At the end of last season, goodwill was in short supply at the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification for the third consecutive campaign. Unai Emery remains in charge of the north London club, but if they fail to secure a return to Europe’s elite competition this time around then the Spanish coach will surely pay with his job.
However, as the new season is about to get underway, Arsenal fans may be feeling more buoyant. The club record £72 million signing of Nicolas Pepe certainly generated plenty of excitement amongst supporters. They will all be keen to see their new attacker in action.
As talented as the forward is though, his arrival does not address the major flaw in Emery’s squad. Arsenal’s greatest weakness last season was – and remains – their defence. It was clear at the beginning of the summer that this was the area most in need of improvement. The Gunners conceded 51 times in the Premier League last season.
Now, there are just two days remaining in the transfer window. Remarkably, Arsenal’s defensive contingent currently looks in even worse shape than it did at the end of last season. Club captain Laurent Koscielny looks set to depart, having forced an exit with his recent behaviour. Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are both sidelined with injury. The club have also failed to sell on the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi. Despite what’s at stake, as things stand Arsenal have regressed in this key area.
On top of that, the only defensive signing they have successfully made isn’t available to them until next season, as William Saliba was immediately loaned back to Saint Etienne.
Unless some significant additions are made at the back in the next two days, Emery will almost certainly not survive long enough to ever see Saliba in action himself. It is vital that at least one top quality centre-back arrives in north London before the transfer deadline passes. Arsenal’s prospects of Champions League qualification, and Emery’s future in the Arsenal dugout, depend on this.
The signing of Pepe is not enough. Despite the additional firepower provided by the winger, unless upgrades are made at the back, Arsenal’s decline will continue.