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How could Arsenal line up next season with Mikel Arteta and Edu keen to improve team’s spine?

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Arsenal’s players have reported to London Colney for pre-season training but the rebuild of the squad has yet to truly kick into life.

The Gunners are on the verge of announcing left-back Nuno Tavares from Benfica while they are also close to sealing a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga.

But neither 21-year-old is expected to be a regular starter in Mikel Arteta’s XI next season, with the boss and technical director still on the lookout for a defender, midfielder and a No 10.

The north London outfit have already let Matteo Guendouzi join Marseille on loan with an option to buy, and more established stars like Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka are expected to follow the young Frenchman out of the exit door.

So with multiple squad players’ futures uncertain and the Gunners targeting replacements in their bid to get back into Europe next season, what could their starting XI look like?

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at how the Arsenal team could shape up after what is expected to be an unprecedented summer of transfer business at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper – Bernd Leno
The German was coy on his Arsenal future in May, admitting he is ‘open for everything’ and refused to rule out a move away.

The German joined Arsenal in 2018 and has been No 1 for the Gunners for the majority of his time in north London.

A decision was taken last summer to keep the 29-year-old and sell the impressive Emi Martinez to Aston Villa in a £20million deal.

The move left some Arsenal fans perplexed and mistakes did creep into the Germany international’s game in 2020-21, but he still kept 16 clean sheets across all competitions.

Arsenal have been linked with a number of goalkeepers already, including Ajax’s Andre Onana as well England duo Aaron Ramsdale and Sam Johnstone.

Former Bayer Leverkusen stopper Leno also has just two years left on his deal, and with talks yet to open over a new deal there has been speculation he could yet leave.

But in a summer where the Gunners have so much to address – including a new No 2 goalkeeper after the departure of Mat Ryan – Arteta will be hoping for some stability in this position with Leno continuing as No 1.

Right-back – Ben White
Arsenal’s pursuit of Ben White is an open secret but they have yet to agree a deal with Brighton for the versatile defender.

The Seagulls have already rejected two offers from Arsenal, the latest of which was a bid of £42m plus £4m in add-ons, and are holding out for £50m plus.

Sportsmail revealed last week that Everton are trying to gazump their Premier League rivals in the race to sign the England international and have held talks over a £50m move.

Murmurs of Chelsea and Manchester United interest have also surfaced but White is understood to have been particularly keen on signing for Arsenal. And should he arrive he will add qualities that Arteta’s team is in desperate need of exhibiting.

Playing as a right-back in this team could raise a few eyebrows given that he has played the majority of his recent football at centre-back and a handful of games as a defensive midfielder.

But Arteta’s proclivity to have inverted full-backs in his side and the Gunners’ need for an excellent distributor of the ball out from the back following the departure of David Luiz could make him the ideal candidate.

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Hector Bellerin’s future is believed to be elsewhere with the likes of Inter Milan and Villarreal circling and the Spaniard lost his place towards the end of the season to Calum Chambers, who failed to convince fans that he is the long-term solution.

And with price tags for Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey and Norwich’s Max Aarons set to be between £30m and £40m, Arteta could deploy White at right-back as well as expecting him to fill in in other areas should the need arise.

Centre-back – Rob Holding
Holding – like many of his Gunners team-mates – endured a mixed season in 2020-21, but he certainly received the backing from the club’s hierarchy.

The 25-year-old signed a new deal until 2024 in January this year and reports towards the end of the season suggested he, Chambers and Kieran Tierney are seen as part of the club’s future leadership group.

In truth Arsenal have yet to see the best of Holding following a serious knee injury in 2018, and the Gunners faithful have at times lost patience with the man they nicknamed ‘Holdini’ – after AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini – in his first season at the club following a £2m move from Bolton.

But with William Saliba set to head out on his third loan since joining Arsenal in 2019 and Luiz no longer at the club, Holding’s run as first-choice centre-back on the right-hand side – however unpopular it may be – looks set to continue.

Centre-back – Gabriel Magalhaes
It was a solid first season in English football for the Brazilian following his £27m move from Lille last summer.

He enjoyed an excellent partnership with compatriot Luiz last season but did drop off for a while after contracting coronavirus at the end of 2020.

However, a respectable end to the season means he will certainly play a big part as the commanding presence in the Gunners backline next season.

The start of his 2021-22 Premier League season is expected to be slightly delayed due to an injury which has also prevented his involvement with Brazil at the Tokyo Olympics, but once he returns he is likely to get the nod over Pablo Mari most weeks.

Left-back – Kieran Tierney
Another member of the Arsenal defence who has been rewarded with a fresh contract, the Scotland defender is seen by many as the natural successor to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the club captain.

His absence due to injury was felt at the end of last season as Arsenal lost crucial games domestically and in Europe to miss out continental football for the first time in 25 years.

The 24-year-old also showed his value to Scotland at Euro 2020 with an excellent display against England, and his ability to balance quality attacking play and get back to put in firm challenges has endeared him to the Gunners faithful too.

Benfica left-back Nuno Tavares has joined to provide back-up to Tierney given the Scot’s poor injury record since moving from Celtic in a £25m deal in 2019.

But should he stay fit for the majority of the season at least, he will undoubtedly form a central cog in Arteta’s system next term.

