Who Can Stay and Who Can Go

Written by Chris Ells

April 15, 2020

Good day all. I hope you’re well. Today football faces a very uncertain future. With no final decisions being made on how this Premier League season will finish, the subsequent transfer dealings for each club are completely up in the air. Not only do clubs no longer have any control over what position they will end up, there is the increasing probability that they will find themselves owing money from what will already be a much depleted pot. 

Each year clubs earn a substantial amount of their income from TV rights, which, in terms of the UK, channels such as Sky and BT Sport offer the Premier League in return for the sole rights to broadcast particular matches. As with any exchange it would be reasonable to expect those broadcasting giants to request their money back should those games never take place. Sky alone are reportedly set to miss out on over £700 million as they allow their customers to pause their sport subscriptions. 

Combine this with no match day income and the understandable backlash from the public towards clubs taking advantage of the UK government’s furlough scheme, there is a huge drop in cash coming in. No matter how the 2019/20 campaign is brought to an end, I think it’s fair to say that Arsenal will not have the money to spend that they may have forecast earlier on in the season. 

The Premier League however, seem confident that the remaining games will take place even if they must do so behind closed doors. Given how many people would need to come well within 2 metres of each other for this to happen, I imagine this is the Premier League’s way of trying to keep their hands on broadcaster’s money for as long as possible. The likelihood is that all leagues will end as they currently are, handing the title to Liverpool and leaving Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich with a return to the Championship. That leaves us 9th. Well out of the Europa League spots and even further away from the Champions League. Perhaps that’s our own fault by delaying the departure of Unai Emery for as long as we did but that’s an argument for another day.

So, back to transfers. Our performance this season has left us needing no discussion that we need improvements. Yet with less cash in the bank and no European football to attract the world’s best, it simply won’t be easy to entice the players we so desperately need. That means only one thing. We need to sell. But who can stay and who needs to go?

Goalkeepers

Following Petr Cech’s retirement, Bernd Leno has played every one of our Premier League games this season, keeping 7 clean sheets. I don’t think there is any doubt that he is a solid keeper and someone who is improving every year. He made 105 saves from 32 games in his debut season for the club. Only one more than he made in the 28 he has taken part in this campaign. You could argue that those stats are more down to the inadequacies of the men in front of him than his own abilities but still, they show an improvement. 

For the time being I don’t believe there is any need to invest further into this position. Were something to happen to our number one, Emiliano Martinez would be the man to step in and although he has only made 6 Premier League appearances in the 6 years since his debut, he has shown enough in his cup opportunities to be an adequate backup. 

Stay – both are needed and improving every season.

Defence

Right, now this part is interesting. Remember, I’m not so concerned with the players who could potentially come in but more with the players who I believe need to go. Whether that be because they are simply not good enough to play for an Arsenal side which finishes higher than 9th or because we need the money they could generate to invest in other areas of the squad. 

During the summer we made the surprising decision to sign the eccentric Brazilian David Luiz in an attempt to offer some well needed experience to a side lacking in leaders. At times he has shown why he has a bunch of medals for winning the Premier League, the Champions League and both the FA Cup and Europa League twice. Then again he has shown on numerous occasions why his resemblance to Sideshow Bob comes from more than just his hair. 

Stay – for his experience and leadership.

Sokratis has played his part this season but since Arteta’s arrival he has found himself left on the bench more often than not. And now with both new boy Pablo Mari and returning loanee William Saliba almost certainly above him in the pecking order, it’s likely he will have been on the phone to his agent to find him a new place to play his football next season. 

Go – for his own sake.

Then there’s Mustafi. To be honest I’m surprised he’s still at the club. This time last summer he was the one every fan wanted to see out the door. Even though he was determined to prove us wrong there seemed no way back for the German following a string of poor performances and individual errors. Yet, injuries to our alternative CB options and a new era under Arteta have seemingly reopened that door. In fact he’s played quite well. At times he was one of our better players and has received a lot of deserved praise for it. However. I can’t help but suspect all that hard work will be completely forgotten the second he puts a little less power on his back pass than required. He is always one mistake away from the player he was regarded as 6 months ago. 

Go – not at the level we want to be.

Konstantinos Mavropanos has shown some promise while playing out on loan in the second tier of German football but I can’t see a way back into the first team for him. I suspect he will go back out on loan again next season and we will review again next summer but should we be looking to cut a few players from the wage bill, he may be on that list.

Go – maybe just on loan.

There has been a little talk that we may be willing to cash in on Hector Bellerin this window but I simply can’t see that happening. We have invested a lot in Hector to get him back to full strength again and us fans love him. He’s one of the few players who warrant wearing the armband and his pace going forward scares defenders to death. 

Stay – his best is yet to come.

Midfield

When I had a look on the club’s website to see who they class as a midfielder and who they consider an attacker, there was really only one midfield player who I thought would not need to be mentioned in this review of possible departures. Joe Willock. Everyone else is up for discussion.

