With just nine days to go until we open the new season against Liverpool, Arsenal are far from ready for the new season. Winning the FA Cup was deemed impossible during most of the past season. However, Mikel Arteta has managed to get us back on track and finish the season with some really unexpected silverware.
Adding our 14th FA Cup to our trophy cabinet is absolutely fantastic. It means we will still have a spot in next season’s Europa League. Finishing eighth in the league on a record low number of points since the start of the division in the 1992/1993 season surely did not get us that.
The result will have been a great boost for morale. And it allows the players and staff to look ahead again. But what are Arteta’s next moves in rebuilding Arsenal Football Club? There are quite some situations to deal with in the next few days or weeks.
Issue 1: The Özil-situation
The strange situation surrounding Mesut Özil must cause Arteta a lot of headaches. Not only is he Arsenal’s top-earner, he hasn’t been playing since the restart after Covid-19 and is pretty much always left out of the matchday squad.
Although people are abusing him online I can understand him sticking to his contract. It’s not very charming obviously if you ask me. But I think it’s just a business decision. At his age, with his damaged reputation of late, he would never get such wages with another team anymore. A contract is a contract, clear as that. But it’s hard to imagine what’s keeping him out of the team all this time. Officially it’s because of injury but there are not a lot of people who believe that.
It will be interesting to see how Arteta deals with this over the summer.
Issue 2: The contract stalemate with Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is easily our most important player currently. And with his contract up for expiry next season there is still no news regarding an extension to his deal. If no agreement is reached, Arsenal will be forced to sell him immediately or risk losing him on a free next summer.
It is expected that his good friend Alexandre Lacazette might be on the way out in the meantime. As Arsenal are apparently in need of money (I’ll get to that later) it is expected that they’re looking to sell some of the players that might still bring in a decent sum. Lacazette is obviously one of them. However, I can understand that he’s not in the shopping window too much yet. Arteta certainly won’t want to lose him when he loses Aubameyang as well.
I am hoping for a miracle and have Aubameyang extend his deal and Lacazette to stay with us. If Arteta needs someone to sell, I’d opt for Matteo Guendouzi. He has been banned from the match squad in the final part of the season. If the reasons are indeed disciplinary, it would not be a bad idea to sell him. In our current situation we need only those who really have the right mentality.
Issue 3: The club as a business seems a mess right now
As if all these things were not enough to keep Arteta busy this summer, there is also a lot going on in the environment surrounding the team. Although the performances on the pitch are where it matters most from a football club perspective, it is far from quiet in the boardroom. Head of Football Raul Sanllehi left. His departure followed not long after Arsenal announced they would make 55 people of the club’s staff redundant. Among them is scout Francis Cagigao, who was responsible for bringing players such as Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie to the club, just to name a few.
It is understandable that several of the playing squad have expressed their anger about this. Especially because the team and manager took a 12,5 percent pay-cut in April to cover for the losses due to Covid-19 and in an attempt to save jobs at the club. These people all had to leave while Arsenal pay huge wages to players. And also have brought in a new player recently, with Willian joining us on what is said to be a 3-year £220,000-a-week deal. Completely insane if you ask me. Not that I don’t like the aspect of him playing for us, but not at all costs. You don’t have to be a math champion to find that it is highly unlikely that these wages would not have been enough to keep at least the majority of the 55 redundancies with the club.
And where is Stan Kroenke in all this? As the chairman of the club, you have to be there when your team needs you the most. According to Forbes his current value is about $8,3 billion as of today. That’s somewhere around £6,3 billion. It makes you feel these 55 redundancies could have surely been avoided.