Arsenal's alternative XI if Unai Emery secured his summer transfer targets

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Arsenal fans are happy to see Unai Emery become smaller and smaller in their rearview mirrors with each passing day.

Before their 2018/19 season imploded with a Europa League final defeat and an unexpected slide out of the top four, it looked as though the Spaniard had been an inspired appointment.

But Emery never truly recovered from that ropey climax to his opening campaign and the results went from bad to worse after a nondescript start to his second.

The 2-1 defeat at home to Eintracht Frankfurt was the last straw for the Arsenal hierarchy and interim manager Freddie Ljungberg has been left to pick up the pieces ever since.

However, let's imagine for one second that things could have gone better and that a different summer transfer strategy would actually have sparked a season where Emery was still in charge.

Arsenal's alternative XI

It might sound fantastical, but that's a theory that talkSPORT have floated after a report in The Athletic listed three targets that Emery wanted if they qualified for the Champions League.

As a result, they have drawn up Arsenal's potential XI if Emery actually got the players he desired and it makes for an interesting alternative history to say the least. Check out the team down below:

GK - Bernd Leno

One of Emery's better signings at Arsenal keeps his place, of course. The German has recovered from some early wobbles to arguably become the Gunners' best goalkeeper of the last decade.

Norwich City v Arsenal FC - Premier League

RB - Hector Bellerin

We haven't seen the best of Bellerin for quite some time - although injuries are partially to blame - but he remains one of the Premier League's best right-backs when he's firing on all cylinders.

Arsenal FC v Southampton FC - Premier League

CB - Harry Maguire

Bet you weren't expecting this. Call it ambitious, but Emery reportedly wanted to sign Maguire this summer and it would certainly be a rosier proposition than David Luiz or Shkodran Mustafi starting.

However, even with their unexpected show of muscle with the Nicolas Pepe signing, we're pretty sure Manchester United would always have won a price war for the England international.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League

CB - Sokratis Papastathopoulos

In a universe where Maguire did move to the Emirates Stadium, Luiz wouldn't have followed suit and Sokratis surely would have been considered the strongest centre-back to partner up with him.

Arsenal FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League

LB - Sead Kolasinac

Kieran Tierney likely wouldn't have been so high on Arsenal's shopping list if they returned to the big time in Europe, so Kolasinac slots in at left-back to round off a pretty solid back four.

Watford FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League

CM - Thomas Partey

While Maguire might have been a little unrealistic, trying to activate the £42 million release clause of Atletico Madrid's highly-rated midfielder was certainly within the realms of possibility.

But Arsenal's inexplicable decision that his asking price was too high means their midfield now looks all the weaker for that thrashing in Baku.

Deportivo Alaves v Club Atletico de Madrid  - La Liga

CM - Matteo Guendouzi

You can draw plenty of conclusions from the fact Arsenal's best player this season has arguably been their 20-year-old midfield starlet. The energetic Frenchman is an obvious choice in the XI.

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RW - Alexandre Lacazette

For all the recent controversy, there can be no denying Lacazette's goal-scoring record in English football - 41 goals in 100 matches - and he has brilliant chemistry with a certain other forward.

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AM - Mesut Ozil

To be honest, the idea of Emery picking Ozil in any starting XI seems a little ambitious from talkSPORT, but the World Cup winner is never far from an otherworldly performance, in fairness.

Norwich City v Arsenal FC - Premier League

LW - Wilfried Zaha

That's right, forget about Pepe, because Emery preferred a move for the Crystal Palace winger and this was actually a transfer that Arsenal pursued regardless of their Europa League languishing.

Emery was impressed with Zaha's performances against the Gunners and highlighted him as a key target because he wouldn't have to adapt to the Premier League.

Watford FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League

ST - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Where on earth would Arsenal even be without this man? Forget transfer policies for a second, it's absolutely critical that the Gunners find a way to hold on to their star striker for as long as possible.

West Ham United v Arsenal FC - Premier League

GIVEMESPORT's Kobe Tong says

In a world where this XI actually came together, I feel certain that Emery would still be in the job.

The reason? Maguire.

Arsenal's major problem this season has been the amount of goals and shots they've conceded, but those numbers would fall through the floor if you swapped out the erratic Luiz for Maguire.

Marry that to Arsenal's patience with Emery even during some terrible form and you can be sure that a major defensive signing, while perhaps not elevating them to the top four, would have brought major improvements.

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But I don't think a move for Maguire would have been realistic even with Champions League qualification as it seemed as though the historical allure of United was simply too strong.

So, had it just been Zaha and Partey coming through the Colney front door, I think Arsenal would be in just as dire straits as they are now.

Say what you like about Emery, the fact their defence has been as watertight as the goal net that's been rippling every 10 seconds has been the cause of all their problems.

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