Alexis Sanchez will be at the heart of the action this month
We are now four days into 2018 and Arsenal have started the New Year with a thrilling, but frustrating draw against Chelsea.
2017 was a mixed year for the Gunners, with the club failing to secure Champions League qualification for the first time in two decades. They did, however, see off Premier League champions Chelsea to lift the FA Cup in superb style back in May.
Victory in the Community Shield followed in August – but even being able to show off those two trophies has not been enough to quell discontent within some of the fanbase.
Unrest amongst supporters remains, with many disillusioned with how things are being run at the Emirates.
So what needs to happen over the next 12 months to bring the club back together? We take a look at what must be on Arsenal’s to do list for 2018.
Taking a firm stance on the Sanchez issue in January
Alexis Sanchez will be at the heart of the action this month now that the transfer window has opened once again. What business Arsenal may do in January will be linked with what happens to the Chile international once the window opens.
Last month Arsene Wenger stated that Sanchez would not be sold – a statement he then caveated by adding ‘unless something unbelievable’ happens.
Should an offer arrive, then Arsenal have to make a firm decision, they can’t afford to repeat the mistakes they made in the summer when they changed their minds right at the end of the window.
If they are going to sell, then do it and get a replacement in. But if they are going to keep Sanchez and take the financial hit in the summer, then make that clear to City in no uncertain terms and then just concentrate on the football.
Sort out the Ozil and Wilshere contracts
This has to be at the top of Arsenal’s agenda for 2018.
Sanchez is going to go – we all know that – but there is still a chance Arsenal could keep Ozil and they must do all they can to get the German to sign.
Losing both Sanchez and Ozil for free in the summer would be bordering on criminal, Arsenal must ensure that doesn’t happen. They must get round the table with Ozil and his advisors and strike a deal sharpish, especially with the German now free to talk to foreign clubs.
And getting Wilshere’s deal sorted is also of upmost importance. He looks fit, hungry and back to his top form.
He has shown he is still good enough, so Arsenal must reward him with a new deal.
Getting Ramsey and Nelson tied down long-term
These contracts may not be as time sensitive as Ozil or Wilshere’s, but Aaron Ramsey and Reiss Nelson also need to have their futures secured.
With Ramsey out of contract in 2018 and Nelson in 2019, both need to have their futures secured as soon as possible.
There will be plenty of interest in Ramsey and Arsenal can’t afford to go into next season with Ramsey having under 12 months left of his current deal.
So the club have to get something sorted before the end of the current campaign.
This will probably be a job for the summer – but Arsenal have to make a serious statement in the transfer market to offset the loss of Alexis Sanchez.
Make no mistake about it, losing Sanchez will be a massive blow – even this season he leads the way in terms of direct involvement in Arsenal goals, despite being far from his best.
So it’s going to be a real challenge to replace him – especially as it looks like they might not be receiving any money for the Chilean.
Lots of names have been mentioned, players like Nabil Fekir, Riyad Mahrez and Thomas Lemar for example. Whoever it is who does come in, Arsenal must act swiftly and get the deal done early to allow them to bed in before the start of next season.
Sorting out Wenger’s future
One thing Arsenal can’t afford to let happen is allow the same mistakes to happen again in terms of Arsene Wenger’s future.
The ‘will he, won’t he’ soap opera of the 2016/17 campaign can’t be repeated in 2018/19 – so a decision has to be made and announced in the summer at the latest in terms of whether the Arsenal boss will be signing a new deal.
Continue to give youth a chance
One of the highlights of this season has been the emergence of some of the club’s talented youth players.
We’ve seen Reiss Nelson make his mark in the Carabao Cup and Europa League, the same goes from Joe Willock – who has been given several opportunities. Ainsley Maitland-Niles meanwhile has forced his way into the Premier League side.
It’s been great to see and it’s something Arsenal must try to continue throughout 2018, even if they find themselves back in the Champions League next season.
Getting the best out of Lacazette
Alexandre Lacazette arrived for a club record fee in the summer of 2017 and has enjoyed a decent start to his Arsenal career.
But it’s clear there is far more to come from the French striker and Arsenal must find a way of really playing to his strengths around the box.
If they do they will have one of the best strikers in England on their hands, we’ve seen that already this season in flashes – but nothing more.