There have been reports that Arsenal are ready to sell a slew of key players. Gutting the wage bill, while hurting, is the first step towards progress.
Unai Emery is one year into his project at Arsenal football club. But really, that project has not yet gotten off the ground. Although he may have spent just short of a season at the helm, given the squad he inherited and the financial restrictions he has been working under, it would be overly ambitious to say that his project has really got going.
One of the problems with changing managers regularly is that they tend to sell many of the players that the previous manager used, bringing in their own players that suit their own style. What is crucial to note is that the sales must almost always come first. And then the buying can be done.
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Emery started his shopping last summer, signing five players. But only one cost more than £20 million and the total fees came under £70 million. Chelsea and Liverpool spent around that much on one goalkeeper each alone. Really, the personnel recruitment that Emery, I am sure, would like to enact has not gotten started. The reason for that is the inability to sell many of the players that he inherited.
Gutting the squad, then, is the first priority this summer. Although much of the focus from fans and the media will be on who Arsenal sign, which is natural given the inevitable excitement that the new inspires, in reality, it is the sales and departures that are completed that will set the club up more substantially for the building of the Emery era.
As has been reported this week, Emery has told discussed with Raul Sanllehi and the board a whole raft of names that he believes should be sold or released this summer. Not everyone will agree with every name, but the gutting of the squad is necessary. You cannot rebuild the foundations without first ridding of the house on top of them.
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According to the rumour mill, or confirmed in some cases, Shkodran Mustafi, Carl Jenkinson, Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck will all leave this summer, whether it be via a sale, retirement or the expiration of their contract. You can add to that list Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil, which would rid off over £500,000-a-week in wages, a huge sum that can then be reinvested. Upon their returns from their respective loans, David Ospina and Calum Chambers will likely be sold also.
Although the fees for these players will be limited, getting the wages off the books is critical if Emery is to rebuild the squad in his image. Many of these players clearly do not fit his approach. In fact, the only one that does is Ramsey, who the club could not afford.
It may be sad to see some of these players leave the club this summer — and there may be others that have not yet been mentioned. But it is a necessary first step to bring the Emery era into being. The project will really get going this summer, and it first comes with the ridding of the old.