Major changes may be on the way for Arsenal in the next few days.
Assuming reports are accurate that midfielders Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas are indeed on the way out of Emirates in exchange for a combined £60 million, Arsenal may have a great deal of money to fund the rebuilding effort that many fans were hoping for after a regrettable 2010-2011 season.
At the moment, Nasri and Fabregas are still on the squad, and so are Nicklas Bendtner, Emmanuel Eboue, and Manuel Almunia. However, all five players have little chance of sticking around, with Nasri, Fabregas, and Bendtner all on the verge of an Emirates exit.
On Arsenal's official Web site, Wenger basically confirmed deals for Nasri and Fabregas were imminent. Bendtner, valued at about £9 million, also confirmed that he has likely played his last match with the Gunners. Deals for Eboue and Almunia are not expected to happen anytime soon, and would likely only garner a £6 million total.
With Saturday's match against Newcastle just days way, it isn't too early to discuss replacements. It will be interesting to see what the Arsenal brain trust decide to do with the potential £75 million that the club will receive in their sell-off.
Wenger's comments this week suggest that centre back is not quite the priority that some expected. "We currently have four central defenders," Wenger said to Kicker, a German publication, "and so there is no need for another."
That comment is somewhat conflicting with his statement on July 22nd. "Certainly, we will have to find one more defender," Wenger said. "I can promise we will work very hard on it. It will all speed up in August."
Well, it's August, and there is still no centre back, and no major left back or right back has been added. Arsenal have already lost left back Gael Clichy to Manchester City, so the defense is already thinner than last season. Meanwhile, Clichy's replacement, Kieran Gibbs, who has had his shares of injuries in the past, hurt his thigh against Benfica. Though Carl Jenkinson was added in June, he's not even 20 years old, and is expected to be used sparingly.
Wenger was right when he said he had to find one more defender. The main targets are Per Mertesacker, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Christopher Samba, Jan Vertonghen, Leighton Baines, and Scott Dann. All of the defenders are valued at under £20 million.
Mertesacker is probably the most sensible choice. The 6'6 German is in the final year of his contract at Werder Bremen, and is valued at roughly £6 million. With young Wojciech Szczesny as the goalkeeper, a 26-year-old centre back with 75 caps for Germany and 142 appearances for Bremen makes a great deal of sense.
The big void, however, will be at midfield. Without Nasri and Fabregas, Wenger will have to think big when it comes to replacements.
The most frequently discussed names include Juan Mata of Valencia, Eden Hazard of Lille, Mario Gotze of Borussia Dortmund, Jadson and Douglas Costa of Shakhtar, Alan Dzagoev of CSKA Moscow, Thiago Motta of Inter, Joey Barton of Newcastle, Scott Parker of West Ham, and James McCarthy of Wigan. None of the names mentioned would have a fee over £25 million.
An expensive and somewhat far-fetched option would be Wesley Sneijder. Though Manchester United appear to be on the verge of adding the Dutch star, Arsenal might consider making a bid for the 27-year-old who has a value of £35 million.
The most likely options are Mata and Hazard. Losing Nasri and Fabregas means losing creativity. Both Mata and Hazard have plenty of creativity, and are speedy players, as well.
Forward appears to be a position that Arsenal have well covered. Robin van Persie has proven to be an elite striker, and there are high hopes for summer addition Gervinho. Along with Theo Walcott, Marouane Chamakh, and recent newcomer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal appear to be in good shape, and certainly don't need to find another young player.
However, if Arsenal wants to make a significant upgrade, they can go after Karim Benzema. There have been many conflicting reports about Arsenal's interest in the Real Madrid forward, and Benzema's interest in joining the Gunners. Also, the Guardian reported that Benzema only had a year left on his contract and could arrive for as little as £7 million, which seems rather unlikely.
August 13th is the start of the Premier League season. August 31st is the end of the transfer period.
Arsenal management have a lot of work to do.