Arsenal have gaps all over the pitch that will need to be filled this summer.
In better times for the club, that might mean an ambitious round of spending in the transfer market but, given the current state of play, the chances of that happening are vanishingly small – even if we somehow make it into the Champions League.
Edu and Mikel Arteta are going to have to come up with a way, therefore, of turning nothing into something. The resources they will have available are likely to be little more than those they are able to raise through transfers. In itself, that might mean some difficult – and ultimately unpopular – decisions will need to be made but that’s a blog for another day.
It’s probably true, then, that elements of our incoming transfer business will be about adding a sticking plaster in certain places to allow us to address more pressing issues elsewhere. Perhaps the biggest sticking plaster of all will be David Luiz.
Despite his advancing years – he is 34 this month – Luiz has shown himself even now to be our first-choice right-sided centre back. While Rob Holding has been reliable for short periods, he has also show himself to be limited and a promising run of games earlier this season has been tainted by a run of iffy performances – not least against Aston Villa, Manchester City, and Liverpool.
Luiz’s contract comes to an end in the summer and he may well prefer to end his playing days with one last tilt overseas – he has often spoken of his desire to play again in Benfica. However, given the superior financial package available to him in north London, I’d be confident that if a deal was offered, he would take it. The question is, is another deal with the devil worth it to allow us to focus our resources in other areas?
With Callum Chambers, Rob Holding and William Saliba on our books, we aren’t short of defenders who can ply their trade on the right-hand side so retaining Luiz on the sort of wages he commands wouldn’t appear to offer good value but can we say with confidence that any of the aforementioned three are good enough to fill his boots? There are high hopes for William Saliba but, at just 20, he is incredibly young for a starting centre-back in the Premier League.
Would another 12 months of Luiz not make sense so that he and Saliba can compete for the starting berth, with Holding in reserve? For all his foibles, and there are many, Luiz is vastly experienced and capable of playing in a way that makes us more dangerous. The fact remains that has the best passing range of any centre-back in the league.
Of course, he isn’t going to improve at this stage of his career and the four or five goals he costs this team a season won’t evaporate either but, on balance, the trade-off might just be worth it. The manager seems to think so and it’s worth remembering this is a player who has plied his trade among the biggest clubs in Europe for a long time.
That might well spell the end for Chambers and given his greater re-sell value, that might well be the shrewder move. Our assets, such as they are, will need to be maximised this summer so we can put our focus on the real areas of importance for this team – most notably midfield.
If there is £50million to spend in total (plus whatever we can raise in transfers), I’d be minded to spend every penny on the centre of the park – an area of the pitch that can bring benefits both to our defence and attack.
If the manager shares that view, compromises will need to be made elsewhere and, as it stands, extending Luiz for one more season might just be the smartest piece of business we can get sewn up now, before we the real business of the summer gets under way.