Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal must improve their squad before next season but insists recruiting new faces is only one part of the jigsaw.
Against the backdrop of a very uncertain financial situation, it’s unlikely the Gunners will be spending big money when the transfer window opens so the boss says it falls on him to improve the players already at his disposal.
Without knowing whether we’ll be in Europe or not next season, it seems the club is having a very difficult time trying to figure out where to commit money in contract negotiations.
In the short-term, five players will be free to leave in 11 days time and if David Luiz’s performance at the Etihad on Wednesday is anything to go by, the uncertainty over their futures is already making life difficult on the pitch.
To complicate matters, we’re also trying to tie down players like Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who are on the cusp of entering their final year. While they can afford to wait, we know that other suitors will be lining up if our season peters out.
Is keeping players more important than recruiting new ones? That was the question put to Arteta ahead of Saturday’s game with Brighton.
“It depends how we look at it,” he said. “We need a plan to improve our squad to fulfil the ambitions that we have.
“We need the right players to support the talented young players we have who are still in a very early stage of their development. We have to know that. But we don’t have time.
“The demands of this football club are huge. We cannot stand still. We have to change things, we have to improve them.
“The most important thing is not about keeping, it’s about improving the players that we have right now, convince them about what we’re trying to do and get them performing and winning football matches.
“What happens in the summer will happen and will have a big impact but today or what we do in the next five weeks [will affect] what we have to do in the summer.”
For his part Arteta maintains that he’s able to focus on match preparation rather than the noise created in the media about contract talks and transfer deals. He’s not sure whether the same can be said of his players.
“Up to now, it didn’t [distract me],” he said. “I don’t know how the squad are feeling about this.
“From my side, I try to be very honest with the players, what my thoughts are for them, to try to understand what they want for their futures as well, so we’re in a better position to make decisions.
“I cannot stop the speculation, it’s going to happen, it’s part of your job. Ours is to protect them as much as possible and give them the right environment to be able to produce good performances for us.”