Recent reported links between Arsenal and Valencia over the signing of Gabriel Paulista have been too easily dismissed by Arsenal supporters as it seems like Valencia CF have “pre-announced” his transfer via twitter:
Ya se la estamos preparando…😉 pic.twitter.com/0EwPDhVKiF
— Valencia CF (@valenciacf) August 16, 2017
Selling Gabriel is a risky move for Arsenal as the London team seems light in the center back position. Koscielny, Arsenal’s best defender, is suffering chronic tendonitis; Mertesacker is in his last season, Mustafi seems a good option (especially in buildup) though his defending has been questioned; and Rob Holding is raw at best and at worst is a mess with the ball.
Arsenal have been forced to play Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac in the CB position in the early part of the season – both players converted from left back – because the other two options Arsenal have at CB either of Chambers and the aforementioned Gabriel have been injured or are out of favor.
Gabriel isn’t Arsenal’s best defender by any stretch and has been red carded for losing his temper with Diego Costa among a few other mistakes. But he is a big body who isn’t afraid to get stuck into aerial challenges and his departure, more importantly, leaves Arsenal with just one or two top quality healthy center backs.
It’s a strange move from Arsenal, especially in light of Wenger’s comments that Arsenal are basically done buying. Speaking to reporters at his Wednesday press conference Wenger was asked if Arsenal were busy in the market looking to buy players, Wenger replied “Getting players out keeps you as busy as getting players in. I think I will be busy, yes.” And even the official Arsenal.com site suggests that Wenger is done in the buying end of the market reporting “By Arsene Wenger’s own admission, the focus for much of the rest of the transfer window will be on outgoings rather than who could be joining us.” (same link as above)
It becomes an even stranger move in the context of Arsene saying that he’s determined to keep Alexis, Ox, Ozil, and Wilshere who are all in the last year of their contracts. Wenger also admitted that Arsenal are looking to sell Lucas Perez. That means Arsenal could potentially lose Alexis, Ox, Ozil, Cazorla, Gibbs, Wilshere, and Mertesacker (all on a free) next summer along with Gabriel, Debuchy, Szczesny (sold), and Lucas being sold this summer.
The contract situation at Arsenal looks even more precarious when you see that Ramsey, Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck, Monreal, Ospina, and Cech are all out of contract in 2019 (source: transfermarkt). That means that in addition to having players like Ox, Ozil, and Alexis able to demand a huge signing on bonus because they are out of contract, Arsenal will also be trying to nail down the entire rest of the team’s core to long-term deals.
Giroud is a big body and is often called upon to defend set plays and corners. Perhaps Wenger is looking to convert the French forward? (I don’t really believe this, it’s what we call a “joke.”)
I have no special access to Arsenal’s hierarchy but this looks like the owner, manager, and corporate bosses are simply blowing this team up. If this was an NFL or NBA team I’d say it looks like the club are clearing out a lot of salary.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Teams have to rebuild from time to time and Arsenal’s wage structure, which was put in place to help fund the stadium, is inefficient because it makes moving players like Theo Walcott difficult. It could also mean that Arsenal and the Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke are looking to cut their costs and increase profits.
Regardless my speculation on the club’s intent the reality is that selling Gabriel leaves the club short in a key position. This is a pattern with Arsenal, though, and one which fans have grown accustomed to. It is also just as possible that Wenger was kidding about not buying any more players and that the Gunners already have a replacement lined up for Gabriel, one which adds top top quality to the back line.
Let’s hope its the latter.