Whilst Arsenal’s late-February collapse, end-of-season charge for a top four finish, and FA Cup final appearance are no surprise at all, perhaps only one thing in life is even more of a certainty than these things: the fact that Europe’s top clubs will be circling Monaco like vultures this summer.
The Monegasque club has had their best season in decades – which always sets scouts’ pulses racing – but more importantly, they’ve done it with arguably the most exciting young squad in Europe. Against Manchester City in the last 16, Monaco’s outfield players had an average age of just 22 years of age.
Young, French players are something of a stock in trade for Arsene Wenger, of course, and as a former Monaco manager himself, he’ll surely have an eye on one or two.
Kylian Mbappe and Tiemoue Bakayoko may be the obvious choices for an Arsenal side who lack a top striker and perhaps a midfield enforcer, but neither of those players would be effective signing for Wenger this summer – assuming he stays on in charge at the Emirates.
Instead, Arsenal should be looking to Benjamin Mendy, rated by Transfermarkt.com at £7.65m.
Just like many of his teammates, Mendy is another hot property in European football this summer. Both of the Monaco full-backs are, in fact. But with Arsene Wenger’s switch to a back three formation over the last few weeks, it makes sense to think that he might be looking for the kind of player who can play as a wing-back as well as in a flat back four.
On the right hand side, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin look like good candidates for that role next season. Chamberlain has impressed in his new role over the past few weeks and, although Bellerin hasn’t been at his best of late, the Spaniard is still an exciting young talent.
It’s the other side that Wenger should be worried about.
When playing with a back three, Arsenal’s wingers like Alexis Sanchez, get the chance to come inside because the width is left to the wing-backs. On the right, it doesn’t sound like such a terrible thing that the majority of your wide play is left to Chamberlain or even Bellerin if he’s on form. On the left, Wenger simply can’t rely on Kieran Gibbs to provide width.
Recently, the Englishman has played in that role whilst Nacho Monreal has come into the left of the three centre backs. Going forward, a left wing-back will be needed, and there are none much better than Benjamin Mendy.
Aside from the obvious athleticism and attacking ability the left-back possesses, Mendy is the type of player who could bring more to this Arsenal side than just skill and competence. One of the criticisms leveled at the Gunners in recent years is their mental strength and their inability to stand up to big games.
Mendy’s stats go the other way: his 2.1 tackles per game in all competition rises to 2.7 in the Champions League, whilst his 1.7 dribbles per game rises to 2.1 when you only take into account European games. Essentially, when the opposition gets tougher, Mendy raises his game. And given Arsenal’s record in the biggest games, that might be an even more important quality than anything else he could possibly bring to the team.