X

3 Arsenal Players Who Are Fighting for Their Futures in 2015/16

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2015

Arsenal's Mathieu Debuchy, left, controls the ball past Everton's Phil Jagielka during the soccer match in the Asia Trophy in Singapore, Saturday July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)
Joseph Nair/Associated Press

Although the transfer window is closed, the evolution of Arsenal’s squad continues. At the moment, competition for places is fierce, and some players will inevitably fall by the wayside over the course of the campaign.

It happens every season: A player may arrive for training in June with genuine hope of a first-team place. By the following summer, they’ve been cast aside. Take Wojciech Szczesny by way of example: In August of 2014, he was Arsenal’s undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper. Twelve months later, he found himself being loaned out to AS Roma.

In this piece, we identify three players who are potentially facing surprising fights for their futures in 2015/16.

Mathieu Debuchy

Mathieu Debuchy has every right to feel unlucky to be out of favour at Arsenal. When he was recruited as the replacement for Bacary Sagna in the summer of 2014, it looked like an eminently sensible signing. He started well too, showing tenacity and surprising aerial ability in the right-back role.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

However, two major injuries derailed his 2014/15 campaign, and during his absence, Spanish teenager Hector Bellerin seized the right-back spot.

Since returning to fitness, Debuchy has been unable to reclaim his place. Speaking to L’Equipe (h/t the Guardian), a clearly rattled Debuchy said:

It is difficult. Even if I had not played a lot last season, in my head I would return to start after my recovery. But, at the Community Shield against Chelsea, [Arsene] Wenger chose him, Bellerin.

It was a surprise and a disappointment. Let’s say [leaving] crossed my mind. But I want to be at Arsenal and to take my place.

Debuchy’s concern will be related to next summer, when France host the Euro 2016 tournament. He was France’s first-choice right-back at the World Cup in 2014, but he will recognise that if he does not play regularly at club level, it will be difficult to retain his international place.

If he doesn’t get much football over the next few months, the situation could come to a head in January. Debuchy will be desperate to prove his worth to Didier Deschamps before the tournament kicks off.

The problem he has at Arsenal is that, as the younger player, Bellerin represents the future. It doesn’t necessarily make sense for Arsene Wenger to invest playing time in Debuchy when he could be developing someone who could play for Arsenal for the next decade. When you bear in mind that the Gunners also have Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers on the books, the future looks somewhat bleak for Debuchy in north London.

Kieran Gibbs

SINGAPORE - JULY 18:  Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal jumps for the ball with James McCarthy of Everton during the Barclays Asia Trophy match between Arsenal and Everton at the National Stadium on July 18, 2015 in Singapore.  (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images)
Lionel Ng/Getty Images

At one time, the idea that Kieran Gibbs could ever leave Arsenal would have seemed utterly fanciful. As an academy product, he was a prized member of the British core that Arsene Wenger elected to build his squad around.

However, his progress on the pitch has ground to a halt. Gibbs was once an enormously promising young player, but that description no longer fits him. He is now 25 and should have made greater strides in regards to his defensive play.

As a teenager, Gibbs was a winger. It was only when he started training with the senior team that Wenger spotted his potential as a defender. In that respect, he was always going to be something of a late developer.

Nevertheless, it will have troubled both Gibbs and Wenger that Nacho Monreal has raced quite so far ahead in the race for the starting berth at left-back. Although Monreal does not have Gibbs’ physical gifts, he is a very canny defender with a good balance between attacking ambition and defensive discipline.

Joseph Nair/Associated Press

All too often, Gibbs will push high up the pitch, allowing himself to be caught in behind by nippy wingers. Monreal is more sophisticated in his positioning, never allowing too much open space in behind him. It gives Arsenal far greater security on that flank, which in turn liberates Alexis Sanchez to break forward at will and join Olivier Giroud in attack.

Gibbs will not be content to play second fiddle for too much longer. He has international ambitions: Leighton Baines cannot go on forever, and Gibbs will see himself as a natural competitor with Luke Shaw for the prize of being England’s long-term left-back. To be considered for that position, he must be a regular starter at club level. Unless Monreal regresses or leaves, that opportunity may not be available at Arsenal for quite some time.

Danny Welbeck

Jon Super/Associated Press

Shortly after the closure of the transfer window, Arsenal announced that Danny Welbeck would be out for a protracted period because of knee surgery. A statement on Arsenal.com read:

Danny Welbeck has undergone surgery on his left knee after being unable to sufficiently step up his rehabilitation work.

It had been hoped he would avoid surgery but after increasing his training workload, the injury to his cartilage did not respond as well as hoped and the decision was taken last week for him to undergo surgery by a leading specialist in the field.

Danny is now expected to be out for a period of months and everyone at Arsenal wishes him well.

The Arsenal fans were gutted. Not only had the club failed to recruit a new striker in the transfer window, but they’d lost one of their current crop to yet another untimely injury.

However, Welbeck himself will have been devastated too. After a hit-and-miss first season in north London, he will have been desperate to use this second campaign to establish himself. Instead, it looks as though he could well spend the majority of it sat on the sidelines.

Jon Super/Associated Press

That’s a problem for Welbeck because there is another young English striker coming up behind him in Chuba Akpom. If Arsenal do eventually sign a new centre-forward, someone will have to be moved on. Arsene Wenger appears to be a big fan of Olivier Giroud and gave him a new long-term contract earlier this year. Theo Walcott has also recently signed a long-term deal.

That makes Welbeck vulnerable. As an England international, he’s a highly saleable asset. Unless he can prove himself between now and May, it’s possible Wenger could look to cash in come the summer.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and is following the club from a London base throughout 2015/16. Follow him on Twitter here. 

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.