Football Manager 2018: Arsenal Team Guide, Player Ratings & Tactics

Arsenal look to rebuild and get back into the top four, can you go one further and bring the Premier League title to The Emirates on FM 18?

Alastair Pusinelli by Alastair Pusinelli

After missing out on the top four for the first time in over 20 years, the pressure is on at The Emirates. There is a feeling that last season’s FA Cup success has papered over the cracks for Arsenal, and with some high-profile players likely to leave the club at the end of the campaign, it’s a massive period of transition for the club. 

For that reason, it’s a perfect opportunity for you to step in, remove Arsene Wenger and take Arsenal back towards Premier League glory. It’s approaching 14 years since they last lifted the PL trophy, and that needs to change if Arsenal are to keep their ‘big club’ status.


As soon as you’ve set up your game, Arsenal Managing Director Ivan Gazidis will welcome you to the club and present the philosophies put forward by the board. In true Arsenal fashion, you will need to play possession-based, attacking football, something that Arsene Wenger has instilled in North London. You will also need to develop players using the club’s youth system with Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Hector Bellerin all products of the Arsenal Academy over the years.


Next up, come your expectations. These are adjustable, but the default is to reach the final of the EURO Cup (Europa League), qualify for the Champions Cup (Champions League) in the league and reach the final of the FA Cup. Both the Carabao Cup and Community Shield are not important.

Given Arsenal’s strength and depth, these goals are achievable, and you could even be greedy and adjust your EURO Cup goal to winning the competition. With just one or two signings, your squad will be fully equipped to fight on all fronts. 


Transfer: £80 million

Wage: £2.8 million per week (Current £2.5 million)


Although Arsene Wenger has opted for a five at the back system to mimic Premier League Champions Chelsea, you should revert to the 4-2-3-1 system. This gives you greater balance and your entire side will be very familiar with their roles. Against the bigger clubs you can go for five at the back, with 5-2-3 and 5-2-1-2 both possible options.


Petr Cech is the undisputed choice in goal, and you should put Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac in the back four.

Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey are in the engine room, with Mesut Ozil in the number 10 role. If you want more discipline in midfield, Francis Coquelin
is perfectly suited to the ‘ball winning midfielder role’.

Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott provide the width, with Alexandre Lacazette leading the line. If you want more of a focal point, Olivier Giroud is a great alternative, and he can play a big role from the bench.

On the bench you will want David Ospina, Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, Alex Iwobi Danny Welbeck, and Olivier Giroud.

Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere start the season side-lined by injury. Cazorla is a creative option in central midfield, whilst Wilshere will be a rotation player.


With Arsenal looking to dominate most opposition, you should go for the control mentality, but keep a flexible team shape. Try to get as many green lights on the field as possible, but do keep an eye on the roles you are giving your players. In midfield, you will only want one ‘deep lying playmaker’ so make sure each player offers something different.

Against the bigger clubs make sure players are performing their defensive duties, maybe change Alexis Sanchez’s duty to support, so he doesn’t stay too high. 

Key Players

There is no question that Arsenal have some sensational players, but the gulf between their top performers and the rest of the squad may be your biggest concern.

Alexis Sanchez – CA 4.5 star (175), PA 4.5 star (182)

Arsenal’s undisputed best performer. Chile winger Alexis Sanchez’s 30 goals last season weren’t enough to take The Gunners into the top four, but the big news is that Sanchez is out of contract at the end of the season. When you go to negotiate with the 28-year-old, he is uninterested in signing a new deal. If you improve his morale and start the season well, things could change, but you may have your work cut out in keeping him.

The left attacking midfielder or striker has a 175 current ability on the game, made up by 18 adaptability, 18 flair and 18 agility. His 182 potential means there is some growth left in him, but he will need to perform exceptionally well to get there. With Sanchez in the last year of his contract, you could decide to sell and bring in around £65 million for him, and reinvest his £140,000 a week wages. 

Mesut Ozil – CA 3.5 star (162), PA 3.5 star (180)

Star playmaker Mesut Ozil is also out of contract, but the German is willing to negotiate a new deal. A £175,000 a week deal plus add-ons should see him sign on the dotted line, and with Sanchez likely to leave, the German international will become the heart of the team. After receiving criticism for his performances against the big sides, the 28-year-old has a point to prove at The Emirates. 

19 first touch, 19 technique and 19 off the ball contribute to Ozil’s 162 current ability rating. With his potential at 180, it suggests that Ozil is falling from his peak, so don’t expect much improvement from the attacking midfielder. If you also decide to sell, don’t settle for anything less than £50 million for him, with his wages also £140,000 a week.

