Arsene Wenger needs transfer push to avoid chaotic, uncertain 2018
As things stand, 2018 is set to be Arsene Wenger's last summer at Arsenal. His contract expires at the end of the following season, so the 2018-19 campaign is currently intended to be his glorious lap of honour. With that in mind, Wenger must be careful -- if he gets this summer's transfer business wrong, he might leave himself with a horrible mess to fix ahead of his final year. Arsenal seem relatively content with their activity this summer, but it could leave them with an awful lot to do in 12 months' time.
In some respects, the new short-termist approach at Arsenal is something to be applauded. For too long, Arsenal have adopted midterm strategies that have failed to deliver immediate results. Perhaps as a consequence of recognising his time as Arsenal manager is limited, Wenger has adopted a carpe diem approach to the market this summer. Yes, Arsenal might lose Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for free in 12 months, but at least they'll be able to make use of them this season.
The problem is what happens next. Outwardly, Arsenal insist they expect Sanchez and Ozil (and indeed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) to extend their contracts. However, Wenger has admitted he is "not super optimistic" that Sanchez will put pen to paper. There is an acknowledgement that Arsenal could lose three stars next summer without recouping any cash to help replace them.
They won't be alone. David Ospina is also expected to walk away at the end of his contract. Per Mertesacker has already announced he'll be retiring, and it would be no great surprise if the injury-ravaged Santi Cazorla chose to follow him. Even if he continues playing, it will take quite the comeback for him to earn a new deal with Arsenal. If they haven't been sold before then, the likes of Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Joel Campbell and Carl Jenkinson will all be free to go.
By the time 2018-19 kicks off, Petr Cech will be 36. Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal will be hurtling towards 33, Olivier Giroud almost 32. Arsenal could have an ageing squad shorn of its stars.
That could leave Wenger with a rebuilding project in what is supposed to be the final year of his Arsenal reign. Even if he managed to pull out all the stops and sign the players needed to replace those potential departures, the chances of them jelling quickly enough for him to enjoy a triumphant finale seem slim.
That's why it's important that Wenger pushes on with Arsenal's transfer business this summer. Having signed Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette relatively early in the window, Arsenal are in danger of getting complacent.
Wenger boasts of having a complete squad, but surely he recognises it would be better to buy a couple more players now and bed them in before the potential mass exodus begins. Consider the case of Thomas Lemar -- a player Arsenal have reportedly been chasing all summer. If Arsenal can lure him to London now, they have an opportunity to help him acclimate to English football. Sign him in 12 months, and he's not only likely to be more expensive, he'll also be saddled with the immediate pressure of replacing Sanchez or Ozil.
Arsenal will be delighted that they appear to have held on to that prodigiously gifted pair -- for now. However, they cannot afford to relax. There is potentially a seismic summer on the horizon. Arsenal should press on with their transfer targets to ensure they avoid landing themselves with a nigh-impossible task in 2018.
Wenger's decision to keep his star duo is presumably informed by a touch of selfishness: He wants them at his disposal for another shot at the title. He must employ that same self-preservationist instinct to protect himself from a horrific ordeal in 12 months.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.