Arsenal have started business in the right way this summer. After an air of worry flooded North London with regards to their transfer business before the World Cup, most Gunners fans are satiated now. After securing the signatures of Alexis Sánchez, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina and Calum Chambers, Arsenal have signalled their intent for next season. One rumour that fails to go away is the big name signing of German midfielder Sami Khedira.
The Real Madrid man has been linked with a move away from the club all summer and after a fantastic World Cup that rumour has intensified. Chelsea and Arsenal have both been linked but Arsenal seems the much more likely destination for the midfielder, who would link up with former teammate and international squad mate Mesut Özil, as well as Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski.
But what does all this mean for the current Arsenal squad? Arsenal have been known for having a fairly small squad for a while now, but with these additions they have bolstered important areas. Debuchy and Ospina were both necessary due to the departures of Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski, as was Chambers to an extent, if Carl Jenkinson does leave for one of the many mid-table sides he is being linked with.
Sánchez is only necessary if Arsenal plan to play him out of position. If they see him as a replacement for first choice striker Olivier Giroud then that’s a fair justification. If they are playing him in his natural position of attacking right midfielder though, then certain players would be on the chopping board. The same can be said for Khedira. If he is brought in, other players will have to go. It’s not feasible to keep so many midfielders in the same squad.
Currently, the attacking right midfielder position would be a battle between Sánchez, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as Santi Cazorla, who can play on the left too. Assuming it is just the first three vying for the position, first choice would surely be Sánchez, a big name who will attract shirt sales and could also be one of the stars of the Premier League. His experience at Barcelona will be invaluable to the Gunners as they aim to finish in the top three at the very least this season. But where does that leave Walcott? Perennially on the bench? Occasional run outs in the Champions League and FA/League Cups? That is hardly an option for a player of his quality. Then there is Oxlade-Chamberlain, one of the brightest prospects that England has to offer. He will barely get a look in at the squad unless Arsenal plan to send him out on loan. If they do not, they risk losing one of the best prospects they have.
I’ve only just touched on the heart of it though. Assuming Arsenal play a 4-2-3-1 like they did last year, that would leave two positions open in central midfield. If Khedira does indeed sign for Arsenal, many players could find themselves out in the cold. The current central midfield set consists of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby, Tomáš Rosický and Mathieu Flamini. Assuming Khedira signs, he would automatically be first choice; his wage demands would leave him as the highest earner at the club. That leaves one position for six central midfielders.
If Thomas Vermaelen leaves Arsenal this window, as is expected, that would leave Arteta as captain by default. Do they strip Arteta of any leadership duties within the club just because they have signed a new player? Well, if they don’t, they will be leaving out their captain for one of the rest of the pack.
Ramsey had such an impressive season last year that it would be incredibly harsh to put him on the bench, and while Wilshere has shown in glimpses that he could be the next Paul Gascoigne (for good and bad reasons), he is still valued incredibly highly. British players’ prices right now are through the roof, so maybe Arsenal should consider cashing in if Wilshere does not feature in Wenger’s plans for next season.
Then there are the three apparent castaways. Flamini was a rock for Arsenal last season whenever they needed him, but he would not be picked over Khedira, Arteta, Wilshere or Ramsey. He is merely a rotation player at best for next season if the German does arrive. More questionable are the futures of Diaby and Rosický. One is injured and the other is ageing. Upon Khedira’s signature, one would expect to see both leave this summer.
For the first time in a long time, Arsène Wenger will actually have the luxury of choice at his disposal. Too many times over the years has he been forced to nurture youngsters like Serge Gnabry, Francis Coquelin and Yaya Sanogo, who had way too easy a time getting into a squad that should have been challenging for the title. Will the choice prove to be a help or a hindrance?