Forget £45m budget: Sanllehi & Emery can transform Arsenal with key policy shift – opinion

Arsenal are in dire straits. There are no two ways about it.

This season was meant to be a clean slate, one in which the Gunners were rejuvenated under a new head coach following the reign of Arsene Wenger.

Yet, in typical Arsenal fashion, that came crumbling down. Unai Emery lost his opening two games before embarking on an impressive unbeaten run.

Was this the beginning of a turnaround and shift in Islington? You’d be forgiven for thinking so.

The north London side have improved in the big games this term but there are still some monumental issues that need sorting. To put things simply, this squad needs a significant overhaul.

Of course that isn’t completely feasible, but if the club are to go anywhere over the next few years there needs to be a drastic change in policy.

After losing the Europa League final, Arsenal will now have a reported £45m to spend. £45m for a club of the Gunners’ stature is simply not good enough.

This is a club which, alongside Manchester United, reigned supreme at the start of the millennium. To see both teams in such a state is a sad indication of just how far they’ve been left behind since their two legendary managers decided to leave.

Arsenal weren’t good enough for many years under Wenger, that isn’t a secret to anybody. But at the moment, there is a distinct lack of the identity the Frenchman built. Over the last 12 months, it’s all but been eradicated.

Arsenal’s Director of Football, Raul Sanllehi, once of Barcelona, spoke a good game in an interview post-season about recruitment but actions speak louder than words.

If the Gunners’ summer wasn’t already big enough, then losing to Chelsea on Wednesday has only put their need to improve on a higher pedestal.

Unai Emery EL fINAL - Forget £45m budget: Sanllehi & Emery can transform Arsenal with key policy shift - opinion

Sanllehi is primarily tasked with the club’s transfer business and this summer he’ll have to get things spot on. He and Emery need to identify the right targets, but before the club can go any further their defence needs stripping down to its bare bones.

Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny are both ageing central defenders whilst the less said about Shkodran Mustafi the better. Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal, meanwhile, both showed how toothless they can be in the Europa League final.

Those who should remain are two men who have spent a considerable period of time out with injury – Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding.

And therein lies the solution. Arsenal’s younger players need to be at the centre of any rebuild that takes place this summer and this should particularly be the case in forward areas.

Ryan Fraser has been the subject of reports which first originated in April suggesting he could move to the Emirates Stadium, but spending money on him fails to make much sense when there is an alarming amount of work to do in defensive areas.

As a result, the money needs to be spent there. Yes, Arsenal have had problems in wide areas but that pales into insignificance in comparison to the shambolic nature of their backline.

On Wednesday we saw all the evidence we needed of just how insipid Mesut Ozil can be on the big occasion. Substituted at 4-1 down in a major final for 19-year-old Joe Willock showed that his days at the club are surely numbered.

Willock was impressive when he came on and despite missing a simple chance, proved why he needs to play a part next term after a cameo full of energy.

It may be a stretch to suggest he can be Aaron Ramsey’s replacement, but in terms of the runs he makes to the edge of the area he’s certainly someone who can benefit from the Welshman’s departure.

The talented midfielder is solution number one to saving Sanllehi and Emery money this summer.

Joe Willock miss EL final - Forget £45m budget: Sanllehi & Emery can transform Arsenal with key policy shift - opinion

Other solutions fall in those also rising through the academy. Considering Arsenal’s lack of wingers, loaning out Emile Smith-Rowe in January was questionable. He showed in the early stages of the Europa League what he’s capable of and next season he simply has to play a more meaningful part.

The same can be said of Reiss Nelson. Despite being disciplined by Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim in March, he had a breakthrough season on loan in the Bundesliga.

The 19-year-old scored seven times across 29 matches. Over that time he only started on five occasions but his goals tally shows the tremendous potential he has.

Boasting similar traits to Jadon Sancho, he is a player who needs to be at the centre of Arsenal’s rebuild.

He and Smith Rowe are two of the brightest talents to come through the club’s academy since Jack Wilshere, whilst you also have the likes of Bukayo Saka and Xavier Amaechi – both of whom were included among the party who travelled to Baku. Two further wingers, they are individuals who can go a long way to solving the lack of options in that area.

Bearing that in mind, it would be foolish of the Arsenal hierarchy to ignore what at the moment is a flourishing academy.

Sanllehi will need to save all the money he can this summer. With a minimal transfer budget, promoting from within needs to be the plan.

Their policy should no longer be about stop-gap signings. This side won’t be back at the top level for a number of years.

Instead, their attention should be on a long-term project, one which is built around those coming up through the club. That way an identity can be uncovered.

So far under Emery, we haven’t been able to distinguish truly what he wants to do. That has to change.

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