Arsenal’s to-do list in defining month with William Saliba talks and Champions League return

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May is usually a decisive month for teams up and down the country as well as in Europe and Arsenal are no different. Whilst there is no Premier League title challenge or chance to win a piece of silverware, they could yet make a mockery of certain pre-season predictions.

As we enter the final month of the 2021/22 season, it’s safe to say it’s shaping up to be a defining one for the Gunners and if April is any indicator of what’s in store, it’s going to be an extremely nervy end to a campaign that, truth be told, began in absolutely disastrous fashion.

Bottom of the table at the end of August after losing to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City without scoring a single goal in the opening three games, there was talk of relegation and Mikel Arteta’s job security before things improved after the September international break.

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Now with five games to play in the space of 21 days, Arsenal are not only assured of a place in English football’s top division for next season – as if it was ever in doubt – but they are very close to rejoining Europe’s elite following Wolves’ defeat at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Of course, it’s still to be determined which of the three European competitions they could be playing in during the 2022/2023 campaign, but West Ham United, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Everton stand in their way of achieving the ultimate target.

Make no mistake about it, come May 22 we will know a lot more about what this youthful side can achieve in the future. With that said, football.london takes a look at what’s in store for Arsenal this month and what items may appear on Arteta’s to-do list.

Champions League return

The most obvious target. Going into this weekend’s matches in the Premier League, Arsenal sit fourth with a two-point cushion over Tottenham and simply need to match their north London rivals’ results to be playing Champions League football for the first time since the 2016-2017 campaign.

Perhaps crucially, the Gunners play after Spurs in three of the five remaining gameweeks which means they will be well aware of how Antonio Conte’s side have fared prior to taking to the field. Whether this proves to work for or against Arteta’s side remains to be seen, but he simply wants to avoid any distractions.

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“I think everybody knows about that,” Arteta said during his pre-West Ham press conference. “The last time they played before us and we didn’t take that advantage and it’s gone the other way around as well so we can just focus on what we can do.”

Having not been tipped by many – if any – to finish in the top-four this season, if Arsenal were to miss out it wouldn’t be the end of the world as they are probably a year ahead of schedule. However, to not see it over the line given the position they are currently in would be a disappointment and a big opportunity missed.

Securing Champions League football can take the club to the next level and likely make any planned transfer negotiations even easier this summer.

Repeat Liverpool transfer statement

Liverpool can serve as a blueprint for Arsenal. Six years ago they were in a similar position to the Gunners having spent the 2016-17 season not playing in Europe but using it to their advantage to win the top-four battle – ironically against the north London outfit – on the final day of the campaign.

The following season they reached the Champions League final and just hours after the painful blow of losing to Real Madrid, the club made a major transfer statement by announcing the signing of Fabinho from seemingly out of nowhere and the rest, as they say, is history with the Reds going on to win the competition in 2019 and following that up with a Premier League title.

If Arsenal are back at Europe’s top table for next season, what better way to announce their return other than to confirm a marquee signing? The likes of Erling Haaland and Frenkie de Jong are considered dream deals for many supporters, just imagine the response if the Gunners were to pull off the seemingly impossible.

With that said, amid links to Gabriel Jesus, Tammy Abraham and Victor Osimhen, football.london understands the Gunners will focus on bringing in two marquee names this summer and technical director Edu has already revealed plans for the next transfer window are complete.

“The budget we used last summer, we prefer to use it to rebalance the squad, there was no point in hiring one or two players [in January], the squad was not prepared to absorb two players, we needed to rebalance the squad,” he told ESPN Brasil. “Maybe next season we can go to one or two players.

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“Today we find a much more balanced squad. Our planning has already been done, it has already reached the owners. It’s a matter of step by step, how we are going to finish the season and to put in plan the planning that I’m very excited about.”

Make final decision on trio

May could also mark a final appearance in an Arsenal shirt for Alexandre Lacazette, Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah as they are all out of contract at the end of June with discussions expected to take place as soon as the season concludes in three weeks’ time.

“We have discussions, as you know, and at the end of the season, once we know where we are, we will make a decision altogether,” Arteta said in March. “I don’t want anyone to think about something else that is not that. The decision, we agreed, is to do it in the summer and we’re going to do it as soon as the season is finished.”

Interestingly, Elneny and Nketiah have recently been restored to the Arsenal line-up and both look set to play a major role in the top-four- run-in. In fact, the former has expressed his desire to stay: “Of course. I always love a challenge and give 100 per cent all the time,” he said. “I don’t decide who plays but I keep going in training to show how good I am and to make him play me. If I don’t play I keep going until I get my chance. “If Arsenal say ‘we want you’ I don’t think about leaving. It’s my family for six years. I love this club.”

Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, Arteta must decide whether his side can move forward with or without Lacazette, Elneny and Nketiah.

Saliba talks

Another player set for talks this month over his future is William Saliba. The central defender has certainly benefitted from exposure to regular first-team football in Ligue 1 as well as in Europe during a loan spell with Marseille and he’s been rewarded for his impressive performances with a couple of senior caps for France.

As Saliba has the potential to be a key player for Arsenal, this summer is the perfect time for the club to secure his long-term future. Although, it’s unclear if he will ever make a senior appearance under Arteta as there is still no inclination over what the Gunners want to do with him when his loan spell comes to an end.

Source by Football London

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