Today's question is pretty straightforward, so let's dive right in.
who would you sell and what holes would that mean the team would need to fill?
Some of us talk a little about replacements, but next week we'll talk in more depth about what players might fill those holes; for now, who would you clear out to make some room?
I'd sell Theo Walcott. Theo's given us some brilliant moments over the years, and has shown flashes of potentially being something for us. Even earlier this season, it appeared that there was some nascent counterattacking chemistry between he, Mesut Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez. Unfortunately, injury reared its ugly head again, like it has so much over the course of his career, and he has not been able to provide an impact for the team since.
Theo is no project that we can keep waiting on. He's 27. He is what he is. His only top-level skill is his pace which means once he loses a step here in the next couple of years, it is very likely his performance will drop off a cliff. If makes sense to cash in on him now, while he still has some admirers and can net a nice fee (thanks home-grown rule!). I hate it. He's been with the club for over a decade. His moving on seems inevitable though.
With Joel Campbell performing better than him this season, Ainsley Maitland-Niles returning from a loan spell at Ipswich Town, and Serge Gnabry back from the dead, Arsenal may not need to replace him on the wide forward depth chart, but considering the injury to Danny Welbeck, another central striker would need to be added to the squad.
I'd sell David Ospina. Cech has shown how vital a good goalie is to Arsenal's fortunes. Ospina, based on his body of work with Arsenal, is more Squillaci than Ozil on the scale of How Arsene Signings Have Gone. Plus, Ospina has a chance to raise his stock at a Copa America tournament in which Colombia could and should make a deep run.
A semifinal matchup against Argentina or Brazil isn't out of the question, though Colombia losing 6-1 when Messi and Aguero and company run wild Hulkamania style on Ospina isn't out of the question either. Eventually, Arsenal's going to have to get a good solid non-stopgap goalie, and Englishness would help with FA rules -- Jack Butland seems like the right choice here. He'll cost money -- Stoke will make sure of that -- but he'll be worth the investment.
He might even make Cech expendable, and certainly there's a #2 goalie out there who's not short, flappy, and frightening in distribution who could back Butland. And sure, there are plenty of outfield positions still on fire, but this is one place where it's worth it to think both upgrade and longterm.
The easy answer is probably Theo Walcott or Kieran Gibbs, but if Olivier Giroud has a successful Euros campaign I'd offer him up to the highest bidder. Giroud, already the opposite of what one would call 'mobile', will be turning 30 this season. He's had a fine Arsenal career, probably nowhere as poor as the talking heads would have you believe, and has generally been a fine steward of the club.
However, it's hard to ignore the massive goal drought he put up in the second half of the season and the limitations he brings to the squad every time he's selected. He's not particularly mobile, his hold-up play isn't as good as advertised, he's unable to break down defenses on his own, he's not tactically flexible. If the club can finagle 20-25m from his sale, maybe to a Wolfsburg or Monaco, and flip that money for Alvaro Morata then I think it would be just another piece in their young and dynamic attack featuring the likes of Ozil, Alexis, Ramsey, Welbz (r.i.p.) and (hopefully) Granit Xhaka.
Morata is mobile, capable of thriving in transition or in possession and is good both on the air and ground. If Madrid makes him available through their stupidity then it would be foolish to look the other way in favor of someone who can only stand to decline in his ability and already questionable production. It's not the number one priority for the club, but securing a young and talented striker with a huge ceiling could set them up for the next half decade.
I can only pick one?
Look, Arsenal are clearly entrenched in some personnel decisions that have just completely stagnated. It's worth pointing out first that Tomáš Rosický, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are all on expiring contracts, so those are ruled out. In terms of popular answers, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Gabriel Paulista and David Ospina certainly spring up first.
I'm going to go out on a bit more of a limb, though. We've got three players coming up on expiring contracts all of whom who are over 30: Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Between the three, I think Santi might be the more valuable in the immediate future to the squad. And perhaps I'm somewhat alone on this, but I'm just not all that comfortable with Koscielny or Mertesacker in general. So I'm going to go with Koscielny who I think has more market value.
That of course leaves a huge hole at CB, but I don't think it's one that dooms Arsenal. We have the funds to address the position (and others, especially if some of the more popular sales go through), and we need to get younger there anyway.
Laurent will be missed, but as Churchill famously didn't say, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
I'd sell Gabriel Paulista. I'm not at all sold on his skill or potential. He hasn't played all that will with any of the centerback partners on the team. Most infuriatingly, he's stood in Cal Chamber's way all season, even if that's more on Wenger. It may seem odd to sell one of the younger options at CB and perhaps I'm a little harsh on him since he'd probably be an OK 4th choice guy but, at this point, I feel more confident playing Nacho Monreal at CB and Gibbs in his place than start with Gabriel.
Selling him, coupled with Mertesacker's age and Koscielny's down season, forces a quality buy at CB which I feel Arsenal are really going to need next year. Unless Chambers finds first team time... which he already should have.
So...who would you sell, and why?