Mikel Arteta likely spent New Year’s Eve sharpening his axe as the Arsenal boss looks to whittle down his bloated squad.
The Gunners have endured a tumultuous campaign thus far, but rather than bring in fresh faces in a bid to haul themselves up the league table, Arteta has admitted that the club’s priority is to clearout the squad this January transfer window.
‘We have a large squad. We knew that. A lot of things that should have happened in the summer we could not accomplish them for different reasons,’ the Spaniard said ahead of the West Brom game.
Mikel Arteta is wielding the axe this January with a number of players set to leave the club
Despite Arsenal’s poor campaign, the club are looking to shift players rather than bring more in
‘There are a lot of players that are going to go on loan. They are going to leave. And that’s the priority at the moment because we cannot sustain the numbers that we have in certain positions. We are looking to do that.
‘And then we will see if we have the right opportunities in the positions that we need some more help. We are working with the club to try to address them.’
Sead Kolasinac has already returned to Schalke, but who else could be on their way out this month? Sportsmail profiles the Arsenal players likely to be looking over their shoulders.
Sportsmail profiles the stars likely to be looking over their shoulders this January window
It certainly hasn’t been the fruitful stint Shkodran Mustafi would have hoped for upon joining Arsenal from Valencia in a £35m switch in 2016.
Prone to catastrophic errors, the German has failed to win over Gunners fans and has looked short of confidence with every appearance.
Mustafi, 28, was out of favour under Unai Emery, but enjoyed an upturn in form when Arteta took over, starting 15 of his 17 league games in charge before suffering a knee injury in July.
Shkodran Mustafi’s future at Arsenal is almost certainly over after a disappointing four years
He has since fallen down the pecking order and, on £90,000 per week, the club could do with cashing in before he walks away for free this summer when his contract expires.
Barcelona have surprisingly been linked with the defender, who formed a formidable partnership with Nicolas Otamendi under Nuno Espirito Santo at the Mestalla.
Mustafi switched agents in January 2019, and is reportedly keen on a move to Italy as his Albanian-Swiss wife’s family live in nearby Switzerland.
Arsenal have a dearth of central defenders at the club, so will be unlikely to dip in the market for a replacement.
The calamity-prone defender is attracting interest from Barcelona but wants to move to Italy
The most high profile of those on the exit list, Mesut Ozil is the lingering presence that Arteta needs to cut loose if he wants to make forward strides with the club.
On his day, there can be no argument that the German is the most gifted footballer at the club. The 32-year-old, though, has delighted and frustrated in equal measure with his laid back approach often making him an easy target among supporters.
Years of below-par performances have taken its toll, and game time has therefore been impacted. Ozil scored just one goal last season and provided three assists from 23 appearances. The German’s exclusion from Arteta’s Premier League squad all-but confirmed the club’s intentions to see off the playmaker.
Arteta needs to cut Mesut Ozil loose if he is to make forward strides with the north London side
Former Gunners boss Emery told Sportsmail that Ozil’s attitude and commitment levels ‘weren’t enough’ when he was in charge, while Arteta has said ‘I tried my best, I tried to give him as many opportunities as I could… I’ve been patient, given him opportunities and been fair.’
His £350,000 a week wages is an expenditure that has become a millstone for the club, too, while Ozil’s refusal to take a pay cut during the first lockdown is understood to have upset the club’s hierarchy.
Ozil’s exit would free up considerable funds for the north London club and would allow Arteta to dip back in the market for his own targets.
The German’s £350,000-per-week wages have become a millstone for the club’s finances
Despite Ozil’s insistence on social media that he still very much loves the club and wants to play a part, it would appear that a departure would be favourable for all parties.
The German has interest from MLS, Turkey, Germany and Italy but Sportsmail understands that the finances of a move for the playmaker is the main obstacle.
While Ozil and Mustafi’s expected departures can be attributed to a series of underwhelming performances, Calum Chambers has been struck by a major injury and is in need of a kickstart to his career.
The 25-year-old seriously ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament just days after Arteta was appointed Gunners boss and had been making a good impression, appearing suitable to the Spaniard’s style of play.
But he is one of eight central defenders on the clubs books and has found game time hard to come by with several ahead of him in the pecking order and the club cautious not to rush him back too soon.
