Xhaka and Lokonga out, Zinchenko and Tielemans in: How Arsenal’s midfield could look next season

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The transfer window hasn’t even opened yet but it seems pretty clear where Arsenal are going to look to strengthen. The departures of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette mean that they are short in the center forward position.

This area of ​​the squad proved to be a problem for the Gunners last season, as they were comfortably outscored by local rivals Tottenham and arguably missed out on the Champions League final qualification place as a result. Title winners Manchester City meanwhile scored 38 goals more, and it’s clear that something needs to be done to address the gap.

football.london understands that Edu is working on a deal to bring Gabriel Jesus to the Emirates, while Gianluca Scamacca, Tammy Abraham and Darwin Nunez continue to be linked. It could be argued though, that improving the midfield is also an important issue for Mikel Arteta’s side to address this summer.

READ MORE: Mikel Arteta has already made his decision on Arsenal’s Lacazette replacement amid Scamacca link

Mohamed Elneny has already been handed a one-year contract extension with the option to extend by a further year, while Matteo Guendouzi will make his move to Marseille permanent, but there is still plenty of uncertainty to be addressed.

Lucas Torreira appeared to be on his way to making his loan move to Fiorentina permanent for a fee believed to be in the region of £ 15million, but reports are now suggesting that the Italian side are getting cold feet over the price. After being told he isn’t a part of Arteta’s plans last summer and with just one year left on his contract it seems that the Uruguayan will still be on his way out of North London one way or another.

Fellow loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles failed to do enough to make his loan move to Roma permanent despite winning the Europa Conference League. He started off well, but was used infrequently as a wing back for Jose Mourinho’s side and ultimately spent the majority of his last three months in the Italian capital on the bench. Arteta is a fan of his versatility, but it would seem that the Hale Ender will be leaving on a permanent basis this summer.

There is also some uncertainty over the future of Granit Xhaka. football.london understands that Roma were keen on reigniting their interest in the Swiss international, but they are now close to signing Nemanja Matic from Manchester United. For his part Xhaka appears to have won over the fans in North London and was given a standing ovation by the Emirates Stadium as he was withdrawn during the final game of the season against Everton.

With all these things still to be resolved here football.london takes a look at how the Arsenal midfield could look come the start of next campaign.

New Look

The lynchpin of this Arsenal midfield is Thomas Partey, and if he’s fit the Ghanaian simply has to play. The fear though is of course over how frequently that will be given his poor injury record, and the Gunners may well want to look for some more comparable back up considering how they struggled at the crunch end of last season in his absence.

Yves Bissouma has been on the charm offensive in recent weeks, hinting that he would be in favor of a move to the Emirates via his Instagram stories. While there has been no suggestion of any official interest from Arsenal’s side as of yet, the Mali international would be a decent enough replacement as a six, and his close relationship with Gabriel from their time at Lille may be something to consider.

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A move that looks far more likely to happen though is a deal to bring in Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans. The Belgian international has one year left on his deal at the King Power Stadium and could be available for as little as £ 25 million this summer.

While many view him as an upgrade on Granit Xhaka, he has largely played on the right side of the midfield for Brendan Rodgers’ side since his arrival from Monaco. Martin Odegaard is a contender to take over the captaincy at the Emirates next season, but there were games when he looked shattered, and having Tielemans as an option to share the Gunners’ creative burden could be a welcome addition.

Over on the left a nice addition to the squad could be Oleksandr Zinchenko. The Ukraine international has one year remaining on his contract at Manchester City and reports have suggested that both Arsenal and West Ham are interested in him. His versatility could be a factor, but his press resistance would also be a welcome addition to the midfield.

Arsenal new look midfield line up – Bissouma; Tielemans, Zinchenko

Trust the youth

Despite Gary Neville’s inability to comprehend it, Arsenal’s transfer policy last summer was pretty obvious. Each of the six players brought in to the Emirates were under the age of 23, and while signing so many players made the Gunners the largest spenders in Europe, it was clear that they were building for the future.

One of the players trusted as part of the rebuilding job was Albert Sambi Lokonga. The Belgian international has picked up a large amount of criticism since arriving from Anderlecht and was dropped in favor of Elneny for the final games of the season, but this was overblown at times.

There aren’t too many 22-year-olds who would have been given the keys to the midfield of a big six side at age of just 22, and his outstanding performances in games such as the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool at Anfield show what he’s capable of. Many at Arsenal view him as a six, but he sees himself as more than an eight, and given his age, it may make sense to put him in a position with diminished defensive responsibility next season. With Thomas Partey behind him Lokonga could learn how to improve that part of his game, while the left eight position would give him more of a chance to adapt technically to the strains of the Premier League.

Over on the right of the three, it’s worth remembering that Martin Odegaard is only 23-years-of-age! The Norwegian may well wear the captain’s armband for Arsenal next season, and will be the youngest player to hold such a position since his idol Cesc Fabregas was made skipper in North London back in 2008.

Youth was what was able to get the Gunners to within touching distance of the Champions League last season. With another season of first team football under their belts, it could well go one better this time around.

Trust the youth midfield – Partey; Sambi Lokonga, Odegaard

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