Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Wenger’s final roll of the dice

So here we are, just a matter of hours to go until the transfer window closes once again and at the time of writing, Arsenal have secured a deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang is currently flying to London to complete his deal (via Sky Sports). Exciting times, but do these moves signal an even bigger one on the horizon? Could it mean that Wenger is to leave at the end of his current contract? I think it does, and I’ll get onto that. But first it’s worth looking at how the Gabon striker will fit in at Arsenal.

Straight up, it’s a peculiar one. A player for Aubameyang’s quality is too good to turn down, to use a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason – Arsenal will only be better for having the Dortmund man in their squad. He won the Bundesliga Player of the Year at the end of the 2015-16 season, an award also won by one Kevin De Bruyne, and Aubameyang will walk into Arsenal as the highest paid player and with the same level of expectations at Mesut Özil. But will he walk in the starting XI? That’s the question worth asking.

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Yes, Aubameyang will walk into the side but it won’t be in the left-wing position that a lot of journalists are so conveniently choosing in order to get the clicks for their new ‘Arsenal XI’ articles. He hasn’t played there for years and certainly won’t for Arsenal as his ego would confirm. It leaves Arsenal with an issue, it’s fair to say Lacazette won’t be dropped and Arsenal don’t use any formations with a two-striker variant. Will Wenger revert back to his 4-4-2 days of the Invincibles? I doubt it personally, I think there’s much more possibility of a 3-5-2 formation being utilised with Özil in behind Aubameyang and Lacazette, but this again leaves out their other new signing Mkhitaryan – you can see Wenger’s new issue. To use another cliche, it’s a good problem to have, and it is, but Arsenal are already having issues with good players being left out, Olivier Giroud is already struggling for game time and Lacazette isn’t happy even being brought off 20 minutes before the end of each game, so there’s a serious issue that needs solving. 

I think the Arsenal’s January business has created an unbalanced squad. It looks to be a great window, but an opportunistic one, not one well planned. As an Arsenal fan I’ll be the first to say that another caveat of this, Giroud leaving on loan to Chelsea (via The Telegraph), would be soul-destroying, heartbreak on the level of Fabregas leaving to Barcelona. Giroud is the sweetheart of Arsenal, and while replacing him with a mercenary type striker in Aubameyang is what most Arsenal fans want, there are some sad repercussions to our hap-hazard spending. One of those repercussions, as I mentioned, is the unbalanced squad and Arsenal are in need of a right winger. We currently only have Iwobi in that position and if we continue to use the 4-3-3 which Wenger seems to prefer, that’s a pretty bleak situation. Young Reiss Nelson is an incredible talent but it’s too soon for him right now.

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But the title of the piece, and the one I’m pondering most, is this Wenger’s final roll of the dice? With Mkhitaryan (28), Aubameyang (28) and potentially Jonny Evans (30) (via The Times) looking like signing (sorry for not mentioning you Jonny) it looks like it’s a buck of the trend, perhaps one aided by Mislintat, but it’s buying players in their prime with little regard for sell-on value, something I don’t think Wenger has considered before. But turning down Malcom (via Sky Sports) and signing these three shows that Wenger is finally thinking of ‘now’ again, and I think that is very possibly because this is his last contract with Arsenal. It’s his last era, next season will probably be his curtain call, and these January recruits show Wenger wants to attack on all fronts and have one last go at the Champions League.

By Lucas Arnold (@LucasArnold93)

What if Gareth Southgate could only pick one England player from each club?

The World Cup is only a few short months away and already speculation is mounting over who Gareth Southgate will select in his England squad. This in itself is a tough enough job as Southgate has to try and balance youth and experience, flair and levelheadedness and technical and physical players. But, what if we made his job an awful lot harder? How would the squad shape up right now if you could only pick one player from each Premier League club. How would you set your team up when you can only pick one from Raheem Sterling, John Stones or Kyle Walker? Does Jesse Lingard or Marcus Rashford go to Russia? And would 2018 finally be the year we would see Steve Sidwell at a major international tournament? Here’s the squad that we selected, and if you want to have a go too, you can download our Selector right here. Once you’ve filled it in, take a screenshot and tweet it to us at @FTHalfwayLine.

Arsenal – Jack WilshereEngland v Portugal - International Friendly

Wilshere has been resurgent since returning to Arsenal’s starting line-up at West Ham in the middle of December. If he can stay fit until the summer (and it’s a big if) then Southgate is almost certain to give the central midfielder his first international call-up since England friendly against Spain in November 2016.

Bournemouth – Callum Wilson

Bournemouth have more English players to select from than any other team, and could offer cover in practically every position. For this squad, we’ve gone with Callum Wilson who has the potential to be an England international in the near future, even if injuries have plagued his top-flight career thus far.

Brighton – Lewis Dunk

Brighton fans have been calling on Dunk to receive an England call-up ever since their promotion to the Premier League and he’s the most suitable candidate out of his club teammates to be selected in this squad.

Burnley – James Tarkowski

James Tarkowski was patiently waiting in the wings last season at Burnley knowing that former teammate Michael Keane was likely to move on in the summer. His partnership with Ben Mee was the foundation on which Burnley’s fantastic early season form was built upon; six 1-0 wins so far this season shows just how important Tarkowski’s contribution was to their success.

