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Arsenal face transfer re-think after Champions League failure derails summer plans

·2-min read
 (Manchester City FC via Getty Ima)
(Manchester City FC via Getty Ima)

Much of the damage from Arsenal’s catastrophic defeat at Newcastle on Monday night was instantly apparent, as players sunk to the St. James’ Park turf and first Granit Xhaka, then Mikel Arteta, issued scathing assessments.

Some consequences, most notably the effect of a gruelling Thursday-Sunday schedule, will not become clear until the new campaign is well under way.

In the coming weeks, assuming Tottenham get over the line with the point they need to clinch fourth at Norwich on the final day, it will be the impact failing to return to the European top table has on the Gunners’ transfer plans that is most intriguing.

Last summer’s spree, when around £140m was spent on six players, was carried out with the aim of kickstarting Arteta’s rebuild, rather than qualifying for the Champions League.

In challenging for the top four, the Gunners were ahead of schedule this term, and the feeling within the club is that playing Europa League football instead will not deter another window of significant investment and backing for Arteta, who signed a new long-term contract this month.

How that plays out in practice, however, could be another matter.

The Gunners’ most pressing need is up front and provides a case-in-point, with Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette out of contract, and at least two additions deemed a necessity.

Gabriel Jesus is a leading target and initial talks have already been held with the Manchester City’s forward’s camp, but his agent claimed last week that six other clubs have also expressed interest and, presuming that is not merely posturing, you would need rocks in your head to think that at least one of them could not offer Champions League football.

The same goes for Leicester’s Youri Tielemans, a target in midfield. Like Jesus, the Belgian is entering the final twelve months of his contract and attracting interest from beyond north London, but spoke explicitly, while on international duty in March, of his desire to play in the Champions League.

The Gunners proved last summer that successful recruitment is not contingent on a promise of top-level continental exposure, at least in the short-term, and having at least some European football will help Arteta’s cause in terms of managing what must become a larger squad, with part of the reason the Spaniard streamlined so significantly in January being that so many fringe players had become unsettled at a lack of opportunity.

It is at the other end of the scale - searching for the highest quality additions to build on this season’s progress - that Monday night may prove most problematic.

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