It’s been a summer full of speculation for Arsenal as they once again found themselves in a position where their world-class stars were running out their contract. This isn’t a singularity sadly and the Gunners have lost many top players through this, recently including the likes of Robin Van Persie and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Such is the problem occurring around contract deals that Arsene Wenger has had no choice but to let them go or risk losing them for free in the following summer.
So what a surprise it was when the transfer window of summer 2017 came to a close and Arsenal had retained both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Not only was this a major shock but it also raised questions regarding how long both would actually stay, whether they would sign contract extensions or actually leave the club in January instead? This also meant the worst case scenario of losing the pair for absolutely nothing next summer is a real possibility.
But how has this happened? And when the inevitable day does come, leading to their departure, who will come in their place?
Throughout the years of players changing clubs and leaving Arsenal to join rivals, one thing’s remained a constant. Wenger has always managed to produce more talent.
No matter which player has left the club, the Gunners have replaced and even though they may not be up to the standard to begin with, some of the young players brought into the club go on to be stars.
You don’t have to look far to see that Cesc Fabregas is a product of that philosophy. Having played his first professional game at 16, under Wenger he became one of the world’s best midfielders and is still one of the best in the Premier League with Chelsea. He was part of a breakthrough of young talent in Wenger’s era which had the likes of Samir Nasri, Emanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure, all of who left to join rivals Manchester City. Since the collapse of that system, Wenger has instead turned to other players coming through the ranks.
Theo Walcott has been a major part of the plan as he celebrates his 11th year at the club and fellow British stars Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey have been a mainstay in this Arsenal squad and have proved they can form part of a talented squad when nurtured well. However, neither of these players have actually helped Arsenal win the Premier League title, and although the FA Cup triumphs have brought back the glory days, the lack of a title, and the lack of really being close to a title, has really hindered Arsenal’s status as a powerful club.
European success is something that has also bypassed Wenger and with their 2006 final appearance being their closest encounter with the Champions League trophy, it’s safe to say Arsenal have struggled in that department immensely. The real chance of European success presents itself in the form of the Europa League, where they already look a class above their opponents. However, does that really count as a vision of success?
Who will be the next Arsenal stars?
It’s becoming clear that Alexis and Ozil are not going to extend their contracts, as surely this would have happened in the summer and with Alexis coming so close to a move to Man City, you have to wonder what the plan is here. Did the boss think the Chilean would change his mind and sign a contract or was he simply being stubborn and wanted to prove his authority?
What’s more, will this now all lead to January exits for Alexis and Ozil? If so, what will happen to the rest of the players who must now think Arsenal can’t keep a hold of their world-class stars?
In order for Arsenal to succeed, they need world-class players. Had we seen a team of Cech, Koscielny Fabregas, Ozil, Alexis and van Persie, who knows what this team would have achieved? The reality is none of those players ever did get the chance to play alongside each other and frankly, this wouldn’t have been a possibility considering the tight budget Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke have been imposing.
However, throughout all of that, seeing the history Wenger has, it doesn’t seem all doom and gloom should the pair leave. Even at the latter stages of their career, Alexis being 29 in December and Ozil just turning 29 earlier this month, it would seem plausible that Arsene has a few young players who could potentially fill their shoes. Although this is a tough task, you wouldn’t put it past a man who helped form the careers of Thierry Henry, Fabregas and van Persie – world beaters in their eras.
Will the new Gunners’ leaders come from the inside?
It’s just a matter of time before we see the next stars appear, and for Arsenal fans they may already have caught a glimpse. Hector Bellerin has been a regular for the Gunners for two seasons now, ever since making his debut in the League Cup against West Brom, and hasn’t looked back since. There are aspects to his game which can improve, such as his crossing and defensive duties, but given that he is 22 years old, there is plenty of time for the Spaniard to become a world-class right-back. Under Wenger, this is not out of the question.
Speaking of young talent, Alex Iwobi is another who has been slowly progressing since making his first-team appearance. The Nigerian has caught the eye of fans as he looks threatening going forward and bar his finishing, he fits in well with the current side. Yet perhaps the biggest wonder-kid of all, and one that could essentially replace Alexis Sanchez is none other than 17-year-old Reiss Nelson. Having made five appearances so far this season already, he has not looked out of place at all. It’s shocking to see such a young player play with high levels of confidence but Nelson already looks the real deal.
Surely under Wenger’s guidance, he can become a world-class player and who knows what Nelson can achieve? Much like his Academy teammate, it was 17-year-old Eddie Nketiah who was the hero in Arsenal’s comeback win over Norwich in the League Cup. The young striker has been prolific in the youth ranks but proved his goalscoring ability to score two goals and help his side progress to the next round. Its games like these which will give young players the opportunity and boy did Nketiah take it.
What does the future hold for Arsenal?
With the Europa League generally a step too low for Arsenal’s starting eleven, it’s refreshing to see the young guns getting valuable game time in the competition. Already, Arsenal have fielded 33 different players in all competitions and have excelled in Europe, suggesting there is some excellent talent coming through. The likes of Nelson, Iwobi and Bellerin could very well be stars for years to come!
Arsenal’s recent win over Swansea also highlights their home-winning ability but also the successes of young players such as Sead Kolasinac. The Bosnian scored one and set up another in their 2-1 win, meaning the future may not be just the youth but also the newcomers like Kolasinac, who is only 24.
It’s not a surprise to see big stars continue to flock to Arsenal either, as they have done so over throughout the Frenchman’s career. Wenger’s reputation as a top manager comes with perks and one of those is the ability to attract the next big star. Lacazette came to Arsenal because of one person, and so did Alexis and Ozil – all clearly stating it was Wenger’s influence which drove them to North London. Any other future stars from the top European leagues looking for a way to make their mark know that it can be done at Arsenal, and all because of Arsene Wenger.
As much as fans would like to keep Ozil and Alexis, quite clearly because they are amazing players, the signings of Kolasinac, Lacazette and Xhaka show that top players are still at the club, but more so, the development of Nelson, Nketiah and more simply states that new stars will be born. Wenger has made the club what it is today by ensuring he continues to develop future stars and he’ll do so again; a cycle that will see Arsenal continue to be a top force in England.