Arsenal squad audit: Who they should keep, who they must sell - and the players they are stuck with

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Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - GETTY IMAGES
Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - GETTY IMAGES

Arsenal’s pursuit of the Champions League was all but ended by their disastrous loss to Newcastle United on Monday night, and they now seem destined for another gruelling campaign in the Europa League.

They are approaching the time of year when significant squad-planning decisions are made, and in the coming weeks their executives will need to assess the options at Mikel Arteta’s disposal. Who should stay? Who should go? And which of the loan players can make an impact next year?

Here, Telegraph Sport offers a player-by-player verdict of each member of Arsenal’s first-team squad as the club prepares for another busy window in the transfer market.

Goalkeepers

Aaron Ramsdale

Age: 24

Overall a hugely encouraging first season, in which he has become one of the most important figures in the dressing room. Has looked nervous in recent weeks but his total body of work has been far better than many expected when he was signed.

Verdict: Keep

Bernd Leno

Age: 30

This summer will undoubtedly mark the end of Leno’s Arsenal career. He has made just eight appearances this season, with Ramsdale taking the No 1 shirt early in the campaign. A fine goalkeeper but Ramsdale offers so much more with the ball at his feet. Matt Turner, next season’s backup, has already been signed.

Verdict: Sell

Defenders

Kieran Tierney

Age: 24

When fit, one of Arsenal’s most consistent and reliable performers. The Scotland international has grown into a leader of the team and is a candidate to take the captain’s armband next season. Injury problems are a concern but there is no doubting his importance to Arteta’s project.

Verdict: Keep

Ben White

Age: 24

This has been a good season for White, who has improved Arsenal’s passing game and has also answered any questions over his raw defensive skills. Has shown himself capable of playing in a deep block, as well as starting moves from the back. Clearly a key part of Arsenal’s future.

Verdict: Keep

Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - GETTY IMAGES
Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - GETTY IMAGES

Gabriel Magalhães

Age: 24

Has formed a strong relationship with White at the heart of Arsenal’s defence and is also maturing into a leader of the side. He can be over-aggressive, and occasionally rash, but at 24 there is still plenty of room for improvement. Only a significant offer should test Arsenal’s resolve.

Verdict: Keep

Rob Holding

Age: 26

A popular and respected member of the dressing room who has generally impressed this season, when deputising for White and Gabriel or when supplementing the defence in the second half of matches. His personal meltdown against Tottenham Hotspur will stick in the mind but overall, he has proven his worth as a useful backup and important personality.

Verdict: Keep

Cedric Soares

Age: 30

Not the first-choice option when other players are fit, and sometimes it is easy to see why. Has enjoyed a decent second half of the season but is clearly not the man to take Arsenal forward. Will be a useful option in the Europa League, and might be needed when others are unavailable, but Arsenal should not stand in his way if offers come in.

Verdict: Sell, if possible

Takehiro Tomiyasu

Age: 23

Versatile and solid, with an aerial power that makes him a useful asset, Tomiyasu had a terrific start to the campaign. The big concern over the Japanese international is his fitness, with repeated injuries limiting him to just five league starts in 2022. When fit, he starts.

Verdict: Keep

Nuno Tavares

Age: 22

An erratic player who sometimes seems to baffle his opponents with his unusual style. Unfortunately this is not an Arsenal team that needs more chaos. His silly errors have been costly at times and, while there is clear potential, it seems obvious that he cannot be trusted. Perhaps the Europa League will help him develop, but Arsenal surely need more reliable cover for Tierney.

Verdict: Sell

Hector Bellerin (currently on loan)

Age: 27

It is hard to see a way back for Bellerin, who has enjoyed a successful season with Real Betis in Spain. He has seemed invigorated by a much-needed change of scene and Arsenal have moved on. Unlikely to be anything more than a backup option to Tomiyasu.

Verdict: Sell

Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - GETTY IMAGES
Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - GETTY IMAGES

William Saliba (currently on loan)

Age: 21

Arsenal could not have asked for much more from Saliba’s loan spell at Marseille. The young centre-back was named Ligue 1’s young player of the year and has been his club’s player of the month on three separate occasions. He also made his France debut. A huge talent who, at the very least, should be allowed to start every cup game next season.

Verdict: Keep

Pablo Mari (currently on loan)

Age: 28

Mari will almost certainly be the fifth-choice centre-back if he is to return to Arsenal following his six-month loan at Udinese. Arteta might feel he needs five defenders in order to compete in the Europa League and the Premier League, although that seems unlikely at this stage.

