A lot of focus over the last few weeks has fallen on who Arsenal need to bring in during the summer transfer window in order to boost their chances of winning the Premier League next season.
It has all been about who Arsenal should buy. None of it has been about who they should sell.
But whilst it is obvious that Arsenal do need to be active in the transfer market, a few tricky decisions loom large, and all concern who to sell, instead of who to buy.
Here are the main problems facing Arsene Wenger right now;
What is Arsenal’s first choice midfield pairing?
This may seem like a odd query, but the domino effect from answering this question has a huge effect on trying to rebuild the squad for future seasons.
At the moment, Francis Coquelin and Mohammed Elneny are doing a fine job of making a case to be a permanent fixture in midfield. But those two are only playing so many minutes together because of injuries to others.
Would Elneny be playing so often if Santi Cazorla was fit? No.
Would he be playing if Aaron Ramsey was fit? No.
The same applies with Jack Wilshere.
Yes, Elneny is showing that he could become undroppable at some point, but so have the other three players aforementioned.
When fit, we have five quality central midfielders competing for two places in the team, which is plenty.
Yes, ‘when fit’ is something that is almost a misnomer at Arsenal, but if the likes of Elneny are available for £10m that could be a potential emergency sixth option, spending £35m on Xhaka seems like a misapplication of club resources.
Arsenal do have money in the kitty, but there are better places to spend it than on a position where we already have five solid options to choose from.
For £35m, whoever you spend that sort of money on needs to be a guaranteed starter, otherwise it’s just not worth the investment.
So if Arsenal did buy Xhaka, then it would leave one open spot for five midfielders. That’s not good squad building.
Now, there is the option of playing a couple of our central midfielders in a different position, but that opens up another problem;
Who is Arsenal’s second best right midfielder?
I’m assuming that we all think that Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s best option on the right wing.
Since switching from the left, he’s looked far more dangerous than in previous months whilst deployed on the opposite wing. But if he gets injured, or has to play somewhere else, who replaces him on the right?
At the moment, the answer is probably Alex Iwobi.
If not him, then Joel Campbell is next in line.
Aaron Ramsey will inevitably be shoehorned in somewhere if there’s no room in centre midfield for him. Danny Welbeck isn’t the worst option either. Serge Gnabry is bound to make an appearance sooner or later, once he’s been released from quarantine after spending six months with Tony Pulis.
That’s five possible options right there, and we haven’t mentioned the two England internationals at the club who regularly play right wing for their country; Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
We have so many right-wingers at the club, it’s no wonder we keep leaving Europe at the earliest possible opportunity……… (sorry.)
If there’s no room for Theo or the Ox in our squad, then we need to consider selling them on before any plans for big-name signings are made.
It’s bad enough that they can’t break into the first team, but when they’re getting usurped by a youth team player in Iwobi, and a player who we were desperately trying to sell last summer in Campbell, then what hopes are there for that to change in the future?
Holding on to them at this stage would be a purely emotional decision, and we can’t afford to make a lot of those any more.
Selling Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain would bring in around £35m-£40m, (remember, Danny Welbeck cost £16m) which would be quite the welcome top-up to any transfer funds that are available.
If a big name player comes in, selling those two would help raise money to buy the two or three defensive players we need to replace the ones leaving in the summer.
What to do with Arsenal’s back-five?
Arsenal’s back-five is pretty much written in stone.
Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin are nigh on undroppable, and whilst Laurent Koscielny is our best centre-back, neither Per Mertesacker or Gabriel have played consistently well enough to make a case for themselves to be in the first team on a regular basis.
But in essence, our best back-five comes from those six players.
This is a problem.
You want your back-ups to be good enough to act as cover for when your first choice players are unavailable, but not good enough to harbour serious ambitions of playing on a regular basis at this time.
They need to be promising young talents that could be first-team regulars in the future, or veterans at the end of their careers that can lend an experienced ear to those around them.
Neither of those description fits Kieran Gibbs or David Ospina.
Both of them are international footballers who are losing the prime of their careers on the bench, primarily because they are at a club that has better options ahead of them.
It hasn’t hurt Ospina’s international career so far, but Gibbs has just lost his place in England’s Euro 2016 set-up to Danny Rose.
Danny bleeping Rose.
That’s got to hurt.
Neither of those players will want this to go on for much longer, but with so little prospect of the situation at Arsenal changing, don’t be surprised if they both ask to be sold in the summer.
That will mean Arsenal will need a new back-up left-back and goalkeeper on top of whomever they buy for further up the field.
Arsenal have a great deal of work to do in the summer, but the majority of it won’t be walking into the dressing room.
It’ll be walking out instead.