Mikel Arteta says he’s optimistic that Arsenal can build a team around their promising crop of youngsters but he admits the club still have “a lot of changes to make”.
The Spaniard heads into a third transfer window of his tenure eager to further reshape his first team squad but faces an uphill struggle given the club are unlikely to play in Europe next season and its finances have taken a battering during the pandemic.
“Absolutely,” said Arteta when asked if he’s optimistic about putting Academy graduates at the centre of his plans.
“There’s great potential with them, they’ve shown that this season. They are ready to take responsibility in important moments.
“They have the level to do it, they have the hunger to do it and they have the right senior players around them to help them as well.
“It’s about how we click and how we are consistent. Because we’ve shown that on the day we can compete and beat the top teams but through 38 games, we haven’t done it.
“Through the Europa League, we have done it to the point that we are so close to getting to that final, but in 38 games that’s the duty that we have and the challenge ahead of us: to compete with the big teams in this league.”
In addition to bringing new players to the Emirates, the boss faces big questions over the future of a number of squad members.
“There are so many things to do because we already have a lot of players on loan and a lot of players with contracts still that we need to sort.
“It will depend what happens with a lot of those players and what we are able to recruit to improve the team, that is going to determine where we are.”
Asked if he might look to pay off more contracts – as he did in January – he added: “I don’t know where the summer will take us. I think every situation will be different and hopefully, we are not in that position anymore.”
He also hinted that the club’s tighter budget could influence whether some big names stay or go.
“I don’t think it’s completely like that, but it will restrict and alter some plans in relation to what happens with one or two,” he said.
While Arteta is buoyed by the youngsters at his disposal, Gunners legend Ian Wright is concerned they could be pilfered by other clubs if Arsenal continues to stagnate.
“Talking about him [Smith-Rowe] and Saka, you’re hoping Arsenal can match their progression because if they don’t, then clubs will try and take them off of us,” he told Premier League Productions.
“It is a massive concern. It is a massive concern that are Arsenal are able to sort out whatever is going on upstairs, with the manager, with the players that are going to come in, whoever he is going to bring in to try and execute whatever game plan he wants to do, because these guys are going to be a major part of that.
“If they continue to play well, if we do not progress as quickly as these guys progress, then you have to be worried about their ambition and what they want to do because they’re fantastic players.”