Dani Ceballos seems to want out and with all the rumours circling players who could potentially replace him, I imagine he will get his wish. I have to say I really like him. The way he turns on a sixpence is reminiscent of a young Cesc Fabregas and the passion he shows for winning is truly inspiring to see. Not just for us fans watching but for his team mates around him.

Go – great quality but England wasn’t for him.

Lucas Torreira is another one who hasn’t enjoyed his time in England. Whether that be the pace of the game or the fact it rains every 5 minutes, I don’t know. Either way it took a while for him to understand our game and the intensity that comes with it. The question is can we afford to let him go? I’m not sure. Obviously if there is a quality replacement that comes in then yes, of course we can. But until then, we need him.

Stay – he commits necessary fouls at necessary moments.

Maitland-Niles is a midfielder and not a right back. He covered while Bellerin was injured but it was clear to everyone that it wasn’t a natural position for him. Yet I find myself struggling to feel any sympathy for the lad. He had the opportunity to make one of the 11 starting positions his own and he didn’t take it. And I don’t think that was down to his lack of ability but more his desire to work for his team. He always looks lazy, lethargic, not bothered by anything. More interested in getting back to his PS4 than winning 3 points. There are millions of right-handed people out there who would happily hand over their entire arm to be in his position. He could at least smile every once and a while.

Go – you only need to look at Saka to see what he could have been.

Matteo Guendouzi is one for the future. He came into the side a couple of summers ago expecting to watch and learn from the players around him but instead Emery played him. And deservedly so. Perhaps that left him feeling a little cocky. A dash above his station. But, nothing a stern telling off from our new boss can’t sort out. 

Stay – he’s had his wobble. Now time to knuckle down.

It’s been a roller coaster season for the man who started the campaign as our club captain. Granit Xhaka’s public retaliation to the Emirate’s faithful left him without the armband and an entire fan base calling for his sacking. Although when we consider the reasoning behind his retaliation, perhaps he could be forgiven. If someone directly approached me on social media to inform me that they plan to kill my wife and to tell me how they wish my daughter had cancer, all because of the way I conducted myself on a football pitch, I’m pretty sure I would, at the very least, tell them to “F off” too. Since Arteta has come in though, he is a completely changed man. He’s played his socks off and on many occasions shown why he was appointed captain in the first place. It seems both player and fans have come to a mutual agreement to let bygones be bygones and move on. 

Stay – We need his leadership now more than ever.

Then there’s Mesut. One of the most creative players on the planet with assists coming out of his ears. On his day of course. And that’s the real issue with Ozil. Not that he doesn’t have the talent or he’s not good enough but that we don’t see it enough. I can’t see him leaving this summer, mainly because nobody who wants to buy him can afford to pay the ridiculous weekly wage he (his agent) demands but also because when it is his day, he is absolutely brilliant. However, were we looking to save some money he would likely be the first place they would look.

Stay – he is really good. Sometimes.

Returning to the club from their loan spells are Smith Rowe, Mkhitaryan and Elneny but to be honest they might as well keep their suitcases packed as I imagine they will go straight back out again. It’s likely we will invest somewhere in our midfield this season which will only push these three further down the pecking order. 

Go – simply to make room for new arrivals.

Attackers

Our attacking line up is the best i’ve seen it for some time. I think this will be the season Pepe comes into his own. Martinelli has the potential to be a real star if he keeps working hard. I can see both Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah having a real impact this season. And then there’s the two main forwards, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The former perhaps didn’t have his best time in front of goal last year but he does work harder than anyone for the team. It’s that passion and desire to win, as I mentioned before with Ceballos, that I love to see in a player. Someone that completely acknowledges the fact they are paid a silly amount of money to simply bust a gut twice a week so us fans can go through our daily struggles feeling just that little bit better. 

Stay – his work effort alone warrants it.

Aubameyang offers a different question. Not only is he our best player, he’s also one of our highest paid. With that comes the transfer fee the club would demand to take him away from us. A fee that is reducing every day we get closer to the final 12 months of his contract. I read Josh Andrews’ post last week about why we should consider cashing in on our main striker and I have to say it was a very interesting read. You can check it out by clicking here

There are reasons to sell. In the past when our best striker leaves someone usually steps up to take the mantle. It’s never good to be so reliant on one man to dig you out of a hole every week. It’s better business to sell a player for everything you can than to lose him for free a year later. They’re all good points. But for me he is still our best player and if Arteta can get us playing like i’m sure he can, then there is every possibility he will sign a new contract soon. 

Stay – give Arteta a chance to show what this side can offer him.

And so that’s that. Well done if you got to the end of that. There was a lot to go through. Remember, if you have a different view on any of the players, we would love to hear it.

Stay safe.

Header Photo: jpellgen, 2011

 

 

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