With the New Year just around the corner, transfer speculation is at its peak. Whilst Arséne Wenger is remaining mysterious about potential movement involving Arsenal, a great many bloggers and reporters with some sort of 'higher knowledge' are apparently very clued up on what the near future holds.
In reality, speculation is all it is, even from those on message-boards and forums swearing that they just saw so-and-so arrive at Manchester airport, or those adamant that their second cousin playing in League One has completed a medical with a Premier League club.
So with the rumour mill gearing up for another furious spinning cycle, is there actually any point whatsoever in discussing possible moves? 'Talk' probably has very little impact on the transfer market, except perhaps to unsettle otherwise oblivious players and force protective managers to take preventative measures.
However, it can't hurt to dream, which is why last week I wrote about which players I would like to see arrive at Arsenal this January, in order to strengthen their fight for a top four finish (which some people still seem to think is a given, despite their worst start to a season under Wenger).
What I didn't mention at the time was, that with a club like Arsenal in particular, transfers are not as simple as bringing in as many new players as you can to add depth to a squad. The other important factor is being able to offload the current ineffective squad members in order to free up space in the wage structure as well as helping to finance potential moves. It is for this reason that I believe it is just as important that Arsenal sell their under-performers as it is that they obtain reinforcements. Even if the transfer window were to pass with more players sold than acquired, this would in fact bode well for the summer, when Arsenal would have higher wages available to offer, on top of the allegedly enlarged transfer kitty.
Of course Arsenal have had no problem in selling some of their most important players in recent seasons, but for some reason, others have been somewhat harder to shift.
Oh alright then. We know the reasons. Arsenal currently have several players who are not of top four calibre (although admittedly most they did not exactly break the bank to sign) who are failing to meaningfully contribute to the team whilst still picking up their enormous payslips every week. Wenger is characteristically too stubborn to admit this until it is absolutely certain and the club would lose money (heaven forbid) if the players were allowed to leave having not been worth the money or gaining a profit for the club. Not that these players would leave, even if Arsenal did accept offers. Their current position of being paid some of the highest wages in England to sit on the bench is apparently preferable to playing regularly for less money in the modern game.
Whilst there will always be debate amongst backroom staff, journalists, pundits and fans over which players are deemed good enough for their club and which they would like to move on, in Arsenal's case more than any club I can think of, fans and commentators are almost unanimous in their belief that there are too many players in the squad who are not worthy of their wages. This January would be a great time to get the ball rolling.
Arsenal's highest-paid player, one Andrei Arshavin, was a revelation in his first season, but has been a disappointment since. Reading are reportedly interested, but Arshavin is likely to snub the offer of inferior wages. Unless a club from abroad is prepared to pay his demands, he will most likely leave on a free when his contract expires in the summer... at a loss of £15 million.
Not far behind the Arsh in wages comes Gervinho, another relative disppointment, but one that Wenger will want to give more time to show his worth, and he will probably remain at the club. Next is Marouane Chamakh, who may leave to West Ham, thankfully not at a loss, as he arrived on a free, but still having guzzled a large proportion of the wage budget.
It is not just in attack that the squad needs pruning though. Andre Santos, Johan Djourou and Sebastien Squillaci are all taking home high wages and none have put in a half-decent performance all season. Any of these three could move abroad in January, though only if reinforcements were acquired as well. Nicklas Bendtner and Denilson are on loan this season and hopefully these will turn into permanent moves.
Although it is highly unlikely that all these players would be shifted next month, Arsenal would do well to start the changeover process in order to free up space for potential new signings in January or the summer.
All it takes is for Wenger to hold up his hands and admit 'I was wrong about signing [insert any of the names listed above].' That could feasibly happen? Couldn't it?