Assuming that Arsenal can overcome Villarreal in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final – and that’s no small assumption – they will play six more games between now and the end of the season.
For a handful of players, those are likely to be the last six games of their Arsenal careers.
Asked whether the Europa League represents this group of players’ last chance to win something together, Arteta said: “I don’t want to think like that. I want to think they always have the hunger to win any competition that they’re involved in.
“It’s true for some players that this might be the last season for different reasons and I can see how much it means for them.”
While some players are coming to the end of their current contracts, others could be sold in order to fund a summer rebuild. Arteta and Edu have their work cut out for them as they look to rebalance a team which is currently ninth in the Premier League.
Luiz is out of contract at the end of the season and, after a campaign dogged by inconsistent performances and persistent injuries, it is unclear whether or not he will get an extension.
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According to CBS Sports, Luiz’s representatives are making plans for his departure with Lazio among his potential destinations.
While Lacazette has been excellent in recent weeks and, in an ideal world, Arsenal would be able to keep him, he has been linked with a move away for quite some time.
Though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has struggled for form recently, he signed a new three-year contract in September which made him Arsenal’s best-paid player and, as such, Arteta has little choice but to build his attack around him.
Folarin Balogun signed new terms last month, Gabriel Martinelli is also in the mix and, with Lacazette heading towards the last 12 months of his contract, this may be Arsenal’s last chance to move him on for a fee which can then be reinvested in the team.
While there’s little doubt that Nelson has talent, he has only played 56 minutes of competitive football in 2021 and finds himself competing for minutes with Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
Asked about Nelson’s lack of game time, Arteta said: “He’s a boy who trains really hard, he wants to do extra all the time but it’s very difficult at the moment with the players that we have to fit him [in]… if he doesn’t play more it’s my fault.” While Nelson could still feasibly head out on loan, few would begrudge him if he decided to leave.
Nketiah is another academy graduate who finds himself at something of a crossroads. At 19, Balogun is two years younger than him and some have interpreted the teenager’s contract extension as a sign that Nketiah’s future lies elsewhere.
Speaking while on England U21s duty in March, Nketiah said: “It’s been a difficult last month or so. I haven’t played as much as I would have liked.” He has made several appearances since then but, regardless, he will need to consider the best move for his career.
After an inconsistent couple of years on loan at Arsenal, Ceballos seems likely to return to Real Madrid this summer.
While he can’t be judged solely on his red card against Villarreal last week, it was the latest misstep in a season defined by errors. It wouldn’t be cheap to sign him from Real permanently and, with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka the most obvious pairing at the base of midfield, Arsenal could put those resources to better use.
Among the Arsenal players currently out on loan, Sead Kolasinac, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all seem like prime candidates for a transfer this summer.
While the same might have been said about Joe Willock back in January, his impressive form at Newcastle could provide him with a window of opportunity. Asked about Willock’s future last week, Arteta said: “He has a chance.
“He is a player we really like so at the end of the season he will come back here and then we will make the decision again for what is best to move forward.”