6 Big Decisions for Arsene Wenger to Make at Arsenal This Summer
This will be a massive summer for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. The Gunners finally ended their wait for a trophy with victory over Hull City in the FA Cup final, and next season they will be expected to challenge for the Premier League title right to the wire.
Le Prof has a great many big decisions to make.
Who will he bring in? Who will he let go? Which players' deals will he improve and what systems will he consider for next season's title push.
Here, Bleacher Report offers up six big decisions that Arsene Wenger must make if Arsenal are to challenge for the title next season and beyond.
Tie Down Contracts of Important Players
While Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly be concentrating on orchestrating a concerted push for the Premier League title next season, he will also have to cast one eye toward future seasons.
This will mainly take place in two fashions.
The first place to start will be tying down the contracts of important players.
This season, Wenger allowed five senior players to run their contracts down according to Transfermarkt. Bacary Sagna, Kim Kallstrom, Nicklas Bendtner, Emiliano Viviano and FA Cup final hero Lukasz Fabianski will all leave the club over the coming weeks.
With the exception of French international, Sagna, none will be missed by Arsenal. To Wenger's credit, he did try to keep the 31-year-old, but chose not to match the £120,000 per week offer on the table from Manchester City, as per the Guardian.
Five more players will be out of contract in 2015: Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby, Thomas Vermaelen and Ryo Miyaichi. None of the five are essential to Arsenal's future success as individuals, but Flamini and Arteta do provide balance to a very attack-minded midfield. Should they and Diaby be allowed to leave, Wenger will have to replace the gaps left by their absence.
Flamini, who turns 31 in March 2015, is the man to keep. Wenger must offer the Frenchman a new contract before he leaves, once again, on a free transfer.
To show Le Prof's succession planning in full, all one has to do is realise that Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Serge Gnabry are all out of contract in 2018.
There is not much future-proofing to be done this summer, but Wenger must tie down Flamini and Koscielny to fend off possible transfers. Then he must look at improving the current deal of Ramsey.
The young Welshman is on the verge of moving into world-class territory, and when the big teams come calling, he will find it hard to resist a move that would significantly improve his current deal of approximately £100,000 per week, per the Guardian.
Go All out to Capture Antoine Griezmann
Signing a striker was most definitely the priority for Arsenal's fans in January and little has changed in the intervening months. If anything, the need to sign a striker has grown more pressing.
The Daily Mail claims that Le Prof has been running the rule over the 23-year-old winger-cum-forward Griezmann for some time and will pounce this summer.
Griezmann would be an ideal capture for Arsenal for a number of reasons.
Firstly, he has huge experience for a player so young; he has made over 200 appearances and has become an important part of Sociedad's team over the last five seasons. His name may not drop off the tongue like many other starlets his age, but there is a good reason for that.
Even though he is a first-team regular in La Liga, he has only featured 10 times for the French U21s. He joined Sociedad when he was just 13 and playing in Spain at such a young age has kept him away from the scouting networks in France.
In June 2010, he made Francis Smerecki's squad for the UEFA European Under-19 Championships. He sparkled during the tournament as France topped Group A before beating Spain 2-1 in the final. His performances were of such high quality that UEFA.com claimed he was one of the best-kept secrets in football.
At the time Griezmann told UEFA.com:
It feels strange because nobody recognizes me here, while in Spain when I go to town all the people I meet ask for a picture or an autograph. But it is an advantage to be a little incognito.
His unique playing style, part French technical, part Spanish flair, made him a highly dangerous player at the Championships with his coach, Smerecki, hailing his performances.
However, his international career was halted after he received a one-year ban from the France national team at all levels for visiting a Paris nightclub midway through a qualifying play-off for the U21 European Championships.
Over the last two seasons, he has improved rapidly and is now at the stage in his career where he needs a larger platform to develop further. Arsene Wenger is the right man in the right place at the right time for Griezmann.
This season, WhoScored.com reports that he has created 34 clear goal-scoring opportunities and averages an impressive 3.2 shots on goal per game. In total, he has fired on goal 111 times in 35 matches and scored 16 goals. He has also contributed three assists and averages 77.2 percent in pass completion.
The youngster is the ideal man to solve Arsenal's problems on the left where Lukas Podolski's defensive work and attacking prowess are often found wanting.
Avoid Signing Cesc Fabregas
The Daily Star says that Louis van Gaal has made the midfielder his number one priority, less than a year after his predecessor, David Moyes, tried to sign the player. Chelsea and Arsenal are both in the hunt for the former Gunner according to the Metro. While this piece from the Telegraph in 2011, claims that Arsenal have a first-option and buy-back clause and 50 percent sell on clause should Fabregas go to another club.
There is no doubting Fabregas' qualities as a player. The 27-year-old began his career with Barcelona before moving to Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2003. He went on to play over 300 times for the Gunners and captained the side before returning to Barcelona in 2011.
