Wenger Versus his Three Biggest Contract Conundrums
Wenger has a habit of tying down players in long term contracts, though only one opted for the eight year option. We are as equally grateful as he is regretful.
With young players offered extensions every other year or so, or at least it seems, we have three first team players nearing the final year of their contracts.
All three are integral players and figure very much into Wenger's plans, though they've all seen a indifferent run of form this season.
So should we break the bank to keep them, or let them go for some new blood?
In recent seasons, we've seen a lot of players run down the contract and move elsewhere—most of the time due to age and current ability—Campbell and Gallas, and though other players like Bischoff and Silvestre left towards anonymity.
Arguably our biggest lost via a Bosman in recent years was Flamini; at the time he was very much first team and very important. The tough tackling midfielder was a perfect foil for Fabregas, but left after a dispute over wages.
Though Song has proved that he is much better, it did set us back a season or two.
All three players are at varying levels of ability and potential, though the loyalty factor seems to differ between them, as well as the fans.
Gael Clichy: Defensive Liability or Left Wing Bomber?
Clichy is definitely a player who divides opinions, and we've seen the best and worst of him this season.
On one hand, we have a good left back who is very quick, passes well, and has a good engine. On the other, we have a left back who has poor positioning, poor crossing, and arguably more at home in midfield.
Whichever way you look at him, he does look like a weak link in an ever-changing back four.
He's nowhere near as solid as Sagna is, though the pair seem to be having a competition for most crosses without an assist. He's arguably ahead of Squillaci, though Squillaci's playing a lot more than expected because of numerous injuries.
He also has a bad habit of defending like a center back and tucking in, meaning a center back would have to cover for him.
Gibbs is certainly one for the future, but combines Clichy's inconsistency with lack of experience and an Arsenal trademark affinity for getting injured.
He's not ready to step up, but Clichy was in a similar position after Cole left, and maybe being thrown into the deep end may do him some good—if he stays injury free.
The tabloids have had fun already hyping up his exit now that his contract talks seem to be at a standstill, but he is by no means an important loss, and there are better players out there if Wenger is really looking for other options.
He also, hopefully, will have Vermalen back next season to ease the pressure if a new face is brought in or Gibbs is given a chance. This is Wenger we are talking about, and it's not impossible.
Celtic's Inzaguirre has been named, though I don't know anything about him.
While Baines is a much more promising name, bringing a more solid presence in defense and better presence attacking wise, depending on your source, a straight sway or straight cash deal could be in the works.
There's also an added bonus in that he's young enough to playing his best, and old enough so that Gibbs can be blooded in.
I believe another transfer target in Zagreb's young Vrsaljko is supposedly playable on both flanks, though his transfer remains to be seen. The same can be said for the rumor surrounding Marseille's Taiwo, who is supposedly on a Bosman, which would delight Wenger.
Clichy has only missed two games out of 30 this season, and played every minute of those 28 he did play in—conceding 26 goals, 12 clean sheets, and a single assist.
In a more turbulent Everton side, Baines has managed to appear in and play the full 90 minutes of all of Everton's 31 league matches so far this season, according to premierleague.com. Though he has only six clean sheets to his name, and conceded 41 goals, Baines has scored three and made 11 assists.
His clean sheet record is a bit worrying, but he also has four other players to shoulder that burden; though his three goals and 11 assists would be a million times better than Clichy's single assist.
I wouldn't miss Clichy; though he's playing much better recently, he's not really what we need at the back, and his sharpness up front could be better.
Looking at the numbers between him and Baines, you have to wonder how well Baines would do on our defense. So I'd be happy with cashing in on him in the Summer.
Andrei Arshavin: Indifferent Wing Wizard or Blessed Playmaker?
A few months ago, a lot of fans wanted him gone. Despite his excellent league goals and assists records, which now stand at six goals and 11 assists, he has been one of our best players.
However, at his worst he still managed to pull something out of the hat to keep the fans in limbo over whether or not to keep him. My personal "Arshavin can stay" moment was his winning goal against Barcelona.
At his worst, though, when he was missing sitters by miles and then smiling about, nearly had me contemplating violence on more than one occasion. At his best, he's on a different level, unlocking defenses with simple passes and always in the right place for a well-placed shot with trademark mazey runs.
