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Arsenal will have to make an unpopular sale to get better

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Arsenal’s financial situation means a popular player will have to be sold.

Arsenal Training Session Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

No matter what happens in this weekend’s FA Cup final, Arsenal are going to have to make tough decisions in the shortened transfer window. Though winning the FA Cup and thus participating in next year’s Europa League would ease some financial burden, if Arsenal are to rebuild their squad over the next 12 months, tough decisions will be made, especially as a full return to match day revenue is unlikely in the short term.

Mattéo Guendouzi’s exile from the squad since late June means that he is a prime candidate to be moved on, as does the fact that his contract only has two years to run. Indeed, Arsenal have been aggressively trying to place Guendouzi in a swap deal, most recently for Thomas Partey. Such a move has not yet come to fruition.

Arsenal need significant investment in midfield, and perhaps an extra defender, given recently injury results. Yet, in selling Guendouzi, Arsenal deepen the need for more midfielders: post-lockdown, Arsenal have been almost totally reliant on Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos. Lucas Torreira, who was a regular starter when Mikel Arteta first took charge of Arsenal, started against Aston Villa and was hauled off at half-time, for Granit Xhaka. Torreira suffered an ankle injury in March, before lockdown, and is a prime candidate to be sold in the summer. This would leave Arsenal with just Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos, with perhaps Joe Willock, as deep central midfielders.

The reality is that for Arsenal, outside of a select few players, every player should be available if the right price is met. None of Arsenal’s squad members, outside of perhaps Bukayo Saka, William Saliba, Kieran Tierney, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, are individually outstanding enough to not be sold if the right price were to be met, and Aubameyang’s contract status means that his sale cannot be unilaterally ruled out.

But while fans would surely like the club to move on their so-called deadwood, there is also the question of possibility and purpose. It has been difficult for Arsenal to move Shkodran Mustafi on, due in part to his wages. This could also be true for players like Sokratis and Sead Kolasinac. This leaves Arsenal in a conundrum: they need to sell to buy, they need to move players who are not suited for what Arteta wants from his players, but doing so could cost them, either in the fee that they bring back, or in negotiating a player’s departure, all the while Arsenal remain the only club in the Premier League to have forced through a pay cut, highlighting the club’s financial difficulties.

Indeed, the emergence of Emi Martinez, following the injury to Bernd Leno, has opened the suggestion that one of the two goalkeepers may be sold. While both have been very good, both have potential flaws. Yet, it seems unlikely that Leno would be happy with backing up Martinez, and having had a taste of being the number one, it seems doubtful that Martinez would be satisfied returning to a backup role. This gives Arsenal the possibility to cash in on either one, provided of course, that an offer that is suitable exists.

Arsenal will have to be flexible in how they approach the market, both as a buyer, and as a seller. The possibility to raise funds from a player that they did not necessarily expect to sell cannot be dismissed out of hand, for it may be one of the few ways that Arsenal, and Mikel Arteta, can begin to address some of the flaws in the team.