Arsene Wenger has, for the first time in my memory, explicitly stated that three players are surplus to requirements at Arsenal prior to any official announcement from the club.
According to Arseblog News, the boss stated “Bendtner, Squillaci and Park will be on their way to go somewhere”. I think it’s safe to assume that there are deals done or nearly done if Arsene Wenger is making statements about a player’s imminent departure. Doing so in the absence of a deal would only lower the player’s value (if he has a value, ahem).
In the same quote, the boss also hinted that Andrei Arshavin could stay at Arsenal for another season. This news will make the two Arshavin-lovers out there happy.
Robin van Persie not withstanding, Arsenal’s summer transfer business has actually been pretty decent. It’s no summer of 1995 or anything, but if the three named above leave the club it will mean that Arsenal have shed Almunia, Squillaci, and Denilson; three hate figures among large segments of the fanbase. And if they can make deals for Bendtner and Park, it will add to the official offloading of Tom Cruise, Oğuzhan Özy, Monak, and Botelho. There are also strong links to Carlos Vela leaving the club, Chamakh making a move, and of course, Arshavin. Discounting the youth players, that’s 8 first team players Arsenal have cleared off the books in just one summer. If (when?) Robin vain Persie leaves and/or Theo Walcott moves that would bring the total to 10.
A ten player turnover for a club like Arsenal is just incredible and should it come to pass would be a clear sign that Arsenal are rebuilding. Santi Cazorla is strongly linked to a move to Arsenal and should the Gunners land him it looks like it would be an Arsenal record transfer — something in the £16-20m range depending on how you count it. Cazorla would add to the incoming Giroud and Podolski and Like A New Signing, Diaby.
One bit of worry for Gunners is the admission that Actual New Signings Poldi and Giroud lack match fitness and that they lack match fitness because the club bottled scheduling a friendly. Adding to Arsenal’s constant injury woes the club have admitted that Wilshere will not be available until October, Sagna hasn’t played since last season, Per Mertesacker hasn’t played competitive football since stepping in a hole at Sunderland away, Koscielny is not match fit, Rosicky was injured in Euro 2012, Ramsey is on team GB in the XXX Olympics, and Frimpong is still recovering from Frimponging himself whilst trying to Frimpong Joey Barton*. That’s nine more players who probably won’t be available for the first game of the season.
Part of the problem here is that Arsenal’s commercialization floodgates have opened. Rather than a bucolic training camp in the Alps every summer, Arsenal are now flying to China. Well, half of Arsenal are anyway. As the presumptive new face(s) of the Arsenal Per, Poldi, and Sagna have been away doing official business for the club in Africa. Making media appearances for Arsenal’s new Cell Phone partner and making a workout video for soft drink Malta Guinness.
It’s hard to get match fit when you are making videos for softdrinks partners.
Whether you agree with my “twenty players” number or not is almost irrelevant. The point is that it’s pretty clear from the summer’s activities that Arsenal are in the midst of a tear down and rebuild — both in terms of team composition and in terms of the commercialization of the club. And as with any construction project, the builders always leave a mess of sticks behind before final clean up. Sticks that people will inevitably use to beat the club with.
My hope is that during the rebuild, Arsenal put some work into shoring up the foundation of the club and bring in quality replacements for the folks who are leaving. Because with a solid foundation, people can beat the club with little sticks all day and the structure will be sound.
*Frimpong can be used like Smurf.