Arsenal Transfer News: How Arsene Wenger Can Return Gunners To The Champions League

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger at Wembley Stadium, London, May 27. Wenger has been urged to be assertive in the transfer window this summer. Laurence Griffiths/Getty

Arsene Wenger is facing the toughest summer of his 21 years as manager of Arsenal after failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in two decades.

Winning the FA Cup last month came as little consolation after finishing fifth in the Premier League and missing out on Europe's top club competition. That will make the prospect of joining Arsenal less attractive, and, possibly, add to the price of potential signings.

This summer, the board has urged Wenger to be more assertive in the market after years of frustrating transfer windows for the club. But the Frenchman also faces three months of holding off the interest of other clubs in his key players. Here, Newsweek looks at the business Wenger will have to consider this summer, both for incomings and outgoings:

Don't Go Again!

For years, much of the criticism pointed at Wenger has been regarding his failure to hold onto players. Robin van Persie, most notably, left Arsenal in 2012 to join Manchester United, where he won the Premier League title as top scorer. There are fears this summer than Alexis Sanchez could be the Van Persie of 2017, with Manchester City, Chelsea and, even, Manchester United circling for the disgruntled forward. Abroad, Bayern Munich is reported to be offering Sanchez a lucrative deal and, of course, Champions League football. Convincing Sanchez to stay may be the hardest task of the summer for Wenger.

Another headache for Wenger is Barcelona's interest in Hector Bellerin, the 22-year-old Spanish defender. Bellerin was developed through the La Masia academy but left to join Arsenal in 2011 at the age of 16 where he stayed and excelled. With Barca reportedly offering more than £40 million for the right back, Arsenal has to decide whether to cash-in once again.

Steel in Defense

The joke circling Wembley Stadium on the afternoon of the FA Cup final, when Arsenal beat Chelsea to lift its only silverware of the season, concerned the man of the match. Per Mertesacker, the club captain, had been named in the Arsenal team for the first time that season after recovering from injury, and his stellar performance drew some to call for him to be named Player of the Year at the Emirates Stadium.

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Such praise also cast disdain on the rest of Arsenal's team, and defense. Laurent Koscielny has been the mainstay at the heart of the backline, the skillful Frenchman capable of launching attacks and preventing them, but lacking in consistency. The man meant to strengthen the defense was Shkodran Mustafi who signed from Valencia for £35 million on the final day of the transfer window last summer. Mustafi, a German international, has struggled to get up to speed with the pace and intensity of English football. So, will Wenger look to shore up his defense once again? He has already added left-back Sead Kolasinac to the squad and has been urged by former Gunner Sol Campbell to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton.

Goalscoring Galactico

Arsenal has relied heavily on Alexis Sanchez's goals—30 last season—to win games, but may not be able to do so next year. The next highest scorer was Olivier Giroud with 16 in 40 matches. With the club in danger of losing Sanchez, it will desperately need a forward capable of scoring at least 20 goals a season. Reports have suggested Wenger has travelled to France to try and bring Kylian Mbappe, the Monaco forward and Europe's most exciting prospect, to north London. Mbappe is still only 18 years old but starred in a Monaco team that reached the semifinal of the Champions League, scoring 24 goals in 41 matches for the Ligue 1 side. The problem, of course, is that Monaco is said to want a world-record sum to sell Mbappe. Another issue for Arsenal is that Real Madrid, with all its financial might, is keen on signing the forward. And, worse still, Mbappe is even believed to want to remain in the south of France for at least one more season.

Wenger, instead, has looked at another of France's prolific attackers, and one in his prime. Alexandre Lacazette, the Lyon striker, has been linked with a move to Arsenal for the past two summers, but a deal was never agreed. Lyon is likely to demand around £50 million for the 26-year-old but if Lacazette can take the goalscoring form that saw him score 36 in 44 games last season, it would be money well spent for Wenger and Arsenal.