It was interesting to hear Mikel Arteta talk about the size of the squad during the US tour last week, saying:
We have 30 players here which is unsustainable, and obviously the market is still open.
Let’s not forget, some players didn’t even go on tour, and when you look at the squad list now on the official site, you can see the group is way too big:
Despite all the stories about our interest in David Raya, the focus internally is now very much on selling and trimming the squad down to a manageable size. There are common sense reasons for that, obviously. Each departure should bring some money in – if not now, then at the end of a loan – and take something off the wage bill too. We’ve spent big this summer, and we need to offset that as well as we can.
Aside from that, you just don’t want unhappy players around either. A guy who knows he’s never going to play might be as professional as can be, but it’s still not a healthy environment for the player himself or the teammates. Cedric, for example, wasn’t needed on tour, and thus left behind. Nicolas Pepe, as far as we know, hasn’t even come back to London this summer despite having a year left on his contract. Nor has Nuno Tavares, but he was on extended holidays after the U21 European Championships. I’m curious to see if he returns. Which isn’t to suggest those guys are disruptive per se, but it’s been made very clear to them they are not wanted.
That’s not just their problem though, it’s Arsenal’s. The players have contracts which should be respected, so there’s an onus on us to try and facilitate their departures as seamlessly as possible. It’s easier said than done in some cases, and with the market open until September 1st, there’s a lot of time. Managing those ‘zombie’ players during this period will be something of a challenge.
Right now, there’s not much stirring in that regard. Albert Sambi Lokonga appears to be on the receiving end of some interest from Burnley, newly promoted to the Premier League and managed by Vincent Kompany. He was in charge of Anderlecht when we bought the Belgian in the summer of 2021, and it looks as if it might be a loan move.
I think we’d ideally like to sell, midfield is pretty stacked at Arsenal right now, and the fact we let him go last January when we had far fewer options in that area of the pitch suggested he was a long way from the manager’s thoughts. The loan at Crystal Palace didn’t go well, but even after this season he’d have two years left on his contract, so a good spell at Turf Moor would be decent for his value.
Auston Trusty, signed from Colorado Rapids in January 2022, spent last season at Birmingham City, and this summer could join Sheffield United on loan. Having been the Blues’ player of the season in the Championship last time out, it will be interesting to see how he fares in the Premier League. A bit like Lokonga, a loan makes some sense because if he does well his value increases. There’s talk of a £5m fee which seems cheap enough all things considered, but perhaps there are add-ons/clauses that might bring in more down the line.
I mentioned Pepe and Cedric, and I honestly think Edu is going to have to dig out the last few carriage clocks from his closet, and send them on their way with a firm handshake and a pay-off. Maybe there’s someone out there who will take a gamble on Pepe, a talented player who just completely lost his way at Arsenal. We know there are managers out there who love a project like this, to rekindle something in a player, but as yet there’s nothing going on. Nobody is going to pay us anything for Cedric, and the nonsense from his end about how he wants to fight for his place is just agent talk for ‘Pay me’.
Where it gets more interesting is when you consider players like Flo Balogun, Eddie Nketiah, Kieran Tierney etc. All of them could reasonably be seen to do a job for the team in this current set-up, but over whom question marks exist for various reasons. I’ve seen talk of Palace interest in Eddie, Balogun has been linked with various clubs throughout the summer and I’m sure there will be more to come, while it’s gone quite on KT but it still feels like he’s down the left-back pecking order so his desire to play may force things there. That’s where the money is too, so let’s see what happens.
Tomorrow, there’s the Emirates Cup game against Monaco. Perhaps we’ll hear a bit from Mikel Arteta today about how he’s going to approach that one, and if so we’ll cover that on the blog tomorrow.
For now, we’ll leave it there, and you’ll find any breaking news on Arseblog News as and when it happens.