ARSENAL are going to have to be extremely prudent this summer if they are to improve their squad enough for a return to Champions League football.
Last season’s fifth-place finish has left the Gunners in the financial mire unless they can offload several top earners.
But with Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal still on the books, Unai Emery will need to be very wise on how he spends his reported £45million budget.
Signings must be focused and arrive with a specific job, with three positions ripe for being filled.
The Gunners’ problem areas this summer are centre-back, left-back and left-wing.
Defensive issues dogged the team during their disastrous form at the end of last season.
Shifting out some of the aging stars and inconsistent flops is key to righting that but their replacements have to be an upgrade.
The story is the same in attack, where the North London club is making up for lost time after Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lucas Perez failed to meet expectations.
Here, Sun Sport looks into each area in detail and suggests a few options Emery can realistically bid for.
The standout moments from Arsenal’s season were shock hammerings rather than stunning wins.
Conceding three times in consecutive matches against Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester was an unprecedented low, as was the 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Chelsea in the Europa League final.
It was apparent that the defence needed sprucing up.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos is the club’s best centre-back and Hector Bellerin will make a welcomed return in the coming months, and they need help.
Saint-Etienne youngster William Saliba is reportedly the closest to arriving at Emirates Stadium but the French club want him to spend a season on loan with them as part of any sale.
That may push Arsenal to a more experienced capture, namely Armando Izzo or Joachim Andersen.
Both are realistically within the club’s price range, Torino star Izzo said to be subject of a £22.5m opening bid from the Gunners.
Now an Italian international, he kept 16 clean sheets in 2018/19 with less than a goal conceded per game.
Alternatively, Sampdoria’s Danish star Andersen is rated for his passing range and composure, assets valued highly in North London.
And at 23, the centre-back could be the sort of long-term signing that has become increasingly rare for Arsenal in recent years.
Coach Emery has big plans for his full-backs with versatility required to shift between his four and five-man defensive lines.
One name to have popped up as the market winds up was Ricardo Rodriguez, the AC Milan defender who may feature in his club’s bid for Lucas Torreira.
Reports in Italy suggest Milan are close to signing Real Madrid defender Theo Hernandez and thus will need to move on an existing left-back, Rodriguez to Diego Laxalt.
The Gunners can consider Swiss star Rodriguez a target whether they want to cut a deal for Torreira or not, given his experience and creative abilities.
Like Andersen, he presents the opportunity to push back towards Arsenal’s familiar possession game with his pass success rate of 87 percent comfortably beating Sead Kolasinac’s 77 percent.
Kieran Tierney offers another realistic option down the left flank with the Gunners keen on his boundless energy.
Celtic want up to £25m for the homegrown Scot and that might turn out to be a stretch.
A record of 17 assists from 95 games in the past two seasons shows the 22-year-old to be capable of getting into forward positions with the sort of consistency Arsenal need.
Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette hit more than six league goals for Arsenal last season so it is imperative a new winger knows how to find the net.
Currently in China with Dalian Yifang, Yannick Carrasco is the most in-form forward linked to the club thanks to a run of seven goals in ten Chinese Super League games this year.
The former Atletico Madrid man may not be in the strongest league but he is rediscovering his touch after dropping off in Spain.
Encouragingly, Carrasco is keen on heading back to Europe but Arsenal’s finances are again a stumbling block amid Dalian’s £25m demands.
The Gunners face an even more difficult task to compel Bournemouth to let go of Ryan Fraser, but the Scot is not out of their reach just yet.
Tallying 14 assists in the Premier League last season, Fraser is rated at £30m and a realistic option if Emery’s purse strings are loosened.
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Some fans will argue this position is even more integral than the defence, given their current crop’s sheer inability to perform.
Alex Iwobi scored just five times in 52 appearances in 2018/19 while 30-year-old Mkhitaryan may not have many more seasons left in him – having struggled to seven strikes last time out.
Perhaps their best hope is a youngster such as Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock or Eddie Nketiah turning in a storming pre-season and easing the need to splash the cash.