As Arsene Wenger enters what could be his last season in an already 20-year long career as manager of Arsenal, this summer could present him with one last chance to build a squad that could win the Premier League.
Although Arsenal finished second in the recently concluded Premier League season — their best position in 11 years — they failed to challenge Leicester City for the title. The Gunners lost games at key moments and didn’t look like they were playing at the level of the top clubs in Europe.
Arsenal’s faults were exposed by Barcelona in the Champions League, and the Gunners will surely be looking to have an active summer transfer window in the hope that they can achieve their Premier League and European ambitions next season. However to get some quality players in, Arsene Wenger will have to trim the current side down and get rid of some of the major under-performers who have been disappointing for the North London club in the past few seasons.
TheHardTackle takes a look at five players whose Arsenal careers could come to an end this summer.
1. Theo Walcott
The first person on the chopping board has to be 27-year-old Englishman Theo Walcott, with Arsene Wenger already dropping a hint that the player might be moved on in the summer. Walcott has struggled to establish himself as an important first team player for the Gunners, gravitating from the right wing to a central striker role with minimal effect.
Walcott scored just nine goals in 40 appearances for Arsenal this past season, and 11 years after moving to Arsenal from Southampton as a 16-year-old, Walcott seems on the verge of an exit. A number of Premier League clubs are interested in the pacey winger, with West Ham United, Crystal Palace and West Brom looking to add him to their ranks.
2. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
22-year-old winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a fine start to the season, as his goal clinched the FA Community Shield for Arsenal in what was Arsene Wenger’s first ever win over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. However, he has failed to impress since then and has come under criticism from many quarters for his lackadaisical approach and poor attitude, leading to speculation that he could be on the way out this summer.
Another Southampton academy product, ‘the Ox’ arrived at the Emirates Stadium in 2011 and went on to become a regular in the Arsenal first team and eventually, the England national team as well. However, as things stand, he will have to resurrect his career elsewhere, with clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and West Ham United interested in signing him.
3. David Ospina
27-year-old Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina has fallen down the pecking order since the arrival of vastly experienced and renowned Czech keeper Petr Cech in 2015. Even though Wenger has played him in important Champions League games, much to the chagrin of the Arsenal faithful, the arrival of Cech means that the Colombian’s role will effectively be that of a ‘cup keeper’ going forward.
His howler against Olympiakos in the Champions League ended further involvement in European competition, but he filled in admirably for Cech when he was injured for a month at the tail end of the season. The Colombian will definitely be on the hunt for more game time and Arsenal would let him go in the summer with the assurance that Cech, who won the Golden Glove in 2015-16, is still going strong.
4. Gabriel Paulista
Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista has been deployed mostly as a back-up to the ageing Per Mertesacker by Arsene Wenger, but the Brazilian hasn’t stepped up this season. His discipline and decision-making in particular have been suspect, with one highlight being his sending off against Chelsea in September.
The 25-year-old may be sold off in the summer to make room for a new acquisition to partner Laurent Koscielny in central defence, with Mertesacker likely to see his game time reduced. Arsenal also have former Southampton centre-back Calum Chambers waiting in the wings.
5. Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere is a Gunner through and through, and being an Englishman coming through the youth ranks, the Arsenal faithful have huge belief in him. However, the injury-prone midfielder missed this entire season due to injury, something which happened before in 2011-12. His off-field activities have also grabbed headlines, with manager Arsene Wenger reportedly putting contract talks on hold.
Although his goal scoring prowess and hardiness in midfield have been lauded from all quarters, the recent additions of Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka certainly don’t bode well for Wilshere’s first-team opportunities.