Chelsea – Gary Cahill

One of only a few players who are guaranteed a place in Southgate’s starting XI when they face Tunisia on June 18th. Cahill’s comfortable playing in a back three or four and in a squad containing several promising but inexperienced centre-backs his role would be more important than ever.

Crystal Palace – Ruben Loftus-CheekRLoftusCheekEngland

Very few players would have made their international debuts against tougher opponents when Loftus-Cheek started against World Champions Germany, but in a Palace squad containing very few other viable England options, the exciting attacking midfielder gets the nod.

Everton – Jordan Pickford

Joe Hart’s capitulation at club level over the last one-and-a-half seasons has given Southgate a dilemma in between the sticks. Pickford will almost certainly be in his squad next summer and with Stoke’s Jack Butland also struggling to keep clean sheets (albeit playing behind a lacklustre defence) Pickford may just pick up the number 1 shirt this summer.

Huddersfield – Tom Ince

There’s very little to say about this selection when you look at the players available. Would likely be a squad player who would be given five minutes as England desperately search for an equaliser against Panama.

Leicester – Harry Maguire

Jamie Vardy and Demarai Gray were also viable choices from Leicester, but the combination of other players picked from rival clubs means its the centre-back that gets the nod. Maguire has been Leicester’s best defender this season, with his last-minute equaliser against Man United being the highlight of the year so far.

Liverpool – Adam Lallana

Liverpool’s squad has an English core running through the centre of the pitch and for this squad, Adam Lallana’s versatility means he narrowly gets the nod of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson.

Man City – Kyle Walker

England’s first choice right back is the player most crucial to the Three Lions team from Manchester City. John Stones and Raheem Sterling will almost certainly start games in Russia for Southgate, but the lack of available alternatives at full-back make Walker indispensable to this squad.

Man United – Marcus RashfordMarcusRashfordEngland

Rashford hasn’t been playing at the level we know he’s capable of but his ability to play anywhere across the front line and change a game from the bench is what gives him the edge over Jesse Lingard in this squad, who on current form is the better player.

Newcastle – Jamaal Lascelles

Another young centre back tipped to make the step up to the England squad soon, anything good that Newcastle have done this season has involved Lascelles and it’s no surprise that the Magpies picked up just one point when he wasn’t in the starting line-up between November and the start of December while he was injured.

Southampton – Ryan Bertrand

Danny Rose’s inability to displace Ben Davies in Tottenham’s team means Bertrand is the favourite to play on the left for England this summer at the time of writing. Coupled with Fraser Forster’s dip in form and no other standout candidates in the Saints’ squad, Ryan Bertrand offers the most value from the options available.

Stoke – Jack Butland

A simple enough choice given Butland is the only member of the Stoke squad currently involved in the England setup and is likely to be competing with Pickford to be Southgate’s first choice this summer, although I’m sure no one would be against seeing Peter Crouch in an England shirt one more time.

Swansea – Tammy Abraham

Alfie Mawson is the young English centre-back that misses out across this selection process, with Tammy Abraham emerging as the only alternative in a weak Swansea squad.

Tottenham – Harry KaneHarryKaneEngland

Without doubt England’s most important player this summer, but his selection means the likes of Alli, Dier, Rose, Trippier and Winks are all miss out. Suddenly bringing together a group of exciting young English talent looks like a terrible decision from Pochettino.

Watford – Nathaniel Chalobah

Nathaniel Chalobah slotted into Watford’s side as a holding midfielder immediately after being brought in from Chelsea in the summer and impressed before picking up an injury. His defensive attributes make him a better option than compatriots Will Hughes and Tom Cleverley in this squad.

West Brom – Kieran Gibbs

With Pickford and Butland already in the squad, a third choice ‘keeper is a waste of a pick from one of the Premier League teams, so Ben Foster misses out. Kieran Gibbs offers slightly more value as a full-back who can play on either side than Jake Livermore or Jay Rodriguez.

West Ham – Michail Antonio

The selections made so far have made one thing clear; if you’re capable of playing in multiple positions, you have a better chance of being selected and Antonio typifies this. Andy Carroll is the other potential candidate from the Hammers, but with Wilson, Abraham, Rashford and Kane already in the squad, a fifth forward would leave England very thin in other areas.

Wildcards – John Ruddy (Wolves), Luke Ayling (Leeds), Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)

Now, World Cup squads are made up of 23 players, which means Southgate would have to look towards the Championship for his final three selections. A third choice goalkeeper is needed, and Wolves’ John Ruddy already has 14 clean sheets to his name in 26 league games and so looks like the obvious candidate. The squad is short of a right-back behind Kyle Walker, so Leeds United’s Luke Ayling is brought in as cover, while Ryan Sessegnon offers you an option on the left hand side either as an attacking full-back or in a more attacking wide left position which he’s much more suited to.

So, do you think you can do any better? Click here to download our Selector (it’s only an Excel spreadsheet, nothing dodgy I promise!) and let us know via Twitter (@FTHalfwayLine) how you would set up this summer.