As we approach the tail end of the season with the mood in much higher spirits than many could have thought possible just four weeks ago...

As we approach the tail end of the season with the mood in much higher spirits than many could have thought possible just four weeks ago we find ourselves in a curious place. In fact many fans have prematurely decided that we are going to finish in the top four and in some cases the top three. So with this new found confidence, the world of twitter as well the blogosphere have started their routine of playing fantasy football signings. If that wasn’t enough it seems that the tabloids have joined in as we are being linked to major signings daily in the national newspapers.

In fact The Sun is reporting that Wenger is in a hurry to spend this summer to avoid a repeat of last summer. Whilst this may be true reports do seem fanciful that:

“Wenger is intending to snap up Cologne striker Lukas Podolski for £11million in the next 48 hours. And he could also splash £10m on Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen, £6m on Montpellier forward Olivier Giroud and up to £17m on Rennes playmaker Yann M'Vila just weeks after the end of the season.”

Aside from the fact that it would require a lot of work between now and the end of the season to secure even one of these players let alone a number of them, there are many other barriers in completing deals swiftly this season which need to be addressed before we can go into the market. I aim to highlight some of the barriers that Arsenal face this season before we can secure “top quality” signings.

                                                                        Source: Graeme Bandeira

Squad Size

Our current 25 man squad as registered to the Premier League is as follows:

1.Manuel Almunia 2. Vassiriki Diaby 3. Bacary Sagna 4. Per Mertesacker 5. Thomas Vermaelen 6. Laurent Koscielny 7. Tomas Rosicky 8. Mikel Arteta 9. Chu-Young Park 10. Robin van Persie 11. Clarindo Andre Santos 14. Theo Walcott 17. Alex Song 18. Sebastien Squillaci 20. Johan Djourou 21. Lukasz Fabianski 27. Yao Gervinho 28. Kieran Gibbs 29. Marouane Chamakh 30. Yossi Benayoun 34. Chucks Aneke 37. Daniel Boateng 48. Jernade Meade 55. James Shea 59. Damian Martinez

We currently have a full 25 man squad registered, granted 5 of them are under 21 so just make up the numbers. In adition we also have 6 players out on loan who we were not able to sell or were unable to get match time at Arsenal. Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner, Vela, Lansbury and Mannone. (There are many more players out on loan but were principally loaned out to get first team experience.) If we are unable to sell them then we will have a squad that is full assuming Chucks Aneke, Daniel Boateng, Jernade Meade, James Shea, Damian Martinez are replaced by the returning loanees.

It must also be noted that with Szczesny already 21 before January 1st 2012 it means he will need to be included in the 25 man season squad as opposed to be eligible through the under 21 rule. Whist this is not an immediate concern, it is something to think about given the relative young players in the squad such as Aaron Ramsey.  All of this represent a squad too big, whilst this is not the biggest barrier, as it is widely expected that Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner, Vela, Squillaci, Chamakh and Park Chu-Young are all expected to be sold or loaned out in the transfer window. In addition we are sure to release Manuel Almunia as he is coming to the end of his contract as well as Yossi Benayoun is unlikely to extend his stay. That would mean that additional signings can be made at the expense of, Chucks Aneke, Daniel Boateng, Jernade Meade, James Shea, Damian Martinez who aren’t quite ready for first team football as long as we can sell/loan out these players. It can also be argued that there are a number of other players that should be sold but I cannot see it happening.

So whilst not a huge barrier in making signings it is something the Arsenal management is sure to be considering. It is important to note that selling these players, even at reduced prices will be no easy feat. These players are on very high wages that other clubs will not be willing to match. There will be many players who will be unwilling to leave at cut price contracts so expect a number of loans again. 

Wage Bill

According to blogger The Swiss Ramble our current wage bill is around £124 million a year. 124 million a year is a huge sum of money for a club to pay for a team considered frugal with wages. This is due to a policy where there is limited disparity between squad players and top players at the club causing the problem mentioned above whereby players surplus to requirements are unable to find a new club. We have a number of players who have contributed very little on vast wages.

Andrey Arshavin is predicted to be on a contract worth £75,000 a week, Marouane Chamakh and Manuel Almunia on around £60,000 and Sebastien Squillaci, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Carlos Vela all on £50,000 according to ESPN. This equates to around 345,000 a week or over 19 million a year in wages.

Phenomenal sums of money which could be used to extend the deals of players nearing the end of their contracts with some left over. Even if all the players wages double there would still be money left over for a world class player if not more. It is absolutely essential to get rid of these players and any other squad players who are surplus to requirements.

We will not make signings that will exponentially increase our wage bill so there will only be incoming movement if we can reduce the wage bill by moving on deadwood. It is certain that this will be welcomed by the fans. One can only hope that it provides (an expensive) lesson in wage structure for the future.

Potential

A lot of names have been mentioned with the most popular being Podolski, Goetze, M’Villa, Hazard, Giroud, Ayew, Vertonghen and many, many more. Of those players how many are actually needed. I know in the past it was difficult to hear excuses to not buy quality because we had players like Denilson whose development would be hampered. However there is now a genuine case to not buy some of these players. How many of you would like to buy Vertonghen at the expense of Koscienly at the moment? Not many I would predict but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a good signing, I just think any potential purchases have to be thought out carefully.

Despite Rosicky’s upturn in form, one thing is clear, he is reaching the twilight of his career and although I think he can still be an important and valuable squad player, it is hard to see him play entire seasons as our advanced playmaker. This is an area that I would like to see strengthened. We also will have four ultra quick and direct wingers next year with the return of Ryo Miyachi who has impressed on his loan spell so far. So whilst Hazard would be great, is he really a player we need as he is clearly not a player that will stay in the long term.

I strongly believe we have a strong basis to build on and whilst everyone, myself included, loves a bit of fantasy football, let’s be a little realistic and realise we will never be that kind of club. Let’s just hope that Wenger adds a minimum of three top quality players this summer in addition to keeping this strong core of players, most importantly Robin Van Persie. If he can do that then surely things can only get better.