Can Arsenal keep their stars this summer?
Arsenal opinion: The summer transfer window has seen Arsenal's best players leave in recent years but this summer may be different
In the last few years the summer transfer window hasn’t been a joyful experience for Arsenal fans. The club’s best players, and captains in two instances, have opted for an Emirates exit in search of greener pastures.
The club couldn’t match said players’ ambitions and the board decided that it will rather benefit from the huge transfer fees paid to lure these players away, than offer them higher wages and guarantees that the club’s ambitions are indeed on par with theirs.
"I want to win trophies with Arsenal, not anyone else," Robin van Persie was quoted as saying some time before swapping the Arsenal red for that of United’s.
The reality is that the Dutchman outgrew the Gunners ambition-wise as it seemed the sole target for the club every season was a top four finish and it has started to be considered as good as a trophy.
“The first trophy is to finish in the top four,” Wenger told reporters in February. Granted, the Emirates outfit wasn’t in a good position at the time and a top four finish was the only hope they had to cling onto.
But simply finishing in the top four isn’t good enough for a club of Arsenal’s reputation and rich history and the players won’t settle for it. Both Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere have expressed that the club should be aiming higher and that the current situation isn’t acceptable.
“We want to be challenging for first and second. We’re happy with third, when you look at thus season, but really we want to be higher,” Wilshere told reporters.
Ultimately, the goal of challenging for the title will never be realised as long the club keep selling their best players every season. The likes of Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Robin van Persie are the players you need to hold onto and do everything possible to ensure they stay on.
Sure, Arsenal kept a healthy bank balance, cashing in on large transfer fees and replacing stars with young, inexpensive players. The club has succeeded as a business. However, fans would like to cheer about something other than breaking even financially and are desperate for some trophies to replace the cobwebs in Emirates’ trophy cabinet.
Fortunately, Arsenal look to be in a much healthier financial state in 2013 after the stadium restrictions were lifted and a huge kit deal with Puma was signed, and they might even keep their stars at the end of this season.
A positive step was to offer Theo Walcott the £100k a week he insisted upon and the club actually managed to persuade a star player to stay at the Emirates – fans were stunned and amazed at the board’s uncharacteristic parting with pounds for the good of the club.
Somehow, despite being forced to watch his best players leave, Arsene Wenger has survived. When the latest captain departed, Wenger had to make some quick signings to replace the irreplaceable Van Persie, but in the end those signings paid off.
Santi Cazorla is the star of the season and without him Arsenal probably wouldn’t be near a top four finish. Both Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski have proved to be important signings, scoring many valuable goals between them. And the emergency January transfer of Nacho Monreal to replace one of Wenger’s worst signings ever – Andre Santos – was also a successful one as Monreal adapted immediately to the rigours of English football and plays well.
Making their debuts in the Premier League, these signings were always going to need at least one season to become accustomed to the style and pace of the game as well as to learn to play with and get to know their teammates.
One can already see how the players have gelled in the improvement from the first half of the season – the Gunners have gone unbeaten in their last ten games, including against the fierce Bayern Munich who are tipped as favourites to win the Champions League.
The outlook for next season therefore looks fairly rosy for the Emirates outfit, especially seeing as Arsenal are unlikely to see another nightmarish transfer window as in previous years. Despite vicious rumours, stars such as Cazorla, Wilshere, Walcott, Giroud, Podolski and Koscielny are unlikely to be lured away this season and instead the club can only build on the current squad with powerful signings to fill the gaps where needed.
What Wenger will need to do, however, is to drop the deadweight and cash in on unused players living off high wages. Players such as Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson, Johan Djourou, Marouane Chamakh and Sebastien Squillaci should be sold off as soon as possible.
Furthermore, Wenger should probably consider selling Bacary Sagna as I believe the Frenchman’s best days are behind him and that he’s in a downward spiral currently.
Abou Diaby is another player that Arsenal can’t afford to keep; the France international has extraordinary skill but he is simply too injury prone. And lastly, Gervinho; the Ivorian’s moments of brilliance are too few and far between and he is too inconsistent to warrant his wages and his £11m price tag.
Letting go of these players will further bolster the already significant transfer funds at Wenger’s disposal with which he could add the depth that Arsenal currently lacks. But all in all, 2013/14 is set to be a great year for the Gunners and possibly the light at the end of a very long, dark, and trophy-less tunnel.
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