Laurent Koscielny – CA 3.5 star (160), PA 3.5 star (165)

Laurent Koscielny is the leader of the defence, and with Arsenal’s attack possibly about to change, he will need to galvanise the back four. The 31-year-old is unstoppable on his day, but in the same breath can look ordinary at times. Now at his peak, he needs to show his quality on a regular basis.

A 160 current ability is supported by 18 tackling, 17 heading and 17 professionalism, but he is unlikely to improve to his 165 potential. His value of £29 million means you shouldn’t sell the French international for anything less than £40 million, with his wages currently £90,000 a week.

Young Talent

As already mentioned, plenty of top players have come through Arsenal’s Academy, with the club never frightened to give youth a chance. The EURO Cup and Carabao Cup present great opportunities for your youngsters.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide – CA 2 star (120), PA 2.5 – 3.5 star (165)

With Arsene Wenger giving youth a chance in the cup competitions this season, it’s surely only a matter of time before Jeff Reine-Adelaide shines on the big stage. The 19-year-old Frenchman featured three times in the FA Cup last season, and the current campaign looks to be a watershed year for the left, attacking or right midfielder. His 120 CA score consists of 15 flair, 14 dribbling and 14 pace, with a very handsome potential of 165. His current wages are only £2,000 week, and he’s valued at £2.7 million.

Vlad Dragomir – CA 1 star (84), PA 2.5 – 3.5 star (149)

Not someone you would have heard of, but the 18-year-old Vlad Dragomir is already a Romania U21 international. The central midfielder has impressed for Arsenal’s PL2 side last season, so a first team chance may not be too far away. Dragomir’s 84 current ability could grow to 149, so expect his attributes of 14 natural fitness, 14 adaptability and 13 importance matches to improve considerably over the years. Don’t be distracted by his £140,000 value, as Dragomir could fetch you £20 million or more on the transfer market. His current weekly wage is £170,000. 

Ben Sheaf – CA 1.5 star (101), PA 2.5 – 3.5 star (148)

Centre back Ben Sheaf has built on his debut last season, with a European bow this campaign. With Per Mertesacker retiring at the end of season, more chances are likely to come his way, so keep an eye on the 19-year-old’s development over the next few seasons. Sheaf’s 101 PA is made up by 19 versatility, 14 determination and 13 composure, with a solid 148 potential. His value of £500,00 means he could be sold for around £10 million, with his wages at £3,000 a week. 

Team Report

Strengths Weaknesses
Decisions Goalkeeper Depth
Teamwork Defence Depth
Midfield Depth
Attack Depth
Youth Prospects
Scouting Staff
Work Rate
Defence Depth
Star Goalkeeper (Petr Cech)
Star Defender (Laurent Koscielny)
Star Midfielder (Alexis Sanchez)
Wage Budget
First Touch
Overall Depth
Transfer Budget
Coaching Staff


Team Leaders: Per Mertesacker (C), Laurent Koscielny (vice-captain), Santi Cazorla

Highly influential players: Theo Walcott, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Nacho Monreal, Danny Welbeck 

A new feature for Football Manager 2018, squad dynamics depict the atmosphere in your squad. Be sure not to upset the more influential players as it will have a knock-on effect and could cause you to lose the dressing room.

The better the cohesion off the pitch, the better the performances will be on it. Keep your players happy and it will lead to success.

Transfer Targets

With some big names heading for the exit at Arsenal, it is vital you sign well to soften the blow. The arrivals of Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac are a great start, but one or two more big names will take Arsenal to fully fledged title contenders.

Right winger – Inaki Williams (CA 150 – PA 166)

In our lineup, Theo Walcott is operating on the right side of midfield. Although the England man has pace (18), he lacks consistency (12) so you need to find a replacement, with Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck preferring to play on the left side. We like the look of Sevilla flyer Inaki Williams. The 23-year-old has been linked with a big move in recent transfer windows, and you could give him his opportunity. Williams, once capped by Spain, will set you back around £44.5 million, with his wages currently just short of £60,000 a week. With a 150 CA and 166 PA it’s a pretty good deal, especially with his 19 pace, 17 acceleration and 16 work rate.

Alternative options:

  • Gelson Martins – Age 22, Sporting Lisbon, Portugal, CA 150, PA 170, Value: £13.4m, Wage: £30k
  • Raheem Sterling – Age 22, Man City, England, CA 151, PA 165, Value: £37m, Wage: £150k
  • Julian Draxler – Age 23, PSG, Germany, CA 153, PA 169, Value: £34m, Wage: £86k
  • Hulk – Age 30, Shanghai, Brazil, CA 155, PA 161, Value: £34m, Wage: £178k

Future goalkeeper – Alessandro Plizzari (CA 107 – PA 167)

With Petr Cech now 35, it won’t be long before you will need a replacement goalie. To save yourself some money, you should plan ahead and bring one in early. Alessandro Plizzari is currently on loan at Ternana from AC Milan, but after a season of development he will be a fantastic signing. You can agree the deal straight away, and the 17-year-old should cost you around £23.5 million, with his wages just £3,000 a week. Plizzari has a 107 current ability score, comprised by 17 sportsmanship, 16 ambition and 16 natural fitness. His potential of 167 means he will become one of the best keepers on the planet.

