Arsenal need of new blood and summer could bring major changes
Though there's plenty of this season left to run and Arsenal still have the chance to procure silverware from two competitions (Carabao Cup and Europa League), the summer of 2018 is bound to be in the planning stages at this point.
It remains to be seen if Arsene Wenger will be the man in charge of the team. Success -- or indeed lack of it -- could see him depart with 12 months of his contract remaining, although he last week signalled his intention to see out the duration of his deal.
January saw the Gunners do some serious business to revamp their attacking lineup. Out went Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Midfield and defence are clearly areas in need of some reinforcement and at some point, they have to address the issue of goalkeeper. Petr Cech will be out of contract in 12 months and at 35 is not getting any younger, while David Ospina will surely want to leave to play regular first-team football.
It must be time to look for a candidate who can be a player around whom the team can build for the coming seasons. Arsenal need a number one, an undisputed top dog in that position, because right now there's an odd situation where Cech plays in the Premier League and Ospina in Europe and the cups.
Wenger will say it's so he can keep both his goalkeepers happy as having two "world-class" keepers means there's a need to rotate. That might be true to an extent, but this timeshare situation only exists because there isn't one keeper who is head and shoulders above the other, and it's probably not the healthiest scenario.
Though there's a lot of spotlight on Cech for not saving penalties -- an issue Arsenal could go a long way to solving by not giving as many away -- the former Chelsea man has been pretty solid all round this season. There was an error at Swansea but his performance in the North London derby kept the scoreline respectable. However, he does appear to be a player who is slowing down slightly, which is no surprise given his age.
Despite that Ospina has never truly looked like the right man to take his place. The Colombia international has had his moments but is too often unconvincing to be the long-term solution.
Wenger has often been accused of having a blind spot when it comes to keepers: his persistence with Manuel Almunia was baffling at times, for example, so it's an interesting development that two of the new backroom staff have come with their own recommendations.
The new Head of Football Relations -- which is basically the Director of Football, though he can't be called that because of the manager's objections to the role -- has reportedly identified Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak as the man Arsenal need. Meanwhile, Sven Mislintat, the Head of Recruitment, fancies a Bundesliga purchase in the shape of Cologne's Timo Horn. Both would fit the bill in terms of talent and age profile, and either could establish himself as the number one for years to come. However, this summer of all summers will require an urgency to transfer business that hasn't always been the club's hallmark.
Managerial situation aside, it's a World Cup year and that can often cause delays and difficulties for players and agents alike. On top of that, the rule changes that will see the transfer window close before the opening game of the new Premier League season, meaning that the time frame for getting deals done is shorter than usual.
There's a lot to do this summer, factoring in retirement (Per Mertesacker), contract expiry (Santi Cazorla) and decisions still to be made over the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck, whose deals run out the following summer. Perhaps with new structures in place, Arsenal can do their business in a much more efficient manner as they look to continue the significant rebuilding job the squad needs.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.