Usually when a manager starts outlining their plans for pre-season there’s a couple of areas in the squad they hope to strengthen – Mikel Arteta isn’t quite so lucky.
The Arsenal boss is in literally the opposite position in that there’s a couple of areas in his squad that don’t need strengthening – the rest are a bit of a mess.
Goalkeeper, right-back, centre-back, central-midfielder, winger, striker – you name it, the Gunners need it.
Right then, that was the bad news, the worse news is we haven’t even mentioned the main position that needs addressing.
Arsenal’s strike force have received a lot of stick over the past 12 months and, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette haven’t exactly been in the form of their lives, they’re both quality strikers, so could the real fault in the stuttering Arsenal machine be the midfield?
The Gunners mustered just 55 Premier League goals last season – a tally matched by relegated Blackpool in 2010/11 by the way – and their blunt attack was undoubtedly the reason they failed to secure European football for the first time in 25 years.
Youngster Emile Smith Rowe performed well under the circumstances, but marquee arrival Martin Odegaard failed to live up to expectations and his flashes of brilliance were far too infrequent.
Having already missed out to Aston Villa on the signing of Emi Buendia, Arteta is reportedly lining up a permanent move for Odegaard and that should set alarm bells ringing for Arsenal fans.
The Gunners are in need of a spark, someone who can produce moments of magic and drag their team out of trouble with goals when they need them most – something Odegaard failed to do – and that’s precisely why they should be breaking the bank to sign James Maddison.
None of the creative midfielders Arsenal have been linked with over the past few months have got the experience in the Premier League and the ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat like Maddison has.
The Leicester man can occasionally be inconsistent – unfortunately that’s the nature of the beast when you’re looking to add creative midfielders to your side – but his stats alone will tell you he’s getting better and better as his career progresses and his goals tally has improved every campaign since moving to the Foxes.
Last season Arsenal’s entire central-midfield contingent managed 11 goals and 16 assists in all competitions, while Maddison alone managed 11 goals and 10 assists – anyone who thinks he wouldn’t add to Arteta’s side doesn’t know much about football.
Obviously Leicester’s transfer department are the among the best in the business when it comes to hard-ball negotiating tactics and so a price of roughly £60m would probably need to be paid for Maddison, but unfortunately young English players with years of quality football ahead of them always come at a premium.
Of course Arsenal’s mooted pursuit of Odegaard would come at a far cheaper price than Maddison, but there’s a reason the Norway international’s valuation is so much lower.
Despite glimpses of class, the 22-year-old has never really looked like producing the goods on a consistent basis, and while some may argue he’ll be better with a season of Premier League football under his belt, Dani Ceballos’ second loan move to the Emirates Stadium proved that’s far from assured.
Arsenal are in serious danger of becoming a mid-table team whose fans’ only real enjoyment comes when reminiscing over their teams of the past. If Arteta is to stop the rot and ensure the Gunners are still classed as one of England’s top teams then next season is going to be vital.
It really isn’t overreacting to suggest the 2021/22 campaign could have a huge bearing on how Arsenal’s future pans out, and because of that they can’t afford to be taking gambles on cheaper options who might come good.
Maddison is a proven Premier League player with the ability to help spark Arsenal’s once lethal frontline into action, and for that reason Arteta needs to do everything he can to secure his services.