Central midfield – Thomas Partey
The big-money arrival last summer, Thomas Partey’s Arsenal career has yet to truly kick into gear.

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Plenty of hype and excitement surrounded his £45m arrival from Atletico Madrid on deadline day, but muscle, hip and hamstring injuries bedevilled his first six months in north London.

Some impressive displays alongside Granit Xhaka did follow and arrive in between those injuries, but there was a sense he was taking time to adapt to English football, often becoming lethargic with his passing towards the end of matches last season.

But there is no doubt that Arteta sees the Ghana international as a necessary component as he attempts to rebuild an Arsenal midfield which has lacked defensive solidity and a goal threat for far too long.

Whether the Gunners can find a suitable, long-term partner for Partey – with Xhaka wanting to join Roma this summer and Dani Ceballos returning to Real Madrid – could well determine the extent to which the club are successful next season.

Central midfield – Yves Bissouma
Many supporters’ first-choice to partner Partey next season, Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma has been linked with the Gunners and Liverpool since the end of last season.

The Mali international gave an excellent audition on the final day of the season at the Emirates Stadium, and was seen deep in conversation with Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe after the match.

The 24-year-old really caught the eye last season and was one of the Premier League’s top tacklers and interceptors.

Albert Sambi Lokonga is the first midfielder expected to arrive at Arsenal this summer in a deal around the £17m mark.

But the Anderlecht and Belgium U21 midfielder has barely two seasons of professional club football under his belt and is reportedly seen as understudy to Partey.

That is likely to see the Gunners move for a more experienced midfielder, and despite few rumours in recent weeks of any impending move for Bissouma, he does appear to fit the Premier League-ready profile of player Arteta and Edu appear to be targeting this summer.

Right winger – Bukayo Saka
The discovery of Saka’s ability to perform as an England international at Euro 2020 has come as a surprise to few Arsenal fans, who saw the 19-year-old carry their side at times last season.

Equally adept on the left or right wing as well as in a more central role and even at left-back, Saka is the gem Arteta will be looking to build his side around over the course of the next few years.

So often the spark when they lacked creativity from all other areas in the first half of last season, a Gunners rebuild is necessary to convince the England star that his long-term future is at Emirates Stadium.

No one recorded more assists for the club than Saka last season, and despite Pepe’s upturn in form towards the end of 2020-21, it would be an enormous surprise if he does not occupy that role on the right wing once he has returned from his holidays after the Euros.

Attacking midfielder – Houssem Aouar
A position that has become a real problem area for Arsenal over the last 12 months, and those issues look far from being totally resolved.

Martin Odegaard was brought in on loan in January to fill the gap in the squad as Emile Smith Rowe – another creative outlet – often played out wide on the left.

But the Norwegian confirmed in a heartfelt Instagram message that he will be staying at Real Madrid this season, despite Arteta’s hopes that he could convince him to join Arsenal on a permanent basis.

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Their search for a No 10 also took a turn for the worse when they lost out on Emi Buendia to Aston Villa, who joined the West Midlands outfit in a £40m deal from Norwich.

Sportsmail understands Leicester City star James Maddison is the No 1 target for the position but the Gunners will find it extremely hard to tempt the East Midlands side into selling the England international for a price that is within their budget.

That could lead the Gunners to pursue a move for Frenchman Houssem Aouar, despite the 23-year-old having scored just eight goals and providing four assists across all competitions last season.

The Gunners were in negotiations with their Ligue 1 counterparts for much of last summer over a move for the France international, and submitted a £30m bid for him which was rejected as Lyon valued him at £54m.

But now some reports suggest Arsenal have put in an offer again as he could be available for as little as £25m this summer after a quieter campaign than 2019-20, which helped him break into Didier Deschamps squad.

Left winger – Emile Smith Rowe
Brought into Arteta’s first XI for the first time last season ahead of their Boxing Day win against Chelsea, Smith Rowe has not looked back since and was another creative outlet in the second half of the season.

Often moved out to the left to accommodate Odegaard, he showed some neat touches to link up with Saka and the Norwegian and ended up with as many top-flight assists as his fellow Englishman last season.

The Gunners are confident he will put pen to paper on a new deal but there has been strong interest from Aston Villa, who have had bids reportedly worth £25m and £30m turned down.

An agreement is not thought to be close for a contract extension at Arsenal and while that remains the case Gunners fans may just start to get a little tetchy.

But there is little suggestion that Arteta would entertain selling Smith Rowe and sees him along with Saka as the club’s future.

Centre forward – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Last season proved to be the Gabon star’s lowest goal return since the 2010-11 season when he represented Monaco and Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1.

A player who so often gets on the end of chances created had very few made for him in decent positions, and his lack of confidence was palpable once the early-season glow of netting in the Community Shield win against Liverpool and the opening-day win at Fulham had worn off.

There were other factors too, with Aubameyang having to return home to Gabon after his mother had fallen unwell, and after hitting a bit of form for Arsenal he contracted malaria while on international duty.

Disciplinary issues also saw him dropped to the bench for the north London derby. Simply put, it was an interrupted season for one of Europe’s most deadly finishers last term.

Arteta still retains confidence his captain will deliver this season, as reflected by the three-year deal handed to him last summer. But while age is not on the 32-year-old’s side, his goals will be pivotal if Arsenal are to make it back into European competition.

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