Unai Emery has been urged to offload defensive trio Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi and reconstruct his backline ahead of the new season. The advice comes from former Arsenal goal hero Charlie Nicholas in the wake of the dreadfully disappointing defeat against Chelsea in the Europa League cup final.
The Gunners lost 4-1 to their London rivals in the showdown in Baku, Azerbaijan and thus the door closed on their last chance of securing Champions League football for next term, having already missed out on a top four spot in the Premier League.
And some fans and critics are suggesting that without being able to offer new recruits Champions League football, Emery will struggle to bring in top class players — with only Europa League action to offer.
But one way or another, argues ex-Scotland striker Nicholas, Emery must find a way of bringing in a crop of new faces. And it is the defence, that has shipped so many vital goals as the season came to a conclusion, that needs the most work.
Nicholas, who hit 54 goals in 184 appearances for the Gunners after signing from Glasgow Celtic back in 1983, said:
“I wouldn’t keep any of the defenders. Ainsley Maitland-Niles I feel sorry for because he’s not defensive-minded, he’s more of a central midfield player. He’s a good athlete but he’s not getting taught how to defend by these players who are on survival courses. Koscielny has been in the deep end now for three years. Arsene Wenger, when he started playing Monreal at centre-back we knew Arsenal were in trouble. I’m sorry to criticise individuals because they give every ounce that they have but they’re not good defensively, I would let them all go whatever it takes.”
And Nicholas, once a darling of the famous North Bank at the Gunners’ former home, Highbury, says it may take more than the £50million said to be what Emery has to spend, to make the necessary improvements. The former Aberdeen goal-getter says there is definitely room for the introduction of the younger players at the club as they gear up for the new season.
The Sky Sports pundit added:
“I don’t think it will take £150million to get them out and rebuild and build a new dynamic back four. The genuine aspects of it is I think £60million-£70million would make it better than it currently is. We have a decent goalkeeper but we need pace and younger legs at the back. Hector Bellerin and Stu Holding will come back. It’s time to use the younger players, like Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock. But defensively everything must be pin-pointed to sort the centre of defence and a left-back.”