Arsenal might well miss out on the signing of Gabriel Jesus this summer, with Tottenham Hotspur eager to capitalise on their Champions League qualification
Arsenal are set for yet another rebuild this summer with Mikel Arteta eager to revamp his starting XI for next season – and the Gunners have the chance to build their own version of Antonio Conte’s free-firing Tottenham Hotspur side.
The Gunners missed out on Champions League football after a dramatic late-season collapse, which saw them lose to Spurs on their way to bottling a four-point lead with just three games to play. As a result, it is Tottenham who can now offer potential transfer targets the chance to play in Europe’s elite competition, as they plan to do with Gabriel Jesus.
Missing out on Jesus will be a major blow to Arsenal, but Arteta has other problems to fix in his side as well as issues up front. The first big issue is that his side still leaked goals late in the season.
The last clean sheet kept by Arsenal in the league came on March 19 against Aston Villa, when the Gunners seemed to be cruising towards fourth-place. After that, they conceded goals against Everton and Newcastle, and couldn’t even keep a clean sheet against a Leeds United side spiralling towards a relegation fight they would only climb out of on the final day of the campaign.
There’s no magic wand Arteta can wave which will allow his side to be stronger at the back next season, and he seemed to have a good, solid partnership at the back with Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White. It should be noted both of them suffered injuries late in the campaign.
But in the upcoming summer transfer window, Arteta can go a long way to solving his woes at the back by making two key decisions. The first is to pull the trigger on a bid for Djed Spence – currently on loan at Nottingham Forest, but likely available this summer for the right price.
The wing-back’s arrival, coupled with Arteta holding firm and keeping William Saliba at the club, would allow Arsenal to follow the system set by Conte at Tottenham Hotspur. After a year spent using a 4-2-3-1 formation, it might be time for Arteta to switch things up and copy the trend set in the other half of north London.
Conte’s system has worked the world over, with successes at Chelsea, Juventus and Inter Milan, and is built on the presence of three centre-backs and attacking wing-backs. Adding Saliba to the back three of Gabriel and White would give Arteta a much more solid defensive unit than he had last season, and would also free up space for his wing-backs to get forward and attack with the attacking potential of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe.
While Heung Min-Son is in a class of his own, and replicating him in another team would be near-on impossible, his Golden Boot win this past season proves that wide players can flourish in a system relying on wing-backs. With Jesus also wanted by Spurs and no obvious alternative in the market for Arsenal to target, it’s entirely possible Arteta’s new system could bring the best out of his wide attackers and use them to ease the burden on whoever they lead the line with next season.