Arsenal are expected to make big changes on the playing side this summer, with a host of first-team names likely to leave the club.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger recently told his players that Champions League qualification would be key to their futures, with a 13-point gap currently the difference between themselves and Tottenham in fourth place.
The Europa League remains a distinct possibility of silverware success following Thursday’s last-16 first-leg win over AC Milan at the San Siro, but there can be no hiding from the fact that Arsenal’s record away from home this season and regularity of defensive errors will prompt further spending in the summer.
Goal takes a look at the Arsenal players who should stay and leave come the end of the season, while also exploring the players who are fighting for their future at Emirates Stadium.
Players who should go
Petr Cech – The Czech shot stopper turns 36 at the end of the season and while age may not be the biggest concern on the goalkeeper’s mind, his worrying decline over the past few months should be noted. Cech has committed more errors leading to an opposition goal (7) than any other player in Europe's top five leagues this season. Former Chelsea captain John Terry said Cech ‘would be worth 12 to 15 points a season’ when he left the Blues for north London three seasons ago, but his errors and inability to save any of the 11 penalties he’s faced during his time at Arsenal is reason enough to make way for a new goalkeeper next term.
David Ospina – The Colombian came close to leaving Arsenal last summer after making it clear to Wenger that he didn’t want to be second choice behind Cech. However, a move didn’t come to fruition and Ospina has once again been the Gunners’ cup goalkeeper this season featuring in the run to the League Cup final and playing in the Europa League. He is more agile than Cech but still prone to the odd error which makes it vital that Arsenal secure a new No.1 ahead of the 2018/19 season.
Per Mertesacker – Arsenal’s club captain is set to retire at the end of the season and take up a new role as head of the academy. His retirement arguably should have come much sooner though as it is has been evident in the few games he’s played in the current campaign that he isn’t at the required level to play in the Premier League. Fans will be hoping that he can use his years of experience in the game to help bring through the next crop of youngsters and help unearth potential first team talents.
Laurent Koscielny – The Frenchman has captained Arsenal for much of the season due to Mertesacker’s absence from the starting XI. High profile errors in games against Manchester United and more recently Brighton have added to the former Lorient defender’s critics. Those critics have also lambasted the the 32-year-old’s lack of leadership qualities, with Arsenal crying out for a vocal captain who can organise the defence. He also suffers from a chronic Achilles problem which has to be managed daily, and it’s likely that Wenger will look to bring in an experienced replacement in the summer.
Danny Welbeck – The England forward is back-up forward to Aubameyang and Lacazette but has been handed opportunities recently due to the latter’s injury. He still doesn’t score enough goals to warrant a first team spot and his clumsy display against AC Milan emphasised that Arsenal would be better selling him for a striker more prolific in front of goal.
Santi Cazorla – Wenger described Cazorla's ankle injury as the "worst" he has ever seen. The Spaniard hasn't played for Arsenal since October 2016, undergoing multiple operations and suffering from an infection which almost led to his foot being amputated. The Spaniard is undoubtedly one of Arsenal’s best players and a joy to watch when he is in full form, but Wenger’s recent comments in press conferences suggest that he will only be offered a contract extension if he can prove his fitness for next season. Cazorla has targeted 2019 as a comeback date and it remains unlikely that he will be seen in an Arsenal shirt anytime soon.
Carl Jenkinson – A boyhood Arsenal fan who has spent the season on loan at Birmingham City in the Championship, Jenkinson came close to leaving the Gunners permanently last year when a move to Crystal Palace fell through. He wants to play regular first team football and an exit this summer remains the most likely outcome.
Joel Campbell – Another player who has spent the past few seasons on loan in a bid to play regularly, Costa Rica international Campbell recently admitted that he wanted to make his loan deal with Spanish side Real Betis a permanent one this summer.
Lucas Perez – Has endured a tough time at Deportivo La Coruna this season after returning to his former club on loan. Despite impressive goalscoring statistics for Arsenal he found himself behind the likes of Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order. The arrivals of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang make a summer departure even more likely.
Chuba Akpom – Currently on loan at Belgian First Division side Sint-Truiden, Akpom’s Arsenal future looks in serious doubt after he was arrested for driving when he smashed his car into a fence in Barnet in December. He’s only made one first team appearance for Arsenal and it’s understood that the club are open to offers for the 22-year-old.
Players who should stay
Alexandre Lacazette – Scored on his home debut for Arsenal but struggled over the Christmas period and looked isolated up front. The arrival of Aubameyang coupled with surgery on his knee has seen the Frenchman sidelined for the past few weeks, but there is no doubt that he has the required potential to play in attack for the Gunners. A potential partnership with the Gabon international could be on the cards when he returns from his injury lay off.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal’s record signing has scored two goals for the club since joining in January and will hoping to guide the Gunners to a top four spot this season. He’s shown glimpses of the quality that made him a household name in the Bundesliga but will be desperate to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s leading marksmen.
Mesut Ozil – The Germany talisman notched two assists for Arsenal against AC Milan on Thursday night and ended months of speculation over his future when he signed a contract extension in January. With 37 goals and 63 assists to his name so far, Wenger will look to build the team around Ozil, a World Cup winner who consistently produces assists for his team-mates.
