan base. No contract action needed, but he should slot into the senior squad taking Mkhitaryan’s role.
  • Xavier Amaechi - Send out on loan next season. It worked well for Nelson in the Bundesliga, continue using that path for development.
  • New Signings - Ramsey’s role will need replacing, and if either Ozil or Mkhitaryan can be sold, another player should be brought in. Ideally, that would be someone in the 21-24 years old range that best fits what Emery is trying to accomplish, while offering long term value to sell in the future.
England v Poland - U21 International Friendly Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Projected 2019/20 Depth Chart

Ramsey is gone. Ozil or Mhki should be as well by the time August rolls around. If they club can someone move on both, it’s for the best. Even is 2019/20 has a shaky start, it’s worth it. Arsenal already have youth at the position and can continue to invest in that direction with those players exiting. To fully utilize this group, let’s imagine a 4-2-3-1 formation.

  • Starters: Iwobi - Ozil - Nelson
  • Backups: New Signing - Smith Rowe - New Signing
  • Future Prospects: Amaechi, Bukayo Saka

Smith Rowe isn’t ready to be a starting Premier League #10. And as much as Ozil and Emery seem to clash, retaining Ozil for that role as the rest of the team rebuilds isn’t the worst situation. Iwobi continues to improve each season and Nelson should offer the most attacking threat from the right wing since Theo’s prime days. But new signings are needed, as Amaechi and Saka need more time to develop. And no, Denis Suárez shouldn’t be an answer or even an option.