Like Nasri, there hasn't been much talk of a successor or replacement—arguably because it would be wise for Wenger to keep them. Though Arshavin is clearly not the player he was, and is now moving past the peak of his career.
A return home to old club Zenit seems likely, and would be a fitting end—though he never got the silverware he wanted.
A farther out, but somewhat believable, rumor that Abramovich wants him at Chelsea wouldn't bother many fans.
He's not first XI, something proven by the fact that he's an excellent stand-in for either Nasri or Walcott and his irregular playing time.
He's only finished seven of his 29 league games this season, only missing the game against Chelsea. In part to do with his impact sub and rotation qualities, though some may be attributed to his ineffectiveness.
He does like barren spells in form, but not quite in the same manner as expected in the league. He's never gone more than three weeks where he hasn't scored or assisted, but has had three of these spells.
Although, the second spell was in January where he played 54 minutes in four matches across three weeks, down to rotation, the return of Walcott and form.
Miyaichi is seen as a long term replacement, though it's unclear when we'll see him in the squad. Arshavin can be a good stop gap until then.
An extension may be given if no other transfer prospects come up, and he seems to have gotten past his worst and is playing more for the team. It will largely fall on his own shoulders whether or not he wants one last challenge with Arsenal or elsewhere.
Samir Nasri: Stifled Superstar or Midfield God?
Go back to December, and the papers were all full of praise for our midfield magician.
The presenters on Match of the Day enjoyed using him in the same sentence as world class, and the media followed suit. This was, of course, after his wonderful goals against Fulham and, in the absence of Fabregas, looked every bit a world beater.
So where did it all go wrong?
Well, after Van Persie, Fabregas, and Walcott made a timely return, Nasri returned to the wing and hasn't looked the same since. Possibly down to loss of focus and that Cesc, Robin and Theo work very well together, while Nasri, Cesc, and Robin has been less fruitful.
Obviously the attention on the mercurial midfielder meant every right back and right midfielder would give him more attention, which wouldn't have helped.
It was December fourth that he scored two against Fulham; since then he's scored once against Birmingham—and that's it in the league.
From the start of the season until the Fulham match, he was on eight goals and one assist in 13 matches, one of which was for a single minute. Now he's on nine goals and a single assist in 24 matches, with one being for a minute and another for nine.
He's an important figure, and his barren spell doesn't seem to be attracting the sort of attention Arshavin's was, though he's only scored once in the last five months in the league.
He does seem to be on the wrong wavelength with his teammates—misplacing passes and not seeing runs in advance. His dribbling seems to be suffering, as teams are doing a good job of closing him down.
But he's still 23; he'll get better and improve, and is certainly a player that would be easier to tie down than to replace. He's shown glimpses of his best, and we'll just have to wait for him to find his feet again.
However, contract talks are in limbo with him facing his last 12 months.
He seems loyal, and the money wouldn't be a massive problem for a player of his ability and potential, but he may be questioning whether or not Arsenal are headed in the right direction.
Another disappointing season, but encouraging nonetheless. He's previously stated that he wouldn't leave until he's won something with Arsenal, but that could still be a reality if we win something next season and he leaves on a bosman anyway.
It'll be intriguing to see how Wenger would handle this; if he really is looking elsewhere, it may be easier to cash in now than to lose him for nothing, but I doubt he would commit his long term future to anyone until there are improvements.
At the end of the day, I would rather not lose Clichy, Arshavin, or Nasri, though if I had a choice it would be in that order.
I'm not really fussed about Clichy when a possible Sakho or Vertonghen could be in the cards.
Wenger's transfer policies is what worries me most, in that if he did replace any of them, they would have to be either cheaply or with someone less experienced, further sending us into transition.
That is, unless they can hit the ground running like Vermaelen and Sagna before them.
Wenger is also shrewd, and he will know that these players will be difficult to replace. On the other hand, if they had no interest in the club, his actions in the Summer would make for much more interesting reading.
On a side note, it's interesting to note that when playing for the team—through injuries and substitutions—we've conceded less when Arshavin (20 goals conceded in 29) and Nasri (19 conceded in 24) than Clichy (26 conceded in 28). Although Nasri didn't play against Newcastle, and Arshavin only witnessed one goal before being replaced by Rosicky (16 conceded in 20 games).