4 U-23 Players Arsenal Could Sign This Summer to Instantly Improve Their Starting XI

BY STEPHEN GANAVAS - @MAROTTANOMICS

After a 2017 that has produced nothing but turmoil at Arsenal, it seems likely that the club will be readying itself for a drastic overhaul of the club this summer. Whether that includes the sacking of Arsene Wenger is one question, but there is no doubt that changes must be made to the squad. Some players in the squad such as Francis Coquelin seem totally out of depth at Premier League level, while others such as Nacho Monreal and Per Mertesacker are not getting any younger and must be phased out of the squad soon.

Most worryingly though, the key pieces of a potential championship winning puzzle they have in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil seem to be posturing for the exit door, with the body language of the Chilean highlighting his frustrations with the mire the Gunners currently find themselves in. Therefore, with the title-winning window closing at an alarmingly rapid rate, it is time for regeneration at Arsenal.

1 – Leandro Paredes, 22

Unable to rely on Santi Cazorla to remain healthy and unable to rely on Coquelin to put in a 90-minute performance worthy of an Arsenal shirt, central midfield will be one of the main positions Arsenal look to strengthen in the summer. To command the centre of the park, the Gunners should look towards Roma’s Leandro Paredes.

Strongly built with no sacrifice of technical ability he seems a natural fit for a role as an anchor of Arsenal’s midfield in a 4-3-3. This seems a likely tactical shift should Ozil leave the club and would allow Aaron Ramsey the opportunity to play in a midfield role with more freedom than he has while playing in one of the anchoring positions of a 4-2-3-1.

Paredes is one of the best passers of a football in Serie A, is a serviceable set-piece taker and has an eye for goal. While defensively he still needs to mature; he, along with Granit Xhaka should also be able to provide an effective shield for Arsenal’s back four with their aggressive approach.

2 – Benjamin Mendy, 22

Nacho Monreal has been a liability this season. At 31, he is lacking the pace and physical presence to effectively challenge some of the Premier League’s quickest and strongest wingers. Instead, Arsenal should look to replace him with Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy.

This season, the French left-back has risen to prominence as one of the continent’s best attacking full-backs with some of the deadliest crossing any wide player has produced consistently all season. His 10 assists in 2,484 minutes of competitive action outshines Monreal’s 2 assists in 2,598 minutes and Mendy combines this with the raw power and two-way running required of a dynamic full-back at a top European club.

He does not shirk defensive responsibility. He is capable of providing a defensive foil to the offensive-minded Hector Bellerin on the opposing flank as he has done all season at Monaco with Djibril Sidibe.

3 – Andrea Belotti, 23

Arsenal fans have been pleading for consistent top level goal-scorer for what feels like almost a decade now. Olivier Giorud has at times threatened to produce that level of production, but his lack of dynamism has caused moments of frustration. While Alexis Sanchez has carried the burden of being Arsenal’s main goal-scoring threat this season, his seemingly inevitable departure creates available capital and a starting XI spot that could be filled by Torino’s Andrea Belotti.

The Italian has been a revelation in Serie A this season. He currently leads the capocannoniere goal-scoring charts with 22 goals this season. This places him above the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens, Mauro Icardi and Edin Dzeko. In fact, his tally has him placed fourth in the European Golden Shoe race, behind only Lionel Messi (25 goals), Bas Dost (24 goals) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (23 goals).

Belotti is a mobile striker that loves to chase down loose balls or defenders with the ball aggressively. He has a little burst of pace that allows him to break in-behind high defensive lines, but also the strength and guile to play with his back to goal and bring others into the attack against teams that like to sit back. His ability to lead the line alone would fit in seamlessly in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 system at Arsenal.

4 – Timo Horn, 23

Petr Cech no longer commands the penalty area with the authority he once did. Furthermore, with the jury still out on the ability for Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina to consistently deliver at the top level, Arsenal should turn their attention to FC Koln’s Timo Horn.

The German goalkeeper has a lot of experience in the Bundesliga. He is an excellent shot-stopper and commands the defence confidently in a Koln team that has the league’s seventh best defensive record this season.

Horn would also be cheaper option than any of the other three players listed above. Furthermore, while the goalkeeping position has not been a serious issue at Arsenal in the last decade, it also has not been a position of strength. The addition of Horn should provide a sense of stability behind Arsenal’s defence.