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How Mikel Arteta and recruitment must meet in the middle

As Arsenal look to rebuild themselves, here is how head coach Mikel Arteta and the recruitment must meet in the middle to provide success.

The Arsenal rebuild has a long way to go. Again. For the third time in three years, the Gunners enter a summer transfer window with some important sales to make and a major need to reinvest in high-quality replacements and improvements at several positions. And for the second time in three years, they will have a new head coach at the helm.

As Mikel Arteta looks to build the team into one that is capable of challenging for a top-four place and more, however, it will be vital that he and the club’s recruitment meet in the middle and work hand-in-hand. The only way Arsenal can assemble a squad to win a league title is by Arteta improving the players he has to work with and the club providing improved players than ones he currently he has.

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Take the Liverpool rebuild under Jurgen Klopp as an example. Klopp, with analytically-driven Sporting Director, Michael Edwards, alongside him, has formed one of the best teams in Premier League history. They are on the verge of the title and have failed to win just two games all season. It is an outrageous run of form.

If you look at how the team has been built, it is a marriage of these two processes: smart recruitment and smart coaching. Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson were already at Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez have developed through the academy or as young, cheap signings. But Klopp has improved all of these players immeasurably.

Additionally, the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were signed for the same fee that Arsenal bought Nicolas Pepe. Andy Robertson cost £8 million. Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho were signed for specific roles that their skill sets perfectly fill. And then when they did splash the cash on high-profile moves, they signed the two best players in the Premier League in their respective positions, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk.

This is the tandem that the Gunners must now master. Arteta has some excellent players already at his disposal. Matteo Guendouzi can be a league-leading central midfielder. Pepe was signed as a superstar winger. William Saliba will arrive in the summer as an elite-level young centre-back. Then there is the youth crop, featuring Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah. Like Klopp, can Arteta coax out the best versions of all of these players?

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But while Arteta is working on the current players, Arsenal must also provide with sharper tools. Can they find an elite centre-half to pair with Saliba? How will they solve the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette situations? Is the club smart enough to highlight and recruit a world-class central midfielder to replace Mesut Ozil?

As Klopp and Liverpool showed, this process takes time and great patience is required. Klopp figured out his team one position at a time, starting in the front three, then moving into midfield, before finally solving the defence. Arsenal do not necessarily have to take the same approach, but they must start with one position and then take their time with the others.

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Between Arteta and the club, then, the entire rebuild will hang. Can they meet in the middle and help one another? Because, if either fails, this project will not work.

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