10 things every Arsenal fan needs to watch out for at the Euros
2020-21 was a rubbish year for Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners finished the season in 8th place in the Premier League, a spot behind Tottenham, meaning Arsenal won’t be playing European football next term.
So what does the future hold for Arteta and Arsenal? How will the Spaniard use this summer to change Arsenal’s fortunes next season?
In what is likely to be a major summer of rebuilding at the Emirates Stadium, below are 10 things every Arsenal fan needs to watch out for at Euro 2020.
List of Arsenal players featuring at Euro 2020
- Bernd Leno (Germany)
- Granit Xhaka (Switzerland)
- Bukayo Saka (England)
- Kieran Tierney (Scotland)
1) Bukayo Saka – Positioning, creative capacity & style definition
Kicking off the list is a very well-known and well-liked Arsenal player who has certainly carried the side for large parts of a disappointing season. Bukayo Saka, a Hale End academy graduate, brought into the senior set up by previous coach Unai Emery, he has gone on to become integral in Mikel Arteta’s squad.
His excellent performances in a number of areas has led to Gareth Southgate calling him up to the national side. Known for his creativity, it is no surprise that in his handful of England caps he already has claimed an assist.
His versatility is certainly what makes him an asset to Southgate. In his last three appearances for England he has played in a left wing-back role, similar to where he first broke into the Arsenal team on a consistent basis. However, Southgate’s last round of fixtures saw the Three Lions revert to a back four, Saka was injured and missed the matches despite another call-up. Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell played and have impressed for Manchester United and Chelsea.
Saka is still so young that he hasn’t been fully defined as a player. The Euros could help aid in enlightening fans as to where we could see the 19-year-old’s long-term future.
2) Joe Willock – He may not be there, but a system which sees him flourish could be
The future of Joe Willock is one that Arsenal fans are very much interested in having had such a successful loan spell at Newcastle United.
Willock was able to equal Alan Shearer’s record of scoring in 7 consecutive Premier League matches in which he played. He capped off the season with a tremendous solo goal against Fulham.
Whilst he may not be going to the European Championships, although he certainly would have put himself in the mind of Gareth Southgate should his form continue ahead of the World Cup next year, seeing a system in which he could flourish in should be noted.
England’s midfield has seen Declan Rice operate as a number 6 of a midfield 3. During the last international break, Rice started World Cup qualification matches against Poland and Albania. Ahead of him was a combination of 2 from Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Kalvin Phillips. The latter of which operating as the more disciplined of the pair.
Arsenal’s midfield has lacked goals and the return of Willock is hoped can remedy this. Should Arsenal go out to sign a good central midfielder who could play in the Rice role, this could enable Thomas Partey to partner Joe Willock ahead of the number 6 in a similar shape. Arsenal fans should look out for how Southgate’s midfield three works together. As should Mikel Arteta.
3) Zeki Celik – A right-back option Gunners fans should keep an eye on
With the future of Hector Bellerin looking very uncertain, The Gunners will certainly be looking for a right-back should the Spaniard leave.
Hence why Arsenal fans should be paying attention to many nations across the tournament and in particular could be Turkey’s Zeki Celik.
Some may raise a wry smile to hear that Celik is yet another employee of a Ligue 1 side Arsenal have become very familiar with of late, Lille. Having already purchased Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Magalhaes from the now French champions, Celik would certainly not find the Arsenal environment completely alien should he sign.
The Turkish defender ended the season with 3 goals and 3 assists but more impressively was the effort to aid in keeping 18 clean sheets across the Ligue 1 season. Qualities at both end of the pitch is certainly what the Gunners will be looking for in a possible option.
Furthermore is that Celik will be featuring in an exciting Turkey team which looks very threatening. Lille teammate Burak Yilmaz has revitalised his career and will be leading the line. Celik will partner highly rated Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu and Schalke defender Ozan Kabak who spent the last 6 months on loan with Liverpool.
Could he be the man for Arsenal this summer?
4) Granit Xhaka – Adding value or proving the doubters wrong?
Arguably the most divisive player in the entire Arsenal squad for Gunners fans. Granit Xhaka has had a rollercoaster of a career in north London from being one of the most despised members after a controversial on-field strop aimed at fans back in 2019 to scoring some absolute screamers from open play and set pieces.
Xhaka is an enigmatic player because his mistakes are not few in number but his consistency and top-class passing abilities make for a conflicting assessment for many fans.
For Switzerland Xhaka isn’t divisive at all, he is very much appreciated. He has carried the captain’s armband extremely well and become a mainstay in the team. Even the highly rated Denis Zakaria of Borussia Monchengladbach is superseded by the Arsenal man.
Why Arsenal fans should focus on Xhaka is to see how he performs for his national side. The way he commands from midfield and his importance to the side.
His displays could either solidify that place for Arsenal next season, or, should he leave, put him in the shop window with increased value.
Xhaka heads into Euro 2020 with constant rumours about a possible move to AS Roma. Will the Swiss midfielder play for Jose Mourinho next season?
5) What could have been: Serge Gnabry & Donyell Malen
Arsenal’s history of recruitment be it through their purchases or their exports have been a very mixed bag and ultimately led to the club’s decline to where it finds itself today.
One of the biggest regrets Arsenal fans have is seeing some of their young talents leave and go on too much better things.
This has certainly been the case for a number of players such as Serge Gnabry, who left the club for Werder Bremen before being picked up by Bayern Munich.