Hector Bellerin - The Spain international has been playing with a knee injury for several months and played every minute of Arsenal's Premier League season until he was rested for the recent defeat at Brighton. One of the most promising right-backs in European football, both Barcelona and Juventus have been linked with the 22-year-old who could be tempted to seek a new challenge following a difficult campaign.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – A breakthrough season for Maitland-Niles has surprisingly seen him star in an unfamiliar left-back role. Although Sead Kolasinac has since forced his way back into the first team the future looks bright for the English youngster who sees his future in the defensive midfield position, something that Wenger has previously said he agrees with.
Granit Xhaka – The Switzerland international has endured a tough few months at Arsenal and it appears to have affected his confidence at the heart of midfield. Several defensive errors and lapses in concentration added to the fact that Xhaka hasn’t been utilised correctly means that there is plenty more to come from the £35 million man. He’s shown in flashes what he can do but will be desperate to show off the deep lying playmaker qualities that saw him become Borussia Monchengladbach’s youngest ever captain.
Aaron Ramsey – The Welshman is Arsenal’s best central midfielder alongside Cazorla and possesses an unrivalled engine and work ethic. Technically astute with a natural tendency to open up spaces and create opportunities for himself, Ramsey has proven himself to be a reliable outlet for Arsenal and scored two FA Cup final winning goals in the past few seasons. His contract expires in 2019 and it is crucial that the club tie him down to avoid losing him for free next summer.
Jack Wilshere – While contract talks have reached an impasse, fan favourite Wilshere continues to play regularly for Arsenal following his loan spell at Bournemouth last season. The midfield triumvirate with Xhaka and Ramsey ran the show against AC Milan at the San Siro and with an England place up for grabs at the World Cup this summer, Wilshere will be desperate to continue to put in top level performances to ensure he makes the plane to Russia in June.
Sead Kolasinac – Found his first few months at Arsenal difficult on the pitch and was eventually dropped for youngster Maitland-Niles. Named in the 2016/17 Bundesliga Team of the Season, Kolasinac needs to improve his positioning at times but the potential is certainly there, with four goals and four assists to his name this season.
Shkodran Mustafi – Another player who has struggled in Arsenal’s flawed tactical system at times, with the over reliance of attacking full-backs exposing the German’s weaknesses in defence. He can sometimes be rash in making tackles but the former Valencia centre-back boasted some of the best defensive statistics in La Liga before arriving for £35m last summer. Improvement is needed and a world class centre-back partner coupled with more one-on-one defensive coaching would help his game.
Nacho Monreal – Arsenal’s highest scoring defender this season and a consistently reliable left-back, Monreal is now in his thirties but continues to prove his worth. Looks to have at least one more season in him before a possible return to Spain and former club Malaga.
Konstantinos Mavropanos – The 20-year-old signed from Greek club PAS Giannina in January and impressed Wenger so much during his first week of training that he decided to keep him instead of sending him on loan. A loan spell would benefit his development and it’s understood that a move to the Bundesliga remains a possibility for next season.
Emiliano Martinez – Arsenal’s third choice goalkeeper could see an opening for the No.1 spot if Cech and Ospina leave the club this summer. The Argentine is currently on loan at Getafe and was praised for making a world class save to deny Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring in a recent league match against Real Madrid. He possesses all of the attributes needed to become a top goalkeeper and an impressive pre-season may provide him the platform to push on in the first team.
Playing for Arsenal future
Alex Iwobi – The 21-year-old needs to impact games more than he currently does. He has two goals and five assists in 29 appearances this season, with Wenger mentioning several times in the past couple of seasons that the Nigerian needs to improve his composure in front of goal. A technically gifted forward with a great turn of pace, Iwobi’s Arsenal future depends on whether he can reach the next level by adding more goals to his game.
Mohamed Elneny – A useful utility player who knows his job and can do it well. The Egypt international rejected a move to Leicester City last summer in favour of staying in London and has been on the periphery ever since he joined from FC Basel in January 2016. Promoting Maitland-Niles would make more sense in the long-term.
Rob Holding – Ideally needs a loan spell to aid his development. Holding has struggled with confidence issues this season and was part of a dismal defence who were exposed by Nottingham Forest in the third round FA Cup defeat. Burnley showed interest in the England youngster during the January transfer window and a move to play regular first team football next season remains on the cards.
Calum Chambers – In a similar situation to Holding and would have left the club last summer if it wasn’t for Gabriel Paulista joining Valencia and leaving Arsenal short on defenders. Excelled on loan at Middlesbrough last season but has looked suspect in defence, with the right-back position tied up by first choice Hector Bellerin. A permanent move would suit Chambers better but he could decide to stay on the books and go on loan instead.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide – Highly-rated youngster who has had his fair share of injury problems. Currently on loan at French club Angers until the end of the season and recently impressed in a late cameo appearance against Monaco. The Frenchman will need an outstanding pre-season to force his way into first team contention.