Arsenal have gone through a rebuild once already in the post-Arsene Wenger era.
But with several crucial veteran players coming towards the end of their primes and contracts, as well as several others proving their restrictions in one way or another, another one is on the horizon.
Mikel Arteta has made great progress as the new head coach, building the pieces from the wretched Unai Emery era.
But now he needs the pieces to continue the good work he has started to build a team capable of challenging for a top-four finish and beyond.
With that in mind, here are the top three positions that Arsenal must address in order of which is the most important.
1) An Aubameyang solution
Admittedly not a specific position on the pitch, Arsenal need a solution to the role that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played this season. The Gabonese has been sensational in an inverted left-forward role in Arteta’s slanted 4-2-3-1 shape.
In the Premier League, Aubameyang has seven goals in nine appearances as a left-winger. Under Arteta, he has six goals in eight games in this same role. However, there are few problems.
First and foremost, Aubameyang is a centre-forward by trade. His insertion on the left flank unbalances the attack, as Arteta himself conceded when he admitted that Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli are only considered as left-wingers due to the make-up of the squad.
Second, Aubameyang will be 31. Allied with the fact that his contract will expire at the end of next season and has been hesitant to agree to an extension with Arsenal’s Champions League status uncertain, the club might be forced into selling. A solution is required.
That might mean offering a new contract to Aubameyang, selling and signing a suitable replacement, or allowing him to play into the final year of his contract with a plan for how to succeed him in 2021. Whatever the answer is, Arsenal need to find one.
2) Game-dominating midfielder
As James Benge wrote for football.london this week, Arsenal need to provide Mikel Arteta with a game-dominating midfielder who can dictate play from deep, carry the ball up the pitch with line-breaking dribbles and surging runs, and break up play while protecting the defence.
“It is a midfielder that can assert his will on opponents that Arsenal are lacking, one who can whip the ball off an opponent on the edge of his own box and then carry it up to the other end of the pitch in a few bounds,” Benge describes the potential player as.
It is easy to see when considering the current players in the squad. Each have their own restrictions. Granit Xhaka lacks the necessary athleticism and struggles when pressed.
Lucas Torreira’s passing is safe and sound but does not break lines consistently enough; Dani Ceballos is only on loan and suffers from a lack of physicality, especially in defensive phases; Matteo Guendouzi is the only one to have the talent to fulfil this role but is raw and positionally loose.
These players are not easy to find. In fact, they are incredibly rare, as proven by Arsenal’s inability to solve the problem. They are extremely unique, with unparalleled skill sets, and they can entirely retool a team
You would not have known it had you considered the performance level of Arsenal’s centre-backs this season, but if all recover from their respective injuries and return from their loan spells, he will actually have eight central defenders to choose from next season. The problem, however, is that none of them are especially reliable.
David Luiz has been the best performer this season, especially under Arteta, his range of passing and aggressive decision-making accentuated in Arteta’s high-pressing system.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old William Saliba will return from his year-loan at Saint Etienne and is scheduled to slot straight into the starting XI despite never having played in the Premier League and only making 28 Ligue 1 appearances in his career.
Obviously, it is not an ideal situation. Saliba is an extremely exciting prospect and he has been lauded for his performances this season, but Arsenal have little else at the position and need an authoritative, domineering, leading figure to anchor the defence and pair with the young Frenchman.
In that scenario, Luiz, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and others become experienced and versatile depth options, while Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi can be offloaded, ridding of their extortionate wages.
In a reserve role, they are nice players to have in the squad, but it all depends on signing that elite centre-back to slide in alongside Saliba. Without that player, Arsenal face yet another season of underwhelming centre-back play.