Verdict: Sell

Midfielders

Thomas Partey

Age: 28

Showed this season why Arteta was so desperate to bring him to the club, and is perhaps the single most important player to Arsenal’s system. As with Tomiyasu and Tierney, the concern is his injury record. Arsenal look like a team capable of playing Champions League football when he is on top form, but without him they have struggled.

Verdict: Keep

Martin Odegaard

Age: 23

A strong candidate to take the captain’s armband on a permanent basis and one of Arsenal’s best performers this season. Intelligent, hard-working and technically superb, he is one of the pillars that Arsenal must build around.

Verdict: Keep

Mohamed Elneny

Age: 29

After so long without any action, Elneny proved his worth with a series of good performances in recent weeks. A useful backup option who does not seem to mind being a fringe player. His contract expires at the end of this season but Arsenal are already short of midfielders and it makes sense to offer him an extension.

Verdict: Offer a new deal

Albert Sambi Lokonga

Age: 22

His form tailed off this season after a promising start to life in England. Clearly a midfielder of considerable talent, and has impressed behind the scenes with his attitude and maturity. He is one of the players who would benefit from regular action in the Europa League.

Verdict: Keep

Granit Xhaka

Age: 29

Still divisive, but still vitally important to the team, on and off the pitch. Overall he has performed well this season, aside from a couple of high-profile errors, and it is clear that he has the faith of Arteta. One day Arsenal will have to move on, but they would need to sign a high-class replacement if Xhaka is to leave, and they should only listen to substantial offers.

Verdict: Keep, unless a major offer is made

Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - REUTERS
Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - REUTERS

Lucas Torreira (currently on loan)

Age: 26

A superb season on loan at Fiorentina will help Arsenal to make some of their money back on Torreira, who is a fine player but seems much better suited to Italian football. Fiorentina have an option to buy Torreira and are expected to use it.

Verdict: Sell

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (currently on loan)

Age: 24

A useful option who might have played a key role in the second half of the campaign if he had not been loaned to Roma. Will there be significant offers? There seems little point in selling him for a small fee when there will be so many matches to play next season. He might not want to be a fringe player but there is no denying his versatility makes him valuable to Arteta.

Verdict: Keep, unless a significant offer is made

Forwards

Bukayo Saka

Age: 20

Arsenal’s best player and top scorer. Has looked exhausted in recent weeks and is clearly in need of a summer holiday, but this has been another year of progression for the 20-year-old. His worth should be reflected in a new contract.

Verdict: Keep

Emile Smith Rowe

Age: 21

Another player whose form has dipped in the final weeks of the season but there is no questioning his talent. A return of 11 goals this season (only one fewer than Saka) is proof of his attacking quality. Surely an essential part of the long-term plan.

Verdict: Keep

Gabriel Martinelli

Age: 20

Another forward who is the future of Arsenal’s attack. Plays with more intelligence now, and causes no end of problems for opposition defenders. His potential is enormous. If he can find more consistency in front of goal, he could be devastating.

Verdict: Keep

Alexandre Lacazette

Age: 30

The current captain has been a good facilitator this season, registering more assists than any other player, but his lack of goal threat has been a major problem. With the Frenchman’s contract expiring at the end of this season, it is time for Arsenal to move on.

Verdict: Do not offer a new deal

Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - REUTERS
Arsenal squad audit: Who should stay, who must go - and the players to try and keep - REUTERS

Nicolas Pepe

Age: 26

To be blunt, Pepe is one of the worst signings in Arsenal’s history. Has never come close to justifying his £72m fee and has been totally usurped by Saka on the right of Arsenal’s attack. The challenge now is to find a buyer who is willing to match his wages. A loan might be more likely.

Verdict: Sell

Eddie Nketiah

Age: 22

Unlikely to ever be the main man in Arsenal’s attack, and he is justified in wanting more regular action. Arsenal want him to sign a new deal but it is clear they cannot guarantee him a starting position every week. He would be a valuable asset next season, if they can convince him to stay.

Verdict: Try to keep

Reiss Nelson (currently on loan)

Age: 22

An encouraging end to the season on loan at Feyenoord has marked a step forward of sorts for Nelson, although it is unlikely that Arsenal would stand in his way if an offer was made. Could be a good squad option if other players leave, but he has fallen a long way behind the likes of Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli.

Verdict: Sell

Folarin Balogun (currently on loan)

Age: 20

As things stand, Balogun will be the only centre-forward in Arsenal’s squad next season. Clearly they will sign other players, though, and it surely would benefit Balogun’s development for him to go on another loan. He scored three goals in 20 appearances for Middlesbrough this season and does not seem ready to play regular first-team football in the Premier League. Could be needed in cup competitions in the opening months of the season.

Verdict: Loan, but only after more strikers are signed

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