With most news around Arsenal being focused on Arsene Wenger, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, it’s often forgotten that a lot of the Arsenal squad are reaching the closing stages of their careers. Yes the managerial position at the club is very important but it isn’t the only area that needs attention.
A lot of the first team regulars are already over 30 or pushing that age which could be a sign to reinvest. With some of these players, like Laurent Koscielny (31) and Alexis Sanchez (28) being so instrumental to the first team their ages can often be the last thing fans are thinking about but the truth is they will need replacing.
In both legs of the Champions League Round of 16 against Bayern Munich Koscielny’s absence was crystal clear for everyone to see and people can only wonder if that is what the Arsenal defence will be like whenever he isn’t there.
His partner Shkodran Mustafi seems to be an able enough defender alongside the Frenchman but I’m doubtful as to whether he will be able to do Koscielny’s job when he’s gone. Again this was clear in the first leg against Bayern when Mustafi chose to bark orders at Hector Bellerin rather than cover the run of Thiago which lead to Bayern’s third goal.
So hopefully Koscielny still has a good few years in him to help mentor Mustafi into becoming more intelligent on the pitch, but at the age of 31 it is probably best to start looking for someone who could fill his void when he leaves.
If Arsenal want another French centre back who’s good on the ball they could maybe look into Aymeric Laporte. The Athletic Bilbao centre back, like Koscielny is very comfortable on the ball as well as being able to put in a challenge, averaging two tackles a game, the same as Koscielny. Standing at 6 ft 2 inches he’s an inch taller than Koscielny too at the age of 22 and but Arsenal’s man averages just over 2% more aerial duel wins than Laporte.
Moving up the pitch and unfortunately it’s arguably Arsenal’s best midfielder whose time seems to be running thin. Facing season ending injuries for the past couple of years could maybe finally taken its toll on Santi Cazorla, now 32 Arsenal fans will hope he still has something left in the tank but it looks less and less likely with each setback. There’s no doubt that Arsenal look a far better team with him in the side despite him usually being the oldest midfielder when he plays so it would be a miracle to get him back fit for next season, but maybe it is time to think of somebody who could replicate his impact in midfield.
Another player from La Liga could be the solution for Arsenal if and when Cazorla’s time at Arsenal is finally done and that player is Isco. Like Cazorla, Isco has been starting most of his games recently as a deep lying playmaker and has managed 6 goals and 5 assists this season from 26 games for Real Madrid. With Isco struggling for a guaranteed place in the starting 11 in a superstar filled Real Madrid squad, a move to Arsenal could not only help the Gunners but also help the 24-year-old find some consistency in his game and hopefully improve himself.
Getting into Arsenal’s final third and maybe Arsenal don’t need to bring in someone from outside the club to replace the ageing forwards like Olivier Giroud (30) as well as Sanchez and Lucas Perez who are pushing into their late twenties. Maybe Arsenal have the answer in Danny Welbeck, despite suffering from a bug which has apparently spread around the club at the moment, Welbeck has recovered well to a few long term injuries and continued to show form when coming back into the side.
Hopefully these glimpses of Welbeck’s talent Arsenal fans have been seeing of late could be seen at The Emirates on a more regular basis soon, but with rumours surrounding Sanchez’s future could Arsenal use that money to bring in a big name.
One striker who is always brought up when Arsenal are in the conversation is Alexandre Lacazette but there are two other that have caught my eye.
The first off is another French striker who has been likened to Thierry Henry at Monaco. It’s 18 year old Kylian Mbappe-Lottin, currently he has 17 goals and 5 assists in 31 games this season, with two of those coming against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City over the Round of 16. Yes at 18 he is probably far from the finished article but with a record like that at his age that is nothing short of impressive and with the way transfer fees are rising it may be better to pick him up sooner rather than later.
This seemed to be the case with the other striker who caught my eye. Andrea Belotti of Torino who has been scoring for fun in Italy. In the winter transfer window it was understood that Arsenal had a £56m bid for the Italian rejected, but with 24 goals in 28 games so far this season surely it wouldn’t do any harm to go asking for the 23-year-old again this summer.
So maybe Arsenal don’t need to cash in on their ageing players just yet, looking for possible replacements in these positions can’t be the worst idea can it…