Former Arsenal star Emmanuel Petit has warned that the Gunners risk losing star players such as Emile Smith Rowe if they fail to show ambition.
Arsenal have reached an important crossroads after falling down the Premier League table again. Following a ninth-placed finish, boss Mikel Arteta will face more pressure next season. Before that, though, he must turn his club around with the help of a series of careful transfer dealings.
The Spaniard will hope that Nuno Tavares can be the first piece in that puzzle; the ex-Benfica left-back has signed a long-term contract as Arsenal’s first summer signing.
While new signings are crucial, keeping Smith Rowe at the club is equally important. The midfielder has two years left on his contract, but amid serious Aston Villa interest, he has yet to renew.
Speaking to Metro, Petit insisted that the new season will prove pivotal for Arsenal’s long-term future.
The 50-year-old said: “As a club, you need to show your players that you are ambitious. In terms of improvement, competition and ambition, it’s very important to send them a signal. Arsenal have been sliding down the table for five or six years. When is it going to finish?
“That means if I am an Arsenal player, I will be very conscious about what the club is doing in the market, who are the new players, who is leaving the club.
“If the club is spending money on good players with character, maybe that shows they want to send a signal to the team that this season will be different to the last few seasons.”
Smith Rowe turned Arsenal’s fortunes around last season. After a continuous downturn until Christmas sparked loose talk of relegation, the 20-year-old inspired a Boxing Day win over Chelsea.
While he is reportedly closing in on a new contract in north London, though, Petit warned that that may not be enough.
Pundit warns of Arsenal exile
“Emile Smith Rowe is not stupid, he will be looking at guys like Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish enjoying their football with the national team, all smiling on the pitch and very relaxed with the pressure and the ambitions of their clubs and the national team. Smith Rowe will want to be the same,” Petit said.
“He will have had some questions in his mind and I hope Arsenal gave him the answers he was expecting in terms of the transfer market and ambitions for next season.
“If this season is the same season we’ve seen from Arsenal for the last couple of years, forget it. They’re going to lose so many players at the end of the season.”
Arsenal are reportedly closing in on signing Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga.
In defence, Brighton’s Ben White remains a priority transfer target.