Next season will be a third consecutive year without Champions League football for Arsenal supporters. It feels like a lifetime ago since Arsene Wenger guided the club to 19 straight appearances in the competition. A fair assumption would be the fact that Arsenal are a Champions League side. Football can be a game of fine margins so much so that when twice given the opportunity, Arsenal were one win away from securing rights to play Europe’s elite – losing the Europa League final 4-1 to Chelsea not before finishing one-point behind fourth place in the Premier League.
In what appears to be a catch-22, boss Unai Emery will only be given £45m to make improvements to his squad as a result of them not reaching the Champions League this season. That’s probably not enough money to resolve all of the issues he faces in trying to build his team. Realistically, that’s one signature signing, two signings to sustain a top-half spot and three-to-four players if you were trying to stay up. That sort of viewpoint is reinforced when delving into the current climate we see today – Aaron Wan-Bissaka is costing Manchester United £50m, Leandro Trossard joined Brighton for £15m whilst Manchester City are expected to fork out £63m for defensive midfielder Rodri.
Arsenal’s biggest woes come from the fact they still employ Mesut Ozil on a gigantic wage and that their defence is abhorrently bad. The German is unlikely to leave the club this summer – shockingly no clubs want to even test Arsenal’s resolve, I wonder why! – therefore funds won’t be made available from that. The Gunners conceded the second-most of any side inside the Premier League’s top nine last season, leaking 51 goals. Both Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi ranked inside the top-four for fouls committed in Arsenal’s squad whilst left-back Sead Kolasinac scored the worst average rating in the team of any player who had made 20-or-more appearances with a lowly 6.61.
Emery has an enormous task on his hands to transform Arsenal from Europa League nearly-men back to Champions League regulars. Now, the signing of Kieran Tierney and a central defender will go to great lengths to help him achieve that – Arsenal have a rich wealth of attacking talent as shown in both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Golden Boot winning season and Alexandre Lacazette’s 20-goal, 10-assist campaign. But it’s not enough. Since the start of last season, West Ham have spent over double what the Arsenal boss has at his disposal which is crazy seeing as The Hammers have barely flirted with Europe since winning the Intertoto Cup in 1999.
The Arsenal board need to provide significant investment into the playing squad if they are wanting that elusive return to the elite stage anytime soon. If not, then Emery’s future may already be decided before he’s even got his project fully underway. There will be an emphasis on finding ‘gems’ in the transfer market with such a small budget to operate with. Business must be shrewd otherwise Arsenal will be stuck in a rut and risk stagnating further. Again, it’s a catch-22 because the Spaniard’s hands are tied somewhat. Let’s just hope Ozil can be rid of sometime soon to add much-needed finance to their war chest.