Something is stirring in N7. Arsenal are creaking back into life and are having a transfer window which shows they mean business.
Mikel Arteta is the architect, alongside club legend and now sporting director Edu, and they could be about to construct a masterpiece.
Perhaps, given the Gunners’ form in the final portion of last season, we shouldn’t be too surprised.
Arteta turned a calamity outfit into a side capable of beating most, losing just twice in their last 11 matches of the campaign – a bitter late loss to Tottenham and a shock defeat to relegation battlers Aston Villa.
Their FA Cup final win over Chelsea showcased their intents, leaving Wembley with a Europa League spot and a piece of silverware.
Arsenal aren’t stopping there. Already Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes have joined and now reports suggest selling Hector Bellerin and the exit of Mesut Ozil could help them fund more European raids.
Houssem Aouar, the Lyon ace loved by Pep Guardiola, and Atletico Madrid star Thomas Partey are now firmly on the radar as Arteta’s upgrade enters fourth gear.
It’s also becoming apparent a familiar face will be on his way back to the Emirates.
Dani Ceballos was one of the best players in the closing stages of the 2019/20 campaign, bossing the midfield in a slightly deeper role alongside Granit Xhaka.
The Spaniard adds tenacity to line-breaking creativity, giving forward momentum to a side on the up, and is set to return in 2020/21.
Things could be about to get very special indeed in north London for those in red.
Given Arsenal supporters can track down private aircrafts and taxis, we’re probably telling you what you already know.
But, assuming you’re not scanning the skies for planes from Lyon and Madrid – Partey and Ceballos might even get the same flight – we’ll give you the lowdown.
Ceballos you all know well but given we’re looking at how the Gunners might look next season it’s important to consider where he might fit into this new midfield packed with talent.
He mostly spent his time in Arteta’s team on the right of the midfield two alongside Granit Xhaka, as you can see from the image above, courtesy of smarterscout, but he’s certainly not limited to that role and was occasionally used on the left when his Swiss teammates was absent.
With so many stars coming in, Xhaka may well have to cope with a spot on the bench, though.
Partey is another man who could be coming in if all goes well and he occupies a more central role in comparison with Ceballos, this could put him, potentially, as a lone No.6 in a 4-3-3, if Arteta opts to switch formations.
The Ghanaian, with a solid Atletico Madrid side, created 0.03 xA (expected assists) per 90 minutes, while Ceballos managed 0.10 xA, which would certainly suggest the latter will be given the freer rein in midfield.
If Aouar joins up too, then it’s going to be a real party at the Emirates.
The Lyon ace, 22, was branded ‘excellent by Man City boss Pep Guardiola after facing him in the 2018/19 Champions League, while adding: “He’s always very calm with the ball at his feet, with an excellent technical quality.”
Sounds right up Arsenal’s alley, and he provides attacking threat on the left side of midfield, that’s for certain.
He was mostly used on the left of a 4-2-3-1 in recent times when Memphis Depay was absent, or on the left of a central three in a 4-3-3.
This would give the Gunners some extra versatility and might also see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang move into the central striking position more often.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Willian shouldn’t be forgotten with reports suggesting he’s set to be a central attacking midfielder rather than on the wing, where we’ve seen him used by Chelsea.
It’s not a role he’s unfamiliar with. He played there for 1691 minutes in the 2017/18 season as part of a 3-4-2-1 formation used by Antonio Conte, which would work neatly given Arteta’s recent fondness of 3-4-3.
How Arsenal could look if the deals go through
The Gunners, let’s face it, are going to be cramming a whole lot of talent into this side in this formation.
Willian operating central opens up the right wing spot for Bukayo Saka, who started there against Liverpool in the Community Shield, or Nicolas Pepe.
Aouar seems to slot nicely on the left with the ability to tuck inside and allow Kieran Tierney to overlap.
Ceballos and Partey offer enough steel along with their technical attributes to progress the ball and shield the back-two, which should mean we also see some attacking forays from Maitland-Niles.
Aubameyang could move centrally under these conditions and take aim at the Premier League Golden Boot.