Alternative options:

  • Kepa Arrizabalaga – Age 22, Athletic Bilbao, CA 143, PA 167, Value: £5m, Wage: £26k
  • Alex Meret – Age 20, SPAL, CA 124, PA 166, Value: £2.4m, Wage: £8k
  • Pau Lopez – Age 22, Espanyol, CA 135, PA 160, Value: £2.9m, Wage: £34k
  • Christian Fruchtl – Age 17, Bayern Munich, CA 106, PA 159, Value: £187k, Wage: £356

Players to sell

There are plenty of options in Arsenal’s squad, but you need to make the decision to see if there are any players you can do without. With a talented youth side, you will want to give them plenty of game-time, so you should look to see if you can offload any first teamers. 

Mohamed Elneny

Mohamed Elneny is one of six options in central midfield, and with the Egyptian operating in a similar role to Francis Coquelin, there is perhaps only room for one of them in the squad. Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla do start the campaign injured, so perhaps hold off until January to see if you still need 24-year-old Elneny. The defensive or central midfield should collect you £25 million, saving £40,000 a week on wages. It’s a decent price given his 144 CA and 155 PA. 


Arsenal don’t spend as freely as the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, so their finances are in pretty good check. Bank balance and turnover are on the up so you should have plenty of cash in the years to come.

As for your transfer budget, it is expected to increase to over £100 million in January, and hit £160 million next summer. You may lose Sanchez and Ozil, but you will have the money to replace them next year.

In terms of loans, Arsenal have four loans to repay, but with just £1.82m a month going towards them, it is no issue.

Time to rebuild

A hectic 12 months doesn’t look to be settling anytime soon, so it’s time to roll your sleeves up and try to rectify the situation at Arsenal. You have the players and finances to get back into the top four, and a trophy in your first season would be the icing on the cake. Do keep an eye on next season, as you will need new signings to replace Alexis Sanchez and possibly Mesut Ozil. With that element of uncertainty, Arsenal are a more challenging club to manage on FM 2018, so your success will be all the more sweet with The Gunners. 

Arsenal first team squad roles and ratings

Role Ability
Starting Lineup
Petr Cech 35 GK Goalkeeper Defend 4 star 168/
Hector Bellerin 22 DR Full-Back Attack 3 star 152/
Shkodran Mustafi 25 CD Ball Playing Defender Defend 3.5 star 150/
Laurent Koscielny 31 CD Central Defender Defend 4 star 160/
Sead Kolasinac 24 DL Defensive Full-Back Defend 3 star 146/
Aaron Ramsey 26 MCR Mezzala Support 3 star 149/
Granit Xhaka 24 MCL Deep Lying Playmaker Defend 3 star 147/
Theo Walcott 28 AMR Winger Support 3 star 148/
Mesut Ozil 28 AMC Advanced Playmaker Support 4 star 162/
Alexis Sanchez 28 AML Inside Forward Attack 4.5 star 175/
Alexandre Lacazette 26 STC Complete Forward Attack 3.5 star 157/
David Ospina 28 GK Goalkeeper Defend 2.5 star 141/
Per Mertesacker 32 D (C) Central Defender Defend 3 star 148/
Nacho Monreal 31 D (LC)
WB (L)
Wing-Back Defend 3 star 145/
Francis Coquelin 26 DM
M (C)
Ball Winning Midfielder Support 3 star 146/
Alex Iwobi 21 AM (RLC) Inside Forward Support 3 star 142/
Danny Welbeck 26 AM (RL)
ST (C)
Inside Forward Support 3 star 150/
Olivier Giroud 30 ST (C) Target Man Support 3.5 star 154/
Rob Holding 21 D (C) Ball Playing Defender Defend 2.5 star 130/
Calum Chambers 22 D (RC) Ball Playing Defender Defend 2.5 star 135/
Mathieu Debuchy 31 D/WB (R) Full-Back Auto 2.5 star 131/
Mohamed Elneny 24 DM
M (C)
Deep Lying Playmaker Defend 3 star 144/
Santi Cazorla 32 M (C)
Advanced Playmaker Support 3.5 star 155/
Jack Wilshere 25 M (C)
Advanced Playmaker Support 3 star 147/

How have you done with The Gunners? Let us know in the comments section below

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Alastair Pusinelli

First console: GameBoy Color / Favourite Game: Assassin's Creed 2 / Currently playing: Football Manager 2020