Despite a brief flittering of hope, Arsenal exited the Champions League to Bayern Munich on Wednesday to end all hope of an end arriving to the club’s long trophy drought this season. All that remains for the Gunners to play for is trying to secure qualification back to Europe’s top table for next season. The success of that objective is likely to prove crucial to Arsenal’s summer plans in the transfer market, with Champions League qualification now essential to attract the best talent.
It is likely to be a busy summer for Arsenal, with the club said to have significant funds to spend and more pressure than ever before on manager Arsene Wenger to make quality signings.
Here are six players who could help take Arsenal back to competing with the very best at home and in Europe.
Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
Wenger’s decision to leave out Wojciech Szczesny in Munich in preference to Lukasz Fabianski, who had not played for more than a year, reinforced doubts that exist about the young Pole. Having initially added some much needed assurance when he burst into the Arsenal first team, Szczesny’s performances have dipped this season.
It has reported that Wenger is considering recruiting a more experienced keeper, with Victor Valdes the most appealing of the names linked. The 31-year-old has said that he will not extend his current contract at Barcelona, which expires in 2014, and there has been strong speculation that he could leave as early as this summer. Valdes would certainly add experience as well as ability with his feet that could be extremely useful for the Gunners.
Ashley Williams (Swansea)
After some initial optimism, the center of Arsenal’s defense has again proved a problem this season. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have both made errors, while even Thomas Vermaelen has looked less than steady. There is a strong argument to be made that the problems in defense at Arsenal go beyond personnel on the field and extend to the coaching. However, more leadership at the heart of the back four would certainly be of benefit.
With that in mind a reported move for Ashley Williams would appear to make sense. The Wales international has been a big part of Swansea’s success in the Premier League and he is also good on the ball and so should fit in neatly at Arsenal. Several top clubs are reportedly interested in a potential £8 million move.
Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina)
Wenger appears well aware of the need to bring in more quality up front having attempted to sign David Villa in January. That move failed to come to fruition and younger targets than the 31-year-old could now be pursued in the summer.
Strongly linked to the Gunners for some time is the talented Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic. Like Robin van Persie, whose boots have yet to be filled at the Emirates, Jovetic is not an orthodox No. 9, but is packed with technical ability and has an increasingly impressive scoring record. Fiorentina are desperate to keep hold of the 23-year-old and any deal would be costly.
Etienne Capoue (Toulouse)
As well as failing to adequately replace Van Persie, Arsenal have also missed the physicality of Alex Song in the center of midfield. Abou Diaby could have been the man to provide that, but a succession of injuries has left severe doubts as to whether the 26-year-old will ever fulfill his undoubted potential.
Arsenal reportedly made a move for another France international midfielder, Etienne Capoue, in January. The 24-year-old is highly rated and the Daily Telegraph has suggested that the Wenger will reignite his interest in the summer.
Julian Draxler (Schalke)
Arsenal have been strongly linked with Mario Gotze for some time, but the 20-year-old is likely to continue to prove to be out of the Gunners’ reach. Wenger may well have more luck if he follows up reported interest in another young Germany international attacking midfielder, Julian Draxler.
The 19-year-old recently became the youngest player in German history to make 100 competitive appearances has already established for his creative as well as finishing abilities. Schalke have stressed their determination to hold onto the player, while Draxler has also said he is no rush to leave, but that could change if Schalke fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Edinson Cavani (Napoli)
If Arsenal are looking for a marquee signing to completely change the atmosphere around the club and perception of it in one fell swoop a then a move for Edinson Cavani could be the one to do it. Wenger admitted to being keen on the prolific Uruguayan striker in January, but said a deal would not be feasible in midseason.
He would require Arsenal to smash their transfer record and Champions League qualification would also be required, but if the Gunners are serious about returning to the highest echelon of the game in the Premier League and Champions League then Cavani is the sort of player they should be targeting.