With the January transfer window now closed, Arsene Wenger has six months of the season remaining to decide who does and who doesn’t have a long-term future in his Arsenal squad, before it reopens in July.
Barring the superfluous form of £35million summer signing Alexis Sanchez, it’s been a rather unspectacular season at the Emirates, with the Gunners currently fifth in the Premier League table and yet to hit top gear.
Resultantly, it seems the squad is in need of a reshuffle at the end of the season, swapping some of their lesser effective players for some fresh faces, so just in case Wenger is short on ideas, we’ve listed the FIVE players we think should be thrown on the transfer scrapheap this summer.
Santi Cazorla, reinvigorated in his new central midfield role, has been in sensational form over the winter period, with a superfluous run of six goals and eight assists in his last 16 Arsenal appearances earning the playmaking maestro the PFA Fans’ Player of the Month award for both December and January.
Indeed, amid a rather unspectacular season at the Emirates, the Spain international has emerged as one of the only genuine contenders to rival £35million signing Alexis Sanchez for the Gunners’ Player of the Season award come the summer.
Now 30 years of age however and strongly linked with a move to Atletico Madrid via Sky Sports’ La Liga specialist Guillem Balague, the north Londoners would be wise to part with Cazorla on a high.
His sheer presence in the starting Xi tends to create more problems than it solves – especially regarding Mesut Ozil. Arsenal bought a £42.2million No.10 but Cazorla’s incredible form is continually forcing Arsene Wenger to field the German World Cup winner in wide positions, where he’s persistently struggled to prove effective in the Premier League.
Whether Ozil deserves to start over Cazorla centrally right now is certainly debatable, but there’s no dispute over who features heavier in Wenger’s long-term plans.
Similarly, this is the best form of the Spaniard’s career according to the Gunners gaffer, so selling him now will ensure maximum profit – an area of transfer policy the Emirates outfit have really struggled with throughout Wenger’s reign.
A suggestion arguably even more controversial than the last – but the fact of the matter is that Jack Wilshere has shown worryingly little progression since he first became an Arsenal regular at 19 years of age.
Of course, injures have played a huge part and even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would struggle to improve their games if they endured nine serious injuries in just six seasons like the England international has. Similarly, Wilshere’s passion for the club, having originally joined the Arsenal academy at just nine years of age, remains without doubt.
But the gulf in quality between the 23 year-old and the Gunners’ other midfield options is becoming worryingly noticeable. Compared to the quality of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez for example, or the contributions of Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta and even Tomas Rosicky over the last few seasons, Wilshere is lagging worryingly behind.
The tabloids have recently linked him with a move to Liverpool and although that may seem a rather unimaginable scenario, we’re getting to the point where the Three Lions playmaker’s development might be better served at another club. He’s certainly a long way shy of the Barcelona-standard playmaker he was once heralded to become.
The criticism often thrown Nacho Monreal’s way is probably a little disproportionate to his actual performances; although the Spaniard is a rather inconsistent character, he’s put in some important displays over the last two seasons and made the best of a difficult situation earlier in the season when a serious injury crisis obliged Arsene Wenger to throw the 5 foot 11 full-back in at centre-half.
Yet, the former Malaga star has never quite lived up to the billing of an attacking full-back capable of breeding a new sense of energy and dynamism into the Gunners left flank – now 28 years of age, his ability to get up and down the pitch is slowing diminishing.
Arsenal’s defence could do with something a little different – even if it’s in Monreal’s unenviable back-up full-back role – and in my opinion, Ipswich Town prodigy Tyrone Mings, whom Arsene Wenger admitted was on his radar during the January window, remains the perfect candidate to provide it.
The Tractor Boys defender is a quick, ambitious and progressive full-back, yet blessed with the towering 6 foot 5 frame of a Premier League centre-half. You don’t see too many of Mings’ ilk around in world football, and his physicality would add a new edge to Arsenal’s backline.
With his contract set to expire at the end of the campaign, it’s likely Arsene Wenger is already planning for life without Mathieu Flamini.
But it’s worth reminding that adding a top-class holding midfielder to their squad is essential if Arsenal expect to be competing with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for the Premier League title any time soon – not to mention the Champions League title.
It’s a department that’s been neglected for seasons, with makeshift options such as Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin continually preferred over the more conventional, coveted and costly play-breaker on the market.
With Flamini finally moving on, there’s no excuse for Wenger not to sign an upgrade this summer.
With Wojciech Szczesny enduring a rather turbulent campaign both on and off the pitch, committing the most defensive errors, six, and the most errors leading to goals, three, of any player in the Premier League whilst simultaneously being caught smoking in the Southampton shower rooms, it’s time for Arsenal to strongly consider signing an upgrade.
That may seem like a rather harsh analysis considering the Poland international has now served as Arsenal’s No.1 for the best part of five seasons and for a goalkeeper aged just 24, has always performed to an acceptable level.
Yet, Chelsea’s Petr Cech will almost certainly be on the market this summer and for Arsene Wenger to ignore the availability of one of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, purely for the sake of Szczesny’s Arsenal career continuing, would be an almost unforgivable sin.
The one-time Brentford loanee is a decent goalkeeper by all means – but he’ll never come close to paralleling the quality of a 32 year-old Cech with 331 games’ worth of Premier League experience under his belt.
It’s certainly a little cut-throat but for a club that prides itself on open, attacking football, a world-class goalkeeper is essential.