After spending an additional season on loan with Hoffenheim under Julian Nagelsmann, who he will reunite with this summer, Gnabry returned to Munich and hasn’t looked back since. He’s established himself as one of the Bundesliga’s and Europe’s best wide players.
Composed, quick and skilful, he is everything that Arsenal could have done with in the years since his departure. Arsenal could have saved a huge amount of money on Nicolas Pepe, for example.
Gnabry will line up for Germany with teammate and former City man Leroy Sane. Two ex-Premier League talents hoping to cause defences nightmares at the Euros.
Another name, possibly lesser-known than Gnabry, is Donyell Malen.
Signed from Ajax in a deal which saw the Dutch side gain Yaya Sanogo on a season-long loan deal, Malen was unable to get close to the senior squad and eventually left the club for PSV where his career has exploded.
36 goals in 75 Eredivisie matches has earned him a place in the Dutch national team and he could even push for a starting place at this summer tournament.
6) Fabian Ruiz: The perfect central midfield option
Arsenal will be looking for a central midfielder this summer with many links to the likes of Yves Bissouma and Sander Berge already doing the rounds throughout the media.
European Championships offers an opportunity to see plenty of players of different nations play on a regular basis and stand out as possible candidates.
One option that The Gunners have is in the Spanish national side, with the elegant Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz being called up by Luis Enrique.
Having developed at Real Betis in Spain, Ruiz has become one of the most accomplished players in his position in Serie A. His passing range, composure on the ball and playstyle seem to fit exactly what Arsenal want in a top-class central midfielder.
He can do the work in both directions, as all number 8s should, but at the same time brings his own flair to the table. He could be one to put on a show this summer.
7) Kieran Tierney: Furthering his way as a left-sided centre-half in a back 3
Arsenal had great success playing with a 3-4-3 formation in the FA Cup’s latter stages at the end of the 2019/20 season, which saw them lift the trophy having overcome both Manchester City in the semi-final before beating Chelsea 2-1 in the competition’s climax.
In this system, Kieran Tierney operated on the left-hand side of the back 3 with David Luiz and one of Rob Holding or Shkodran Mustafi on the right. Tierney worked fantastically well with Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing in the left wing-back position.
For Scotland, he features in the same way. Steve Clarke believes he has found a way for both Tierney and Andrew Robertson to play and certainly this is with the Arsenal man as one of the back three.
How Tierney plays this summer could be a moment to pause for thought as to whether a similar role could be adopted at Arsenal. It could also unlock the ability for Bukayo Saka to return to the left wing-back role whilst maintaining places in the squad for Emile Smith-Rowe, Nicolas Pepe and another forward player, possibly Emi Buendia.
Even if this is not a plan, and Arteta intends for Tierney to remain the left-back in the back four, the Euros represents the opportunity for Tierney to develop the more defensive side of his game with Scotland likely to come under significant pressure in their group.
8) A January fail: Dominik Szoboszlai
Arsenal were one of the teams heavily linked with a move for Hungarian international Dominik Szoboszlai in the winter window.
It was reported consistently throughout the winter months that the Gunners were looking to make a move for the Red Bull Salzburg man but ultimately decided not to pursue a deal and instead the midfielder moved to RB Leipzig.
He has so far not played for the German side this season having suffered a serious abductor injury before arriving. However he has been included in the Hungarian squad for the tournament and a recent interview confirmed that he was fully recovered.
“Of course, my first six months at RB Leipzig were different to what I had imagined. The goal was for me to be able to help the team on the pitch during the second half of the season, which unfortunately didn’t work out. But I’m now fully recovered; I will be able to go 100% next season and I can’t wait for the new campaign,” said Szoboszlai after extending his contract for an additional year.
Arsenal fans will therefore watch on as Szoboszlai takes on the group of death with Portugal, France and Germany awaiting what they believe to be an easy 3 points against Hungary.
9) Will Bernd Leno play?
The answer this question is probably ‘no’ considering the presence of Manuel Neuer.
However, an injury to Barcelona stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has meant that Leno’s position in the squad has recently been boosted.
One suspects that if Neuer is injured, Leno will start for the Germans ahead of the other keeper in the squad, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Kevin Trapp.
Still, it’s highly unlikely that Leno will play during the tournament, but with Arsenal’s Euro participants in short supply, Leno’s attendance at the tournament must still be noted.
Questions over his future could also be brought back up in any media responsibilities.
10) Red Herrings: Arsenal cannot repeat previous mistakes
This last point is arguably the most important for Arsenal fans that are looking to identify transfer targets at Euro 2020.
Arsenal are in desperate need of adding quality to the team and that can be done from finding players who will feature at the Euros.
However, Gunners supporters, be aware of all the red herrings who turn up at every tournament; the players who show flashes of skill in the summer, but never prove to be good investments in the fullness of time.
Think Andrey Arshavin.
What transfer-hungry Arsenal fans should consider when scouting possible targets is (a) was this player showing consistency before the Euros?, (b) where would this player fit into Arsenal’s current system?, and (c) would they upgrade upon what is already at the club?
Pass those tests and they could be a contender. But, as always, be wary.
10 things every Arsenal fan needs to watch out for at the Euros2020-21 was a rubbish year for Arsenal.Mikel Arteta’s Gunners finished the season in 8th place in the Premier League, a spot behind Tottenham, meaning Arsenal won’t be playing European football next term.So what does the future hold for Arteta and Arsenal? How willFootball (soccer) greatest goals and highlights | 101 Great Goals – Feed