I started this feature yesterday by running through some of the more important members of the Arsenal team, and the chances of them being sold this summer. Personally I would like Arsenal to keep all of their best players, but I also know players can move to other clubs for various reasons. Money is always a big factor, and the desire to win trophies can be important to some players too. I know Arsenal pay their players very well, but they cannot compete with the money on offer from teams who make no attempt to balance their books, and instead depend upon donations from the mega-wealthy.
Today I'm going to look at some of the fringe players at Arsenal, and where better to start than with Denilson. He's a player who has dived opinion in the past, but it's becoming obvious that the fans have lost patience with him. It's very hard to see exactly what he brings to the Arsenal team when he plays, and the defensive midfield role he is played in certainly does not suit him. He's still relatively young at 23 years of age, but I think he should probably move to another club for his own good at this stage.
If Arsenal are going to be competitive at the very top of the game, then they need to have better players than Denilson as back up to their first team regulars. He's in a very difficult situation at the club, as the feelings of the fans become more obvious with each game he plays. I'm sure he should be able to find a club where he can become a regular, and thrive on the chance to play every week. Every team has to have players who don't get to play regularly, but those players need to show what they are capable of when the chance arrives, and Denilson just cannot do that in my opinion. With Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere now making themselves far more important for Arsenal I think his first team chances will be very limited if he stays. If I had my way Arsenal would sell Denilson, and I think Henri Lansbury would be more than capable of stepping up, and doing a better job than him when called upon.
Abu Diaby is another player who divides opinion among Arsenal players, and many of them would be happy to see him sold this summer. It's now been five years since he had his leg horribly broken against Sunderland, and although he has managed to come back, he is clearly still suffering from the effects of that injury in my opinion. I can't remember Diaby ever being available for more than four or five games in a row, before succumbing to another niggling injury associated with the leg break. I'm sure he rues the day he had his leg shattered by Dan Smith, and who knows where his career would have gone if it hadn't happened.
The reality for Arsenal is Diaby is only available to play roughly half of their games in a season, and he gets very well paid for that. It's tough to know what his best position is, but it would probably be as an attacking midfielder. Arsenal have an awful lot of attacking midfielders at the moment, and Diaby's appearances are usually limited to filling in for Alex Song in a defensive role. His habit of holding on to the ball for too long can be very infuriating, and at his stage in his career he needs to be playing more regularly. He will be 25 years old in a few weeks, and it seems as if he will never fully recover from the leg break. It's hard to know what clubs would be interested in signing him if Arsenal decided to sell him, but I suppose there are bound to be some.
It goes without saying that Manuel Almunia needs to leave Arsenal for his good, and the good of the club as well. I have never thought he was a good enough player to play for a club which wants to compete at the very highest level, and it seems Arsene Wenger eventually agrees with that opinion. He would have been sold last summer, but no replacement could be found. He was going to be sold in the January transfer window, but Arsenal suddenly developed an injury crisis among their goalkeepers. I will be absolutely amazed if he is still an Arsenal player next season.
Unfortunately due to the injury crisis among Arsenal's goalkeepers, he is now first choice for at least the next four weeks, and it puts fear in the heart of almost every single Arsenal fan. On the Arsenal bench there is only Jens Lehmann, and at 41 years of age it's probably too much of a risk to play him. It means Arsenal have to put their faith in Almunia for the next few weeks, and there will be a lot of fingernail biting among their fans every time the ball enters their penalty area. I don't blame Almunia for the current state of affairs, and he must be feeling like he is living through a nightmare. He wanted to leave in January, the fans have no faith in him, but he still finds himself as Arsenal's first choice.
If you were to believe what Nicklas Bendtner says, he is one of the best players at the club, and maybe in the world too. When he gets his chance to play for Arsenal he doesn't always show that ability he claims to have. He has managed to score some very important goals at times when Robin Van Persie has been injured, but he is one of the players who really divides Arsenal's fans opinions. He has hinted in the past that he would consider moving elsewhere if he could not command a regular first team place, but as long as RVP is fit he will more than likely warm the bench.
When he does play, his first touch can be a long way short of the rest of the Arsenal team, and he can look slow and awkward at times too. He gets played on the right wing at times as well, and it clearly does not suit him, but at least he tries his best. I think he has an awful lot to learn about how to play the role of a centre forward, and he doesn't seem to be learning it quickly enough for me. Ideally I would like Arsenal to sign a top class centre forward to challenge RVP for a first team place, and take the role when RVP is inevitably injured again. If that means Bendtner decides to move on, I could live with that, but otherwise I think he will stay for at least one more season.
The last player to look at today is Carlos Vela, and again he's a player who divides opinion among Arsenal fans. When he was bought by Arsenal he was seen as a bright young star of the future, but he had to be loaned out to various Spanish clubs, as he wasn't eligible to play in England. When he eventually arrived at Arsenal he hadn't quite lived up to his potential in Spain, but he still looked like he was a great prospect. At the moment he is on loan at West Brom, and he has scored a couple of important goals for them recently, but he still can't command a regular place in their team.
He is a very skillful player, and his ability to chip the keeper when faced with a one-on-one is unrivalled, but he has had very few opportunities at Arsenal in reality. When he has played, it has usually been on the left side of the front three, despite the fact Wenger says he's one of the best finishers he has ever seen. It's very hard to see how he will get more opportunities at Arsenal, but I have a feeling he will be kept for at least one more season.
If all of those players were to be sold in the summer it would leave a hole in the Arsenal squad, but I think the purchase of two top class players would make up for that. The savings in wages could be used to pay for those two players, and a few of the reserves are capable of stepping up to the first team squad as well. With Ramsey hopefully back to his best next season, and Lansbury looking capable of stepping up too, I would be happy enough to see them both play a bigger role for Arsenal next season.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.