We are 4 games away from the end of a very disappointing season and many of the Global community of Arsenal supporters, perhaps for the first time the majority, would like to see a change of manager. The reality however is that Wenger will be here next season to see out his contract and consequently this summer’s activity in the market both for him and the club is huge.
The fans want to deliver instant success and consequently want big names who can hit the emirates turf running. We all know the cash in there to be spent but we equally know that without a Director of Football any arrivals are primarily buying into Wenger himself and how he sells the vision for Arsenal. With that comes the obvious loaded question that any player and his agent will want answered – Am I joining Arsenal and your vision for one year or will it be longer? I can’t answer that and in truth for the first time in 20 years I am not certain that Wenger could, at least with any conviction.
Other leading Premiership clubs change their managers like their shirts but that has never been the Arsenal way. These clubs are used to buying players despite that potential coach rotation but at Arsenal post David Dein the transfer dealings, despite what Dick Law may like to think are with Arsene Wenger. I guess what I am saying is that whilst I do expect major changes in the first team squad personal this summer it will not be straight forward, given the uncertainty hanging over the manager of the club beyond the summer of 2017. This uncertainly has not been there before but even his most ardent supporters, in denial, know it is there now. My personal belief is that this will not impact Wenger’s plans to have a whole sale restructure of his squad. At the same time I am not certain this is the root cause of our malaise and the uncertain medium term future may hinder us more than a bit. It will mean the same combination of potential and those that can help us now as the young talent will always come to the Arsenal.
All that said on a quiet day on Gunners Town and before the team travels to the North East I thought I will give you a starter for 10 on the transfer merry go round speculation. It involves my belief that some unfulfilled potential will leave and some huge potential will arrive and it centres on one particular position.
When Arsenal won their first trophy in 9 years Kieran Gibbs played and was at that time less than 2 years ago indisputably Arsenal’s first choice left back. Nacho Monreal had arrived from Spain in the January of the previous season and despite good runs in the side when Gibbs had been injured or otherwise he had not looked up the job full-time. I personally had always been a huge Gibbs supporter and my initial impressions as I have said before, of Monreal were not favourable. It is a tricky transition coming from Spain where full-backs ate frequently wing backs first and defenders second and he was targeted. The Deploying of Lukaku against him is one game that still makes me shudder.
However a spell playing on the left of a central defensive pairing seemed to be the making of him in 14/15 and the Spaniard has never looked back from when he was next give and run in his favoured role. Both he and Bellerin dislodged the incumbents last season and in truth neither Gibbs nor Debuchy have ever looked likely to win their places back. Unlike his French counterpart on the right though, Kieran Gibbs has been a consummate professional throughout last season and this. Despite it being obvious to him that his Euro dream of playing for England was disappearing the young Englishman had kept his counsel and never complained or leaked is thoughts to the media. In short Gibbs has been an Arsenal man through and through and he has played whenever called upon, often on the left flank as a substitute and always given his all, including of course the lovely NLD cameo and equalizer.
Nacho though is now entirely at a different level to Gibbs and the prospects of the long term Gunner gaining regular football at not great. Particularly, when at 30, not playing international football and with a contract until June 2019, Monreal is firmly happy and entrenched. Gibbs is 26 now and has the best years of his career ahead of him right now and needs to be playing every week. What Arsenal are looking for is an understudy for Nacho who can take over full-time from the Spaniard in 2 years from now and it is not fair on Gibbs to be that man. Gibbs has 2 years left on his current Arsenal deal and will fetch £10 million and will be attractive to many to flight sides thus summer. It is to his credit that he has never openly stated he wants a move but I am sure he has privately discussed his medium term prospects with Wenger
So if Gibbs leaves and I believe he will the incoming replacement is likely to be a younger talent with al, the potential to be groomed over the next two seasons to learn from and the take over from Nacho Monreal. I strongly suspect the replacement for Kieran Gibbs will come from a summer raid on current league leaders Leicester.
Despite being linked with Ghanian international Jeff Schlupp in the past I consider it far more likely, given the time line involved that Arsenal will swoop for the Foxes highly rated England Under 21 left back Ben Chilwell who is 20 in December. There were stories in the media in January and February suggesting that Arsenal were working behind the scenes to secure a summer deal for Chilwell and my feeling is that despite the story going quite it is still on the cards.
The truth is that with Fuchs establishing himself as Leicester’s first choice left back in Schlupp’s absence Chilwell was in the news because he got a few first terms appearances. When the Ghanian returned the young English ball paying left back went off the tabloids radar. Regardless of the media forgetting so quickly as they do want they themselves reported I feel it highly likely that Ben Chilwell will arrive in N5 and he will do so at a price considerably lower than the £10 million the club would expect to receive for Gibbs.
Chilwell is fast, has great feet and is firmly considered a future England player not just by the Under 21 coach, Gareth Southgate but also by Roy Hodgson who invited the young lad to train with the full squad in March. I am sure both England coaches would love to see him learn from arguably the left back in the Premier League.