Arsene Wenger’s squad ostensibly doesn’t require much strengthening. The Gunners have been involved in the title race throughout the season, and they are still competing in both the FA Cup and the Champions League. However, this summer’s transfer window could be a busy time for the Arsenal manager.
Although Wenger generally prefers to keep transfer activity to a minimum, he may be left with little choice. Several first-team players seem set for a departure.
The first and most alarming name on the list is that of Bacary Sagna. The Frenchman has been a mainstay of the Arsenal team since his arrival in 2006, and he has twice been voted in to the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year.
Sagna’s contract expires at the end of this season and as yet there is no sign of an extension. Speaking earlier in February, Wenger conceded:
I want (him to stay). I hope that in the end I am right. We are not close at the moment.
He wants to keep his options open, because he is at the end of a contract. It is an important contract for him. He is 31 years old. I can understand.
There is a growing feeling that if Sagna was going to stay, his situation would have been resolved by now. The issue may be bigger than money or the length of his contract.
Perhaps eight years without a trophy have taken their toll and left him somewhat disillusioned with life at the Emirates Stadium. Perhaps he simply wishes to return to his native France. Either way, the longer he goes without renewing his contract, the less likely it appears he will stay.
With Sagna possibly on the way out, Wenger will be on the look-out for a new right-back. Carl Jenkinson is a capable deputy but not yet ready to play regular football at an elite level.
Finding someone who can match Sagna’s skills and consistency is a tough task. He is intelligent, versatile and athletic. Replacing him will neither be cheap nor easy.
Sagna is not the only Arsenal player whose contract expires this season. Lukasz Fabianski also told the Daily Star (h/t Sky Sports) that he has rejected the chance to extend his contract in north London:
I want to be number one in the club and in the Polish national team. I have learned a lot at London during very positive and challenging periods.
With biggest respect to this great club, I didn't accept the extension offer as I am looking forward to a new challenge in England or abroad.
On-loan Emiliano Viviano has not yet played for the Gunners, suggesting he will not be the man to be the long-term back-up for Wojciech Szczesny.
Damian Martinez has impressed in patches during a loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday, but he lacks experience. Arsenal will need to recruit a new goalkeeper who can keep Szczesny on his toes.
It doesn’t end there. Park Chu-Young and Nicklas Bendtner are also likely to leave the club on a Bosman free this summer.
Arsenal have been searching for a striker for almost 12 months, and that need will only be more pressing come the reopening of the transfer window. Yaya Sanogo is emerging as a promising young player, but he is still very raw. Wenger needs someone who is ready to provide competition and cover for Olivier Giroud right away.
Arsenal also stand to lose their club captain. It’s a fate they’ve suffered before: Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie have all left while in possession of the armband. The situation with Thomas Vermaelen is quite different. Although the Belgian remains club captain, he is not currently a first-team starter.
That has led to speculation that he could soon be on the way out. According to Alex Richards of The Mirror, Arsenal are braced for a substantial offer from Zenit St. Petersburg. Given Vermaelen’s international pedigree, other clubs would also surely be interested in securing his services.
Arsenal are desperately short of centre-halves already. However, the potential departure of Vermaelen and Sagna would leave Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny as the club’s only senior centre-backs.
For a club with title-winning aspirations, that simply isn’t enough depth to sustain throughout a gruelling Premier League campaign.
In an ideal world, Wenger would keep with this impressive and tightly-knit squad. However, it seems that won’t be possible. Come the summer, Wenger will need to add at least four players: a goalkeeper, right-back, centre-back and forward.