In the forthcoming transfer window, Arsene Wenger will be expected to undertake significant work restructuring the Arsenal side. After neglecting to sign a single outfield player in the summer of 2015, he will surely have to be more aggressive when it comes to reshaping his squad off the back of a disappointing campaign.
It’s tempting to call for a purge of Arsenal’s perennial underachievers. Once again, the Gunners have flattered to deceive in the title race, failing to mount a sustained challenge despite limited competition. There are players in the squad who have let Arsenal down time after time, and it’s easy to understand fans’ fears that they’ll never have the mettle of champions.
However, Arsenal can’t afford to simply cut ties with a huge chunk of the squad. Doing so would leave them with too much work to do ahead of the 2016/17 season.
The reality is that it’s rare that top clubs ever operate any kind of exhaustive clear-out. One issue is salaries. Wenger might decide it’s time to dispense with Theo Walcott, but he still has to find another club prepared to take on his wages of £140,000 per week. The lucrative new TV deal may make that more probable, but in his current form he looks a significant gamble at that expense.
What’s more, Arsenal already look set to lose a number of players this summer. The contracts of Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky are all due to expire, and it’s difficult to conceive of any of them being offered a last-minute extension. Throw in the possibility of permanent moves for loanees like Carl Jenkinson, Wojciech Szczesny and Yaya Sanogo and you’re already looking at six potential departures.
Then there’s the case of Kieran Gibbs. An academy product and former Wenger favourite, Gibbs has been comprehensively relegated to reserve by the form of Nacho Monreal. With his international opportunities fading, Gibbs will surely be looking for a move that guarantees first-team football. At 26, he can’t afford to wait much longer. These ought to be the best years of his career.
That means seven players could be gone before Wenger even considered the future of the likes of Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell. Losing any more could leave Arsenal facing a radical overhaul, which could be as detrimental as another summer of stasis.
Wenger is by nature conservative in the market, preaching the value of stability on an annual basis. He will surely opt for a process of evolution rather than revolution when it comes to his transfer activity. Arsenal fans might want Wenger to rip up the existing roster and go back to the drawing board, but that’s simply not in his nature.
It’s easy to understand Arsenal fans frustrations with their players. However, they may have to accept that they will probably see a similar cast in action next season. The supporters must hope that the few additions they do make are of sufficient quality to allow Arsenal to make a big leap forward. Otherwise, they’ll surely be set for another underwhelming campaign.