Arsenal chief Unai Emery knows he has plenty of work ahead of him this summer in re-shaping his squad. A year on from when he took charge – replacing Arsene Wenger who had been in the role for 22 years – he will leave no stone unturned in his quest to recruit the players who he believes will add a new dimension to his side.
Inevitably, that will mean some players will say a fond farewell to the Gunners. Some are nearing retirement, some are simply not good enough and others will move having become frustrated at the lack of first team chances under the Spanish coach.
Two players who are going nowhere, though, are summer signings from last year — Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. Both players have been huge successes since switching to the Emirates Stadium and fans and critics expect them to improve even more, making them the potential bedrock of the Arsenal midfield (remember, midfielder Aaron Ramsey is on his way out of the club, heading to Italian giants Juventus).
The manner in which the two players have adapted in the Premier League — a league, by the way, which keeper Bernd Leno has said is without doubt the best in the world — has been admirable to say the least. Indeed, the way the pair have settled in has given Emery a lot of pleasure this season; this a campaign which nears its conclusion with Arsenal fighting for a top four spot in the top-flight as well as hopes of Europa League success (they host Napoli in the first leg of the quarter-final clash on Thursday, April 11).
When quizzed as to who is the most improved player, Emery said: “We are 25 players, and can only play 11, 18 in the squad, it’s very difficult to give everyone an opportunity to improve. There are some players maybe you can see this year this improvement — Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi.
“The first time in the Premier League, in this difficult competition, and they are improving I think well. Maybe also sometimes the experienced players help them to do better, with their adaptation to the Premier. For me also I think it’s these two players.
“Also, Aubameyang is scoring goals as we want. Lacazette also is doing more of a role, and I think now Mesut (Ozil) is working very well. Maybe Kolasinac, he is improving. Iwobi, Bernd Leno also is taking little by little more confidence and is stronger in the goal.”
Meanwhile, former Arsenal boss George Graham believes Mesut Ozil could be even more effective if he were playing alongside more dominant players. Graham, who won a clutch of honours for the Gunners during his stint as manager, says enforcers such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira would have provided the perfect foil for the German playmaker.
He said: “When I was a manager, I probably would have bought Vieira and Petit the other side and put Ozil in the middle. He’s a real quality player in possession. There’s no question about it. If they can just get him working a bit harder without possession, they’ve got a fantastic player. The modern game now you have to play when you’ve got the ball and you play when you haven’t got the ball.”