Arsene will be focusing on rebuilding his central defence this summer. This rebuilding has started with the acquisition of Thomas Vermaelen, but it will not and cannot end here.
Of the central defenders on our books from last season, four of them have contract that expire next summer. William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos all have contracts with one year left and none have been offered a new contract.
It is no secret that Wenger does not see Senderos staying at the Emirates beyond the current transfer window and he will be moved on, sooner rather than later. There has been some interest shown in the player from Italy and Germany, whilst Aston Villa are ready to make a move for the Swiss international.
Mikael Silvestre has been a disaster from his first game at Arsenal, no Arsenal fans will shed a tear for the former Manchester United player, and the way he played last season, I am sure he was still on Fergie’s payroll. The sooner he goes to France the better.
This leaves us with William Gallas and Kolo Toure. