Here is a look at Arsenal’s full first team squad ahead of next season & what I would do with each individual player during the summer transfer window.
I’m going to make a call on whether Arsenal should keep, loan or sell the non-core players in the current first team squad ahead of the 2023/24 campaign. There is some easy decisions and then some more difficult decisions like Sambi Albert Lokonga and Kieran Tierney.
Not included: Ramsdale, Turner, Okonkwo (likely leaving)
Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson – Sell
Unfortunately, Rúnarsson’s most memorable moment at Arsenal is not a happy one. At 1-1 against City in the 2020/21 Carabao Cup, he spilt a simple Riyad Mahrez free-kick into the back of his own net, an error that eventually led to an unceremonious dumping out of the competition. That he has been loaned out several times already and is no longer a prospect at 28, unfortunately indicates that it is time to jump ship. He is just not up to scratch to play for the club.
Karl Hein – Keep
Contrastly, Hein is only 22 years old. In spite of his recent pre-season horror mistake against Nurnberg, he does still have time to develop, and we haven’t really seen enough of him to judge yet. I would suggest loaning him, but with Arthur Okonkwo seemingly on the way out, three keepers should be kept at the club.
Not included: Saliba, White, Gabriel, Timber, Kiwior, Tomiyasu, Zinchenko
Kieran Tierney – Keep
Kieran Tierney is a top-quality full-back. He is extremely athletic, and arguably a better one-on-one defender than first-choice Alex Zinchenko. However, Zinchenko’s ability on the ball caters perfectly to Arteta’s desired system, so Tierney has struggled to get Premier League minutes. Indeed, when he has played, like in the 3-0 home defeat to Brighton, the team has not exerted as much control over the game. This is not Tierney’s fault at all: the new style simply doesn’t fit his profile, and he would be justified in wanting to leave for more regular first-team football. However, short of guaranteeing a starting spot, I believe that Arteta should do all in his power to keep him. His athletic ability, attitude and poise both on and off the pitch make him a valuable asset to the team, and a really solid back-up when required.
Rob Holding – Sell
Holding has been really unlucky. As we saw in the documentary, he has a fantastic attitude and is all-round a really good bloke. He has been thrown in at the deep end for two seasons running now and has undeservedly shouldered a ton of criticism for his performances, which has invariably been determined if not always on the mark. He is physical, hard-working and great in the air, but on the ball, he just cannot measure up to William Saliba, Gabriel or even Jakub Kiwior. At 27, he has plenty of time left to solidify a starting place somewhere else. The £2.1 million offer from Besiktas, while financially insulting, should be negotiated, although we shouldn’t sell for anything less than £6-7 million. It is time to move on from Arsenal: he doesn’t deserve to be put under such pressure for a third season running.
Cédric Soares – Sell
Cédric is a decent defender, and always makes an effort on the pitch. Unfortunately, he isn’t technically or physically good enough anymore, and while harsh, being left out of the pre-season squad shows that he isn’t in Arteta’s plans moving forward. He has had a very good career for club and country and deserves to spend his final few playing years in an environment where he gets to play more often.
Auston Trusty – Loan
Trusty had a stand-out season in the Championship last season. He was Birmingham’s Player of the Season, missing just two games all year and giving a solid account of himself. He is around the same age as our starting defenders, so is unlikely to be a starter in the future, but could certainly be a solid backup if he develops a little further. For me, to sell him would be jumping the gun: another year out on loan could see him become a really solid Premier League player.
Nuno Tavares – Sell
This one is a harder call than the others. Tavares, while very promising going forward in 2021/22, was an agonising watch defensively at times, with his league performance at Anfield a traumatising memory to this day. He was good on loan at Marseille last season, again contributing a lot going forward, but was still not solid enough defensively. I’ve elected to sell, as I just don’t think his marauding style is really compatible with the more measured approaches taken by our other left-backs. A role further forward is unfeasible, as he is not technically gifted enough to challenge our other wingers.
Not included: Ødegaard, Havertz, Rice
Thomas Partey – Keep
The rumours of Partey leaving for Saudi Arabia are highly concerning. Whilst Arteta had a Xhaka replacement lined up in Rice, Partey is an integral part of the team. Our lack of midfield stability after he came off against Nurnberg was a timely reminder of this. Yes, he was inexcusably poor at the end of last season, but up until April he was genuinely world-class, and arguably the best in his position in the league. In my opinion, losing him now would be a huge backwards step. There is no option available to us on the market who could make up for that loss next season, so Arteta has to keep him.
