In the summer of 2013, most Arsenal supporters had one request; get rid of the Deadwood. Andrei Arshavin, Denilson, Park, Andre Santos, Joel Campbell (his contract finally expires this summer), Abou Diaby, Gervinho, Chamakh, Coquelin, Djourou, Frimpong, Squillaci, and Bendtner were all on the Arsenal books and many of them on huge salaries (Bendtner was reportedly making £55k a week). The logic was simple: clear those players out and you free up salary and cash to buy players who can actually feature for Arsenal and possibly even free up money to buy a big name player. Wenger did exactly that, buying Mesut Özil and selling or loaning out nearly every name on that list. It is 2017 and given the age of many players on this club or the fact that these players don’t play it’s time for Arsenal to do the same thing again.
Let’s start at the back with Ospina. Ospina is Arsenal’s “cup keeper” and has never settled himself as first choice among the coaching staff or fans. There are a number of reports that Ospina is a coveted player and would fetch £3m or so along with his £40k week salary. Arsenal could and should replace him with Wojciech Szczesny who is on loan to Roma and having a great season with 14 clean sheets. Szczesny could even displace Cech and start at Arsenal.
Mertesacker has played 804¹ minutes since January 24th 2016. That was the match against Chelsea in which he received a red card. After serving his suspension, he was benched. He has since suffered some injuries but even when he is healthy, he finds himself as 4th choice center back at Arsenal. He is 32 years old and earns £70k a week. Unfortunately, he’s just signed a contract extension until 2018 and it seems highly unlikely that Arsenal will be able to shift him given his age, salary and the fact that he doesn’t play. Best case scenario is a loan move but again that seems unlikely. He seems happy just picking up his salary.
Debuchy is a lot like Mertesacker. He’s played just 733 minutes in the last two seasons for Arsenal, he’s 31 years old, under contract until 2019, and on a huge salary (£70k a week). Rumors about him going out on loan have been abundant. Arsenal are also stocked with options in his position with Bellerin first choice, Gabriel, Chambers, Coquelin, and even Oxlade-Chamberlain has been played as the right wing-back. Marseille were reportedly interested in a loan deal in January but that fell through, and if Arsenal could even get him on loan and have someone pay part of his salary it would be a big win.
4th choice behind even Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson has spent the last two years on loan and was on the verge of signing for Crystal Palace in January 2017 but scuttled the deal when he couldn’t reach personal terms. Jenkinson has since gone on record saying that it wasn’t about the money but he’s on £45k a week and has a deal that runs through 2020. Palace reportedly wanted Jenkinson to take a pay cut and warned him that relegation would mean an additional 40-50% pay cut. He claims that “the conditions weren’t right” and killed the deal. Right before he was injured, he had been dropped at West Ham after a poor outing against West Brom. After that match “Jenko” finished the full 90 minutes just twice before picking up a season ending injury. Jenkinson is no longer a prospect at 25 years old and may be difficult to shift if he sticks to his salary demands but Arsenal will try to move him this summer and could get £5m.
In midfield, Santi Cazorla is on £90k a week, is 32 years old, and has played just 944 minutes since December 2015. Cazorla was out of contract this summer but along with Mertesacker, club and player have agreed to a one year extension. It’s unlikely that Arsenal will sell him because even if they buy someone top quality like Thiago Alcantara, Cazorla would make a great backup. And if Arsenal take a huge gamble on Oxlade-Chamberlain they will need Cazorla to help guide him. But Cazorla will want to play and could agitate for a move if Arsenal buy a top quality replacement.
One of Elneny or Coquelin could be sold to make funds available but Arsenal have more pressing concerns as management needs to take a decision on Jack Wilshere. Wilshere has spent most of his career injured and having finally recovered health spent the season on loan to Bournemouth. You would expect a player with his pedigree to shine but it was a less than successful loan period for the Arsenal man which was cut short with yet another injury. Wilshere led Bournemouth in dribbles (2.1) and key passes (1.3) which shows he still has class but he was dropped by Bournemouth after an absolutely haggard display against Man City and a followed up against West Brom. Wilshere is one of Arsenal’s top paid players and could still fetch a huge sum despite having just a single season left on his current contract.
The question is whether Arsenal would want to sign him, with his injury history and given his season, were he a free agent. Would Arsenal go after this player? Would Wilshere be coveted by a team like Bayern Munich or Barcelona? Those are the standards by which Arsenal should be recruiting and it seems like Wilshere was once tipped to be that type of player but has slipped well below that mark. And what if money from the sale of Wilshere could be used to fund the purchase of an exciting young forward like Mbappe? Wilshere could fetch £30m to the right club and if there are any offers this summer Arsenal should take them.
This similar question, about the level of player Arsenal should be recruiting, could be leveled at the Arsenal forwards. Arsenal have often been found rummaging in the bargain bin when it comes to forwards. Giroud is a decent forward with a great skill set but he’s not a great forward. Rumors abound that Marseille is after his signature and are willing to offer £20m to Arsenal. He’s 30 years old and with an offer like that I expect arsenal to take the money and run. Another decision could be made about Theo Walcott, Yaya Sanogo, and Lucas Perez.
Walcott would be a hot property if he were put on the market, his particular skillset appeals to English teams who want to play counter attacking football. With the big television contracts, every team in the League could afford to buy Walcott for £30m. The question for Arsenal is whether the money is worth it or whether he adds a special kind of depth to the team.
Sanogo should simply be sold but Perez is another question. Clearly the player wants to play and just as clearly the current manager doesn’t rate him. From what I’ve seen, which is limited, he looks a good backup player or late sub.
This has been a disastrous season for Arsenal. The balance of this team has been wrong all season as evidenced by the fact that Wenger hasn’t nailed down a solid starting XI, doesn’t know who his best two midfielders are, can’t get his forward line right, and has recently resorted to an emergency back three to stop the team from bleeding goals. Arsenal need to offload the deadwood and should be looking to buy the very best players in world football and no longer rummaging in bargain bins. Arsenal are one of the richest clubs in Europe, their supporters pay the highest ticket prices in the world, and the club should be building a team capable of winning the Champions League with that money. Players like Alcantara, Mbappe, Lemar, O. Dembele, Kieta, and Andreas Christensen should be at the top of the list for Arsenal.
Wenger has recently suggested that Mbappe is “perhaps already in the category of clubs who perhaps have more financial potential than us (Arsenal).” This is an incredible statement, literally incredible: it holds no credibility. There is no club in the world with as much cash reserves as Arsenal. Arsenal’s annual income is in the top five of all football clubs and more recently most clubs are competing based on their resources and not on “financial doping.” Beyond that, Arsenal have resources in their playing stable which could be sold in order to help fund a huge purchase like Mbappe.
This season with Arsenal finishing below Tottenham and likely out of the Champions League places should be a wakeup call to Arsene Wenger that the club needs investment. But he’s here claiming false poverty as an excuse for not signing players. More than his tactical faults if Arsene Wenger can’t or won’t sign the players needed to make Arsenal into the competitive force that our financial muscle affords us, then Arsene Wenger should no longer be the manager of Arsenal Football Club. A manager like Guardiola, Conte, Tuchel, or even Carlo Ancelotti wouldn’t keep this current Arsenal side together and would find a way to get top quality players in the team.
¹That’s 9 games.