Fabregas played an amazing 46 matches in his first full season as a pro at just 17. Now, at 27, Cesc has played well over 500 times for club and country, and it would look as if Barca are ready to part with their prodigal son.
The biggest worry Wenger has concerning Fabregas is whether he is burned out or not. Barca, like most top clubs, do not sell their top players when they should be coming into their peak. Most players reach the zenith of their physical powers in their late 20s.
Fabregas, unlike most who make their break through at 19 or 20, made his at 17.
Rooney is 28 and also made his debut at just 16. He has gone on to play over 600 times for club and country and Scholes wonders whether Rooney has passed his peak.
The same question must be asked of Fabregas. Is it worth bringing Cesc back for upwards of £30 million? Especially when Wenger has the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain developing at such a rapid pace.
On the positive side, Fabregas' capture would introduce the interesting possibility of Arsenal playing a striker-less system.
Arsene has always stuck by the philosophy of developing his younger players. He should not shirk this belief, even if it means avoiding eye contact with one of his most beloved former players.
Sign a Top-Class Striker to Push Olivier Giround into Reserve
Olivier Giroud scored over 20 goals this season and improved immeasurably upon his disappointing first season at Arsenal. That being said, the Frenchman is not the top-class striker Arsenal need or deserve, and Arsene Wenger must look at alternatives to Giroud during the upcoming summer transfer window.
The Gunners need a forward with pace who can break defensive lines when the opposition squeeze up to limit Arsenal space in midfield. Last season, Giroud and Arsenal were tactically negated at the highest level by opponents defences playing on the halfway line.
Giroud, as slow as an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping, to quote Edmund Blackadder, is most excellent at holding up the ball and bringing midfield into play when Arsenal go direct to the centre-forward. However, there are times when Arsenal need so much more than a than a player with the abilities of a wall.
Giroud's striking record against the top clubs means that Wenger must consider more mobile strikers who are far more dangerous in front of goal.
That is not to say that Giroud should be cast aside—far from it. He is brilliant at exposing poor defenders and must be kept. Wenger, however, needs to learn his lesson from last season where he failed to show real conviction when trying to sign Luis Suarez.
This year, if he wants to win the Premier League, he must not take no for an answer and consider the likes of Carlos Tevez at Juventus, mercenary that he is, Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, Mario Mandzukic at Bayern Munich and even Suarez at Liverpool.
Find a Replacement for Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta has been a great servent for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal without ever being a great player.
The former Everton man has played the role of square peg in a round hole as a central midfielder for the Gunners for the last three seasons. However, the time has come for Arsenal to evolve and develop, and that means leaving Arteta behind.
Arteta, 33 next March, is out of contract at the end of next season. The time is right to replace the Spaniard with a younger, sleeker model.
The former Rangers midfielder has never been blessed with pace and this has never been more apparent than this season, where he was badly exposed against all the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton.
Arteta's best attribute is his ability to maintain possession through passive attacking phases. However, against teams where he is pressured on the ball and not allowed time to settle, he has proved poor.
Wenger does not have to look far for Arteta's replacement.
Jack Wilshere offers a similar physique with perhaps more bite and a greater range of passing. The time has come for Wilshere to step up after his development has slowed over the last year or two.
Outside the club, Wenger must consider the athletic Victor Wanyama and intelligent Morgan Schneiderlin, both of Southampton. The pair have Premier League experience and could easily slot into Arsenal's system. The same could be said of Alex Song, who is surely available at Barcelona after only starting 13 matches last season, or even Gareth Barry, who was recently released by Manchester City after a successful loan spell at Everton.
Consider Different Formations and Systems
Arsenal's default system over the last number of years has been 4-2-3-1, yet when push came to shove and the Gunners looked like losing matches, Wenger would switch to 4-4-2.
If 4-4-2 is Plan B when Plan A is not working, then it is time for Arsene Wenger to consider Plan B as Plan A.
Next season, before he signs another striker—a must—Arsene Wenger will have two players with tons of pace available to him.
Joel Campbell, pictured above, will return from his successful loan spell at Olympiacos and Yaya Sanogo will have a dull season under his belt.
Sanogo, as raw as uncooked eggs, could really benefit from a season on loan with another club. However, should Wenger decide to keep the French youngster, he will have two players in Campbell and Sanogo who can play as the foil to Olivier Giroud in a 4-4-2.
Let's be honest, Arsenal starting the season with Giroud up top with either Sanogo or Campbell would not inspire confidence. Whereas, Giroud with a player like Luis Suarez or Radamel Falcao would.
This is where Wenger needs to be tactically flexible and consider other systems.
With players like Giroud, Campbell, Sanogo, and a top-class striker, Arsenal fans hope, Wenger will be able to choose between a variety of formations and systems.
He needs to sign a striker first, and when he does, his selection choices will improve considerably.