Arsenal have experienced a disappointing season by their standards in the Premier League and they are currently languishing in the ninth position with just 40 points from 28 matches.
Despite this, they still have a decent chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, considering the fifth position could be sufficient to progress to the group stage of the competition.
Manchester City’s two-year ban from European club competitions has led to this situation but the Cityzens could still overturn the embargo, if they are successful with their appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
At present, the north London side are five points behind fifth-placed Manchester United with a game in hand and they will require a strong end to the campaign in order to grab the spot off their rivals.
Regardless of what happens, the squad is likely to undergo a rebuild under manager Mikel Arteta during the off-season and we look into a couple of players, who could be shown the exit door from the Emirates.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos: The Greek defender started the season as the regular central defensive partner for David Luiz but as the campaign as progressed, he has figured as more of a back-up option. Sokratis has started just three league games for the Gunners since the turn of the year and one of those saw him play in an unfamiliar right-back position. Both him and Mustafi have their contracts expiring at the end of next season but he could be permitted to leave the club, particularly with the latter having come up with a number of standout displays alongside Luiz. Moreover, Sokratis at 31, is nearly four years elder than Mustafi and the Gunners may seek to recoup some of the transfer fees spent on him. This could contribute to a contract extension for Mustafi, suppose he is able to maintain his performance levels when the season resumes after the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: The academy graduate has proved a good squad option for the north London side with his versatility of playing at right-back, left-back or in his natural central midfield role. However, he has mostly featured on the right side of the defence this season and was able to make 14 league appearances between August and mid-January. Since then, he has dropped down the pecking order with the injury comeback of Hector Bellerin and he has earned less than 10 minutes of action in his next three appearances in all competitions. In this period, Sokratis has been preferred ahead of him for the right-back role in the Cup competitions when Bellerin has been rested. Maitland-Niles obviously had concerns over playing as the makeshift right-back earlier this season and The Athletic‘s David Ornstein has recently suggested that Arteta is not receptive to players indicating their preferred positions. It won’t come as a surprise, if the youngster moves on from the club.