Calum Chambers has been unfortunate with a serious injury keeping him out of the side
He has been out with a knee injury and a loan move away is sought after by the club
A loan move away, then, would be beneficial for both player and club. Chambers’ £50,000 per week wages are certainly not as burdensome as Ozil’s, so the club will be willing to give the defender time to fulfil the potential that his early career promised.
The Englishman was reportedly the subject of a £12m approach from Fulham last summer, and a temporary switch to Scott Parker’s side could prove the launchpad that Chambers needs to get back in the thick of it in Premier League football.
‘Now it’s about little steps, building and building and building, being patient but knowing the fact you will get back to where you were before,’ he told the Evening Standard.
The curious case of William Saliba. Signed from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019, the 19-year-old was sent back to the French club to continue his development, with the Gunners eyeing the 2020-21 campaign as the chance to blood him in English football.
However, the coronavirus pandemic severely halted Saliba’s progress. The French season ended amid the first lockdown, limiting the youngster’s game time to just 17 appearances for his loan club.
William Saliba’s curious lack of game time has been a source of frustration among Arsenal fans
Arteta wants Saliba to go out on loan for a ‘transition season’ before getting his chance
Arsenal had therefore planned for the promising defender to be loaned out once more this campaign. But a number of loan moves fell through at the last and Saliba has found himself stuck at London Colney.
Given Arsenal’s woeful defensive displays this season, fans have been frustrated with Arteta for not turning to the 19-year-old. The Spaniard has said he is ‘tired’ of the situation, insisting that Saliba needs his ‘transition season’ before getting an opportunity at the club.
Like Chambers, Saliba’s £40,000 per week salary isn’t a major obstacle for a club of Arsenal’s size and, like Chambers, the north London club are open to loan offers for the youngster.
A temporary switch to an English club would be preferable, giving the teenager the opportunity to grow accustomed to the rough and ready style of top flight football.
Unlike Mesut Ozil, whose exclusion has been highly publicised, Sokratis has found himself the forgotten man at Arsenal.
Having featured heavily under Emery, as well as being used by Arteta in his first season with the club, the 32-year-old has well and truly been frozen out.
The former Borussia Dortmund defender has been left to train and play with the under 23s having been left out of the Premier League and Europa League squads this season.
Sokratis has been frozen out and doesn’t feature in Premier League or Europa League squads
For a player reportedly on £92,000 a week, that situation cannot last for much longer. And with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, the Gunners will be keen to see some sort of return for the £17m they spent on him in 2018.
While Ozil has sought to make his presence known at the club with his highly active social media accounts, Sokratis has remained curiously tight lipped over his plight with Arsenal.
Sportsmail understands that the Greek international is attracting interest from Napoli and Fenerbahce, the latter are also looking into acquiring Ozil.
ARSENAL’S BLOATED SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Leno, Macey*, Runarsson
Defenders: Cedric, Bellerin*, Chambers*, Gabriel, Holding*, Kolasinac, Mari, Luiz, Mustafi, Tierney
Midfielders: Ceballos, Elneny, Maitland-Niles*, Partey, Xhaka
Forwards: Aubameyang, Willian, Lacazette, Pepe
* denotes home-grown player
Omitted by Arteta: Sokratis and Ozil
U21 Squad List (Some first team names, including Bukayo Saka, have still be registered as Premier League U21 squad players)
Goalkeepers: Ejeheri, Graczyk, Hein, Hillson, Mitchell, Okonkwo
Defenders: Alebiosu, Awe, Dinzeyi, Foran, Jeffcott, Kirk, Laing, Lopez, Monlouis, Norton-Cuffy, Ogungbo, Oyegoke, Saliba, Sraha
Midfielders: Gaspar, Akinola, Azeez, Cirjan, Cottrell, Henry-Francis, Hutchinson, Bandeira, Lannin-Sweet, McEneff, Oulad M’Hand, Patino, Smith Rowe, Willock
Forwards: Balogun, Butler-Oyedeji, Edwards, Flores, Ideho, Lewis, Moller, Nelson, Nketiah, Plange, Sagoe Jr, Saka, Taylor-Hart, Martinelli, Vigar
On loan but still named: Ballard, Bola, Clarke, Coyle, Guendouzi, John-Jules, McGuinness, Medley, Olayinka, Olowu, M. Smith, T. Smith, Swanson
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk