Losing three key players in one summer would be a blow for most teams but the possible departures of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri from Arsenal could be seen as a disaster for Arsene Wenger. But Wenger could use these departures (and the reasonable sums of money from them) to his advantage and finally address some of Arsenal’s long-standing problems.
Clichy and Nasri look to be heading to title rivals Manchester City (with Chelsea and Manchester United still in the hunt for Nasri) whilst Fabregas’ long-winded transfer saga to Barca looks like it could finally be coming to an end. Whilst losing at least these three would be a blow, it would allow Wenger freedom and enough cash in the transfer market to bring in experienced Premier League stars that he so desperately needs.
Instead of investing in replacements with the years ahead in mind, Wenger needs to re-shape his team and add experience and leadership to a small squad.
The likes of Leighton Baines, Scott Parker, Joey Barton, Chris Samba and Charlie Adam are less-exciting names on paper than Nasri or Fabregas but they would offer players with Premier League experience and leadership figures on the pitch.
If key players were too leave then you would hope that Wenger would have sizeable funds to re-invest and with the exception of Baines (with Everton likely to demand a big fee if he were to go), the likes of Barton, Adam, Samba and Parker would present good value for money.
On the pitch they would also address key problems that Wenger has faced in recent years. Too many of Arsenal’s current squad (including Clichy, Nasri and Fabregas) go missing in action when times get tough and some of names mentioned above know how to fight and scrap for points (albeit the likes of Parker, Adam and Samba were fighting at the other end of the table last year). They all also offer potential leaders on and off the pitch, strong characters who can drive and unite a young Arsenal team forward.
Scott Parker for example won the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and arguably outperformed most Arsenal players over the whole season, making 40+ appearances for the Hammers. West Ham may have been relegated but the leadership and battling skills that Parker showed over the campaign could be invaluable for Wenger. The only doubt over Parker would be his failure to perform for a previous top club Chelsea.
The signings of youngsters Hector Bellerin and Carl Jenkinson, and the possible deals for Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin are all promising purchases but none offer Premier League experience and can’t be expected to replace Nasri, Fabregas and co if they do depart. Gervinho is the oldest of the four at 24 and his possible arrival is still a risky move from Wenger with his only experience coming in France and Belgium (Marouane Chamakh is an unfortunate Arsenal example).
Wenger’s direction in the transfer market over the next few months will depend on who jumps ship in search of silverware but also whether he is willing to change a transfer policy that has left the Gunners trophy-less for years.
For Arsenal fans and Arsene Wenger the summer ahead looks to be another of transition but if the Gunners can get their transfer dealings right, it might not be as bad as all the transfer rumours make it out to be.