Arsenal veterans Mathieu Flamini (31), Mikel Arteta (33) and Tomas Rosicky (35) are reported by the Evening Standard to be released at the end of the season when their current contracts expire. The three midfielders are not expecting to be offered contract extensions and Arsene Wenger must now look for the right players to replace them.
Rosicky, Flamini, Arteta (Irish Daily Star)
Arsenal have a club policy of only offering one-year contract extension to players over the age of 30. Arteta and Rosicky have taken advantage of this over the past few seasons and Flamini is coming to the end of the three-year deal that he signed when he re-joined The Gunners in 2013. Now the midfield trio are likely to be released at the end of the season, which will allow them to move onto a new club for free.
With three first team squad members set to leave in the summer, Arsene Wenger will have no choice but to replace them. The French boss has a tough task of deciding whether to replace them with summer transfer moves for top quality stars or to develop youngsters that can be promoted from within the club.
Flamini, Arteta and Rosicky leaving means that Wenger would need to recruit new first team squad players to fill in the roles of a defensive midfielder (DM), deep-lying/box-to-box central midfielder (CM) and an attacking midfielder (AM).
William Carvalho (DM) – The 23-year-old defensive midfielder was player of the tournament at the 2015 Under 21 European Championships this summer and has been linked to a move to Arsenal since 2014. With Sporting Lisbon asking for a transfer fee around £30m, a move has not materialised as of yet, but interest still remains. Carvalho’s defensive discipline is a trait that Arsenal only have with Francis Coquelin in midfield, so to bring in another defensive midfielder is vital, especially with the departure of Flamini.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – The Swiss midfielder has risen in stature in the past couple years at Borussia Monchengladbach. After forming an efficient partnership with Christoph Kramer in midfield, Xhaka has shown he can dominate a game through his tackling and passing ability. As a deep-lying midfielder, he would work well alongside Coquelin, but he is also capable to replace him when he is absent from the side. Linked with a £20m move to the Premier League in January, Xhaka and his role versatility, leadership skills and top quality could be a perfect signing for Wenger.
Mario Gotze (AM) – Gotze has been on Wenger’s radar since he was a teen, with an apparent £30m bid being turned down in 2013 as it was just less than his release clause fee when he was at Borussia Dortmund. The Bayern Munich star has been linked with a move away from the German side due to the lack of first team football, with Arsenal constantly linked to a transfer move. Gotze is able to play any position behind the striker, but also in a false 9 role, which has been successful in his time at Bayern Munich and could be beneficial for Arsenal who lack a world-class finisher.
Krystian Bielik (DM) – Last month, in a 3-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday, the 17-year-old Polish defensive midfielder showed the Arsenal faithful a glimpse of his talent, making his debut in a 30-minute cameo. Bielik was brought in for a reported £2.4m from Legia Warsaw last January and is yet to make a league appearance despite impressing Arsenal coaches in training and for the youth side. Standing at 6”2, Bielik has a huge physical presence in the centre of midfield, which will allow him to quickly adapt to the Premier League when Wenger deems him as ready for first team football.
Dan Crowley (CM) – Crowley joined Arsenal from Aston Villa in 2013 as a youth player and has impressed at this level. He has drawn comparisons to current Arsenal star, Jack Wilshere, as he has a similar playing style, with great passing ability. After scoring his first senior goal against Everton, whilst on loan at Barnsley in the Capital One Cup, Crowley was called up to England U19s, where he scored a magnificent solo goal during the recent international break.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide (AM) – Another 17-year-old that Wenger brought in from Europe, ‘JRA’ joined in the summer of 2015, making an immediate impact at the Emirates Cup with a man of the match winning performance against Wolfsburg. Joining from Lens, Wenger has praised the youngster, describing him as “something special”. As a versatile midfielder who is able to play in any role behind the striker, ‘JRA’ could become an important option for Wenger next season.
I think that Flamini, Arteta and Rosicky have been great servants for the club, which is clearly shown, as they possess a combined 612 appearances for the North London side. Despite this, their on-going injury problems are one of the main reasons why they barely feature for the club any more. All three players have already suffered from injuries this season, with Rosicky yet to return since getting injured in June.
As well as becoming injury prone, these players have reached the end of their careers at the top level, as they are arguably no longer good enough to make enough of an impact to try and lead Arsenal to the league title.
Considering the fact that the trio have made a mere nine league appearances between them this season, only one of which was a start, it would be unnecessary to replace all three players with expensive transfers.
Arsenal have a plethora of midfield talent that exists within their ranks, therefore, I believe that only one external addition can act a sufficient replacement. With the abundance of advanced midfielders in the Arsenal squad through Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Ramsey and Wilshere, I think that a more defensive midfield player should be a priority in the transfer window.
I consider Coquelin as the starting defensive midfielder in the Arsenal side as he has been fantastic this calendar year. However, Wenger should search the market for a player who is able to play as both a defensive midfielder and in a box-to-box midfield role, like Xhaka, to increase squad depth and player versatility.
Additionally, the internal promotion of three of these youth squad players with great potential will lead to them gaining more experience, and with only one external player coming into the midfield, it would allow them to play more minutes next season.