Top four must be target next season

Arsenal’s pre-season campaign for 2019/20 has started with the news that captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel with the squad and wants to leave the club – another problem to add to the list.

Unai Emery came ever-so close to securing Champions League football for the Gunners last season, but a fifth-place finish and defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League final has put that achievement on hold.

Brazilian winger Gabriel Martinelli became the first summer signing for the Gunners, a fee in the region of £6m. The 18-year-old looks an excellent prospect for the future, but is he what Emery needs for next season? Arsenal have been circling the idea of Wilfred Zaha and had a £40m bid rejected, but the Eagles demanded a hefty fee up front despite the Crystal Palace forward announcing his desire to switch to north London.

There have been arrivals but departures are potentially weakening the club – Koscielny refusing to travel with the squad for pre-season has left a sour taste among supporters and the France defender is now favourite to join Ligue 1 side Rennes at odds of 10/11 (bettingapps.org will provide you with the best sports betting offers if you fancy a flutter on where his next destination will be).

Arsenal provided an official statement regarding Koscielny. “We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions.

“We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time.” An incredibly brief statement, but it highlights the issues within the club, something that must be addressed sooner rather than later to prevent the club from deteriorating further.

The reputation of the club has been potentially damaged by such news; Koscielny has been a fantastic servant to Arsenal for over seven years, and his desire to move on leaves the Gunners faithful confused and annoyed at what is happening within the club. The only way to prevent this from becoming an unparalleled issue is to replace him and replace him with quality. But funds are tight. The transfer kitty for Emery to play with has diminished with the Martinelli, Saliba and Pepe signings.

Looking at the positives, the north London side have three prolific goal-scorers among their ranks; keeping the deadly duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette is excellent business and adding Nicolas Pepe, the attack can damage any team in the division. Lucas Torreira looks set to stay despite rumours that he wished to return to Italy, which, again, is good news.

The Gunners may be some way off the mark when it comes to competing at the very top of the table but targeting a top-four finish next season is a necessity. If the club can sign two or three players in defence and midfield to improve the squad it will fill the Arsenal fans with a renewed sense of optimism heading into the 2019/20 campaign and the departures of Aaron Ramsey and Koscielny will become a distant memory.

Last season, Arsenal finished one place and point below their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, which will pain the Gunners fans. However, Emery’s side have demonstrated their quality, especially at the Emirates, so discovering away form next season will be imperative if they want to finish in a Champions League spot, possibly above Spurs. Although the prospect of Europa League football again next season does not excite the Gunners, it would still be impressive to win the competition; achieving a top-four finish and winning the Europa League would constitute an extremely successful campaign for Arsenal.