Arsenal verdict: Aubameyang and Co are yesterday's men.. Gunners need to back Pepe and kids to score more goals

EIGHTH place will never be good enough for Arsenal fans, and with good reason.

And while today's 2-0 victory over Brighton was a nice way to end the season, it was also a further insight into what boss Mikel Arteta needs to prioritise in order to improve on this dismal campaign next time around.

The Gunners' clean sheet saw them finish the season with the Premier League's third best defensive record – conceding only 39 goals in 38 games.

But it's going forward where they've struggled, scoring fewer than any other side in the top nine – and the same number as 11th placed Aston Villa.

The likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and particularly Willian have endured incredibly underwhelming stretches this season.

And their profligacy at times played a huge part in the Gunners' forward failings.

Nicolas Pepe's brace today, as well as recent strikes against Crystal Palace, West Brom, Villarreal and Slavia Prague showed that Arsenal could yet get some bang for their hefty buck, as he finished the season with 14 goals.

And it is the North Londoners' younger players, as well as Pepe, that can give Arteta hope for next season.

The Spaniard simply must build around this young core.

Bukayo Saka was almost certainly Arsenal's best player this season, while Emile Smith Rowe's breakout has been one of their stories of the campaign.


Gunners fans, meanwhile, are frustrated by Gabriel Martinelli's lack of starts, with the Brazilian looking an exceptional talent when he has featured.

Arteta, 39, has not been afraid to make big decisions so far – such as allowing the club to take a financial hit in order to get rid of expensive dead wood.

The likes of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi, temporarily at least Sead Kolasinac, and now David Luiz have all left the club on his watch.

But it is time for the rookie boss to be even braver in this respect, to find buyers for big players like Aubameyang, Lacazette and Willian – and to fully prioritise letting his young starlets shine.

Aubameyang's minutes wide on the left or upfront could easily go to Martinelli, and the youngster has the talent to thrive.

Arsenal must stop cutting corners in the transfer market, acquiring cheap cast offs like Luiz, Willian, Cedric Soares and Dani Ceballos will not take them where they want to go.

It's time for club chiefs to make building around their exceptionally talented young core their No1 priority.. before these players grow disillusioned with veterans going through the motions playing either with, or even ahead, of them.

This season has been another reality check for the Arsenal board, that they cannot be lazy and reactive if they are to be successful.

But whether they, or Arteta, learn their lessons from this dreadful campaign, remains to be seen.

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