After yet another anxious climax to the season, Arsenal secured Champions League qualification for the 16th consecutive campaign. Arguably fulfilling this most primary of their objectives has never been more important.
As a result of new sponsorship agreements and the Premier League’s bumper new broadcasting deal, Arsenal now have significant sums with which to spend. And after several seasons of conservative investment in the playing squad, manager Arsene Wenger is widely expected to make significant purchases this summer.
“We want additions but we want to keep the structure and spirit and quality of the team,” Wenger said, according to the Daily Mail. “But let’s not forget there are many clubs with big money and maybe not enough talent to strengthen all the teams. But we will go out in a proactive way.” There have been suggestions that the believed £70 million at Arsenal’s disposal would not have been unduly impacted by the loss of the windfall from Champions League qualification. However, even Wenger has admitted that the prestige of being in, albeit at this stage only the qualifying round, of Europe’s premier competition is crucial in attracting the premium quality players required to take the Gunners to the next level.
One of the chief areas Arsenal need to strengthen is up front. Olivier Giroud has performed solidly in his debut season in England, notching up 11 Premier League goals. Yet, with Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner set to leave on permanent deals, increased depth is needed. France Under-21 international forward Yaya Sanogo looks set to be on his way from Auxerre, but he is likely to be one for the future. Here are four players that could boost Arsenal’s front line next season.
Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina) The technically gifted Montenegrin is widely reported to be Wenger’s leading target this summer. After his side’s final day drama, Wenger may well have had one eye on the final day of the Serie A season when Fiorentina fell agonizingly short of earning in their own place in the Champions League. That could well mean that Jovetic, who had asked to leave the club this summer, does depart this time around.
Competition is likely to come from Juventus, who are already reported to have had a €22 million (£18.6m) rejected. Although the 23-year-old endured some struggles toward the season’s climax he has the all-around ability to adequately replace what Robin van Persie brought to the table.
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) After more than six years at Real Madrid, the club’s general manager, Jose Angel Sanchez, recently revealed that Higuain will leave the club this summer. That comment is likely to bring about significant interest in a striker who has been a reliable goal-scorer for both club and with country, Argentina. There have immediately been reports of contact being made by Arsenal, although Juventus and Manchester City are also thought to be interested.
The 25-year-old may well be an upgrade on Giroud, but when it really counts he has often shown himself to be just shy of the true elite strikers. At a reported £22 million, Wenger may well have some hesitations.
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) A largely unheralded £7 million signing for Aston Villa last summer, Benteke became one of the standouts of the season as he scored 19 goals in his debut Premier League campaign to play a huge part in his side beating the drop. Unsurprisingly, a queue is now forming to procure the Belgium international, with Arsenal thought to be prominent in the race.
Both Benteke and Aston Villa have so far suggested that he will be staying, but a significant offer from the Gunners could well tempt the 22-year-old to test himself at a higher level. Arsenal may be wise to do so, with the player’s combination of power and pace potentially adding a new element to their attack.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Saint-Etienne) Wenger has clearly shown himself to be a fan of snapping up talent from the French market and he could be tempted to revisit that formula with a move for Aubameyang. Equipped with soaring pace and an eye for goal, the 23-year-old has scored 19 goals in Ligue 1 for Saint-Etienne this term. Only the imperious Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored more.
Although his side still have an outside chance of Champions League qualification, the former Milan striker has suggested that he will seek a move to a bigger club this summer. His scoring feats mean that his options will not be in short supply, with Arsenal joining the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle, Paris Saint-Germain and Schalke in being linked to Gabon international.