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Arsenal Season Review, Part I: Possibly Out?

Arsenal - The OxWe are almost at the end of another Premier League season. A time of celebration (if you’re Leicester City), reflection (if you’re most teams), disappointment (if you’re Aston Villa) or panic (if you’re Sunderland, Newcastle or Norwich). It’s also when plans get made for the summer as to squads.  For Arsenal, that means we are already hearing rumors of transfer bids (goodbye Theo Walcott? Hello, Granit Xhaka?).  Given how the season unfolded, it’s not surprising that for many Gooners, it’s already summer transfer season.

I’m going to have a couple more posts on Arsenal as well as the big Premier League post-season breakdown post sometime next week.  But I wanted to start the discussion on Arsenal by focusing on the players who are expected to leave this season and what kind of summer this could demand from Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis.  We had a clear-out of what we dubbed “Driftwood” a few seasons back.  While no one would consider these players driftwood, we could potentially see a similar clear-out this summer.  What do I mean?  Well, there’s a good chance up to 9 first-team players leave Arsenal this summer.

David Ospina: there were many rumors that the Colombian keeper was going to leave Arsenal last summer only for him to stay and Wojciech Szczesny to go out on loan to Roma.  An injury to Petr Cech allowed Ospina the chance to get starts and he did make a good showing in this small batch of games.  However, no one will forget his throwing the ball into the net against Olympiakos in the Champions League.  The long and short of it is that, at 27, Ospina is in his prime and will not want to spend another year getting just 12 starts across three competitions.  With Szczesny returning from his loan, Ospina may opt to take his chance at a #1 gig elsewhere.Arsenal - Ospina

Mathieu Debuchy: Somehow Debuchy made 7 starts this season.  Seven! Anyone remember anything from them?  Look, I think we can all understand his disappointment at being supplanted as the #1 RB at the club by Hector Bellerin.  It’s not his fault he was injured last season.  However, his push for a loan out this season to retain his place on France’s 2016 Euros squad was less than impressive. Carl Jenkinson is returning from his second loan stint at West Ham and, this time, it’s only a question of who will take Debuchy off our hands.

Kieran Gibbs: This one feels a bit surprising. After all, Gibbs was part of that lauded British core that was signed to long-term deals a few seasons back.  Unfortunately for him, Nacho Monreal has only come and been one of the steadiest and best left backs in England.  That’s left Kieran, who at 26 should be in the prime of his career, relegated to making random starts and coming off the bench as a left winger. While it’d be easy to say that this is a temporary situation (after all, Nacho is 30), all the rumors linking Arsenal with young LBs the last couple of seasons — Valencia’s Jose Luis Gaya’s last season, Leicester’s Ben Chiswell this year — don’t indicate an overwhelming sense of support of the England LB. He’s stalled and it may take a move away to restart his career.

Mathieu Flamini: The man with the ripped sleeves has never been the long-term answer at DM. That said, when he first returned to the club, he seemed to add that bite and physicality that we had so often missed in matches. That’s not him at this point. Flamini know is a yellow-card waiting to happen and his name on the team sheet is likely to generate fear from Gooners everywhere.  Being at the end of his contract means, Flamini will walk out of London Colney and into his billion-dollar alternative-energy company without mussing his suit. Or he could opt to keep his career going elsewhere.  Whatever the case, this time he leaves Arsenal for good.

Mikel Arteta: I wonder how we will look at Arteta’s stint as captain of Arsenal.  Sidelined by several injuries, the Spaniard had appeared to establish a partnership with Aaron Ramsey in the heart of midfield last season.  Instead, he’s had to watch from the sidelines for most of this season.  As he’s out of contract at season’s end, the expectation is that Arteta will be allowed to leave if he wishes to continue his playing career.  However, there’s every indication that a coaching role is available to him at Arsenal should he wish it.  If he can pass his metronomic passing ability to the next generation of Arsenal midfielders, I’d be thrilled and he could go on to be the next Pat Rice.

Arsenal - RosickyTomas Rosicky: What could have been? Hampered and cut short by injuries for so many years, the Czech wizard has never had the influence at Arsenal that made generations of German kids want to be like him.  Even this season, Tomas has made only 1 start and had no other appearances this season. With his contract coming to an end and a need to refashion the midfield anew, the likelihood is that Rosicky will be allowed to leave at long last.  He’ll leave behind memories of scoring against Tottenham time and again as well as one of the more enigmatic careers at Arsenal. What could have been?

Joel Campbell: By every account, Campbell was almost out the door last summer but the injuries to Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez forced Arsene Wenger to keep the Costa Rican around.  And while he’s arguably shown the maximum his talents can take him, let’s not quibble over how he’s been a far better alternative than some other players. Still, as Welbeck and Jack and others have come in, Joel has found his butt firmly planted on the bench. For whatever reason, Arsene Wenger doesn’t rate him and I’d expect he’ll look for greener pastures after the season ends.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: This one I’m confused by. Alex has not had the best of seasons mind you, but he has been injured.  He’s still made something like 35 appearances all over the pitch — centrally and out wide-right.  I think a lot of disappointment for him is how he was given the opportunity at season’s start to make the right-side of the front three his position and he didn’t.  If the decision is made that Alex’s future is in the #10 spot, he’s going to be joining the logjam behind Mesut Ozil.  That said, he’s still only 22 and that means he could still have a future at Arsenal.

Theo Walcott: Well, today’s media rumors were that Theo was a target for Slaven Bilic’s West Ham. Interestingly, the reaction from Gooners was one of acceptance and support for the idea. Basically, Theo’s injury history and long stretches of poor form combined with his demands for more money/playing at striker are coming back to bite him. All of which forgets that his short pre-injury spell at this season’s start did result in some of Arsenal’s best form.  He also managed to score 10 goals this season.  So there’s going to be interest in him from clubs in England.  But he’s a striker in his prime and he can’t stay healthy and his pace might be starting to give out?  This could end up being a chance to sell while his stock is high.

This list could also be incomplete as we don’t know what the long-term plans for players like Jenkinson, Szczesny, Yaya Sanogo and we haven’t discussed which youngsters could be earmarked to make a leap into the first team a la Alex Iwobi.  This could have repercussions in both the roster and transfer dealings this summer.  A topic for another day perhaps.  Gonna talk a great deal more about Arsenal’s overall season next week and then get into the whole Arsene Wenger debate.   (Don’t ask me why).

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