Emile Smith Rowe – Keep
ESR is exceptionally talented, and his youthful energy perfectly embodies Arsenal’s newfound vision. Along with Bukayo Saka, he was one of the main reasons for our improvement in 2021/22. While last season was heavily marred by injury, he is still very young and reminded us all of his ability with his superb performances in the U21 Euros this month. He could definitely become a main part of our squad again with a bit more development, and should be kept for now.
Jorginho – Keep
Jorginho provides a wealth of experience and is a very good technical player. Whilst not as energetic or quick as Partey, he is a solid option in more difficult games. He always keeps his head and has an impeccable knack of finding the right pass, and should be kept for this year at least.
Fábio Vieira – Loan
This guy is exceptionally talented. At his best, his passing is exquisite and his dribbling is silky, and he has a deftness about his overall game that makes him a joy to watch at times. But at 58kg with a lack of pace, he needs to develop physically. I’m not saying that he needs to become the next coming of Adama Traoré, but too often last season he just couldn’t match up to the high athletic demands of the Premier League. A season out on loan, with a focus on physical development and off-the-ball work rate, could help him get closer to realising his staggering potential.
Albert Sambi Lokonga – Sell
Lokonga has great passing ability, but with the acquisition of Rice alongside our existing midfield options, it’s hard to see how he can make a mark at the Emirates next season. His play style is naturally quite slow, and his lack of presence off the ball renders him rather unsuited to Arteta’s quick pressing game. He was good on loan at Palace, and by now is Premier League-ready, so a sale to a fellow top-division team could be good for both parties. A reunion with admirer Vincent Kompany at Turf Moor could be a great move for his long-term future.
Mohamed Elneny – Keep
Elneny is a very underrated player. After losing three straight games towards the end of the 2021/22 season, his performances against Chelsea and United were superb. His passing is superb and he is highly composed. While not on the level of Jorginho, he is a strong option for the cup games. However, this verdict is not really based on footballing ability. Elneny is a stalwart of the team. He is the longest-serving player at the club, and in recent years has accepted his role as a rotation player. The documentary showed him to be a great person, and Arteta would be wise to keep a player with such experience and maturity to maintain a level of dressing-room composure as his fiery young guns fight for the league again.
Not included: Saka, Jesus, Martinelli, Trossard, Nelson (new contract)
Eddie Nketiah – Sell
While a great poacher, Nketiah’s all-round game is just not quite up to scratch for me. Whilst he scored at crucial points last season, with the brace against United a highlight, the drop off in attacking quality and retention in the final third as he replaced Jesus was evident. At 24, he isn’t a prospect anymore and the club now needs a better back-up striker to provide genuine competition for Jesus. Wednesday’s game against the MLS All-Stars demonstrated our depth in defence and midfield; now is the time for Arteta to bring in a natural striker to solidify that quality in all areas of the pitch.
Folarin Balogun – Keep
Balogun, on the other hand, has just turned 22. Whilst he does seem slightly raw at the minute, he has a couple of seasons on Nketiah and already has shown himself to possess more natural physical prowess. He definitely needs more time to develop into a solid first-team option, but last year’s season in France shows significant promise, so he should stay on for now. Having said that, if another team offers a figure close to the club’s £50m valuation, it would probably be best to let him go. Barring another injury to Jesus, he won’t get as much first-team football as last year, and so his stock might drop next season. Whilst I would prefer to keep hold of him, the club has to be shrewd after spending so much over the last month.
Marquinhos – Loan
Marquinhos looked decent at the All-Star game. He isn’t nearly as fluid as Saka, but he has a good left foot and has shown flashes of attacking quality in his few appearances for the club. Although he wasn’t particularly impressive in his loan spell at Norwich last season, he should definitely be given more time for development. Adapting to English football from Brazil is tough, and a bit of physical training could go a long way for him.
Nicolas Pépé – Sell
This one is unfortunately a bit of a foregone conclusion. Like Cédric, Pépé was not included in the pre-season squad, so we can only assume that he isn’t in Arteta’s plans going forward. He has had some great moments at the club, particularly in the lockdown period, but he has never lived up to his £72 million price tag and at 28, doesn’t fit the mould of the club anymore.