Arsenal supporters will be in dreamland today after witnessing their club’s FA Cup triumph at Wembley stadium.
The Gunners beat Hull City 3-2 after extra time to win their first trophy in nine years, and whilst the celebrations will surely go on for a few days yet, you can bet Arsene Wenger will begin making plans for next season sooner rather than later.
And despite their FA Cup success, it’s clear that the Arsenal squad needs freshening up. The Gunners did finish in the top four and did cap off the campaign in style with a trophy, but having been top of the Premier League for such a long time, a sense of "what could have been" lingers.
So expect Wenger to draft some new faces in and move some players elsewhere. Focusing on the latter, let's run the rule over those players that look set to go in search of pastures new and may well have donned the Arsenal strip for the final time.
The Arsenal captain has endured a frustrating season, as centre-back duo Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have forged a formidable partnership in defence.
It’s left the Belgian consigned to the occasional appearance in the side, often out of position at left-back. He did lift the FA Cup for Arsenal, though, and his influence as skipper clearly remains crucial, despite his lack of minutes:
Ahead of Arsenal’s cup final triumph, Vermaelen’s agent Alex Kroes claimed that “several Italian clubs have shown an interest” in the player, but that “we will wait for the World Cup before we discuss anything regarding his future,” per La Repubblica (h/t Nick Lustig of the Daily Star).
After a wonderful first season at the club, some severe injuries have hampered Vermaelen's progress in the English game. At his best, he’d give the Gunners an unshakeably forceful presence at the back and a goalscoring threat from set pieces, too.
But his career seems to have stalled, and he needs to play games regularly to get back to the high standards he set in his first season at the Emirates. If he does move on, Arsenal must bring in cover for Mertesacker and Koscielny, as aside from Vermaelen, there is very little depth in the central defensive positions.
The French international has had rotten luck with injuries and he made his first appearance for Arsenal in over a year during their final day win over Norwich.
Diaby is a player that Wenger clearly harboured high hopes for and he is still seen in the eyes of many as an excellent prospect. But quite remarkably, Diaby is 28 years old now! Bleacher Report’s Christopher Atkins was also pretty shocked by this:
Abou Diaby is 28. That's frankly unbelievable, he's still "promising".— Christopher Atkins (@Chris_Elastico) May 11, 2014
To get his career back on track, Diaby must play regular games next season. He can’t afford to be sitting on the bench for the Gunners given the crucial development that he has missed because of injury. A move to a club where first-team opportunities are available would be ideal for Diaby, maybe even if it was a spell out on loan.
At his best he’d give this Arsenal midfield a much needed physical dimension, but he’ll never rediscover his edge unless he goes in search of regular playing time. Given Arsenal's wealth of midfield riches, Diaby's going to have to go elsewhere to get that.
The German international is another player who has had his campaign disrupted due to injury.
Whenever he does feature for the Gunners, Podolski offers a goal threat from the left flank. He takes up clever positions and has a fine left foot, but his all-round game is fairly limited.
Should Arsenal offload Podolski?
When Theo Walcott is fit, it’s difficult to see where Podolski fits into the Arsenal first XI. An attacking midfield triumvirate of Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla would surely be Wenger’s preferred choice, with the German international likely to provide cover for the attacking midfield and forward positions.
But during his time in England, Podolski has been seemingly unable to adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League, picking up a myriad of different injury problems during his two seasons at the Emirates. As such, he's been unable to find a rhythm at Arsenal, and that's showed with some patchy performances.
Having already accumulated a staggering 112 caps for the German national team, Podolski is a player that could surely command a regular starting berth on the continent, where his stylistic qualities would allow him to reach a higher level of performance than he could attain in the Premier League. Expect Arsenal to go in search of a player who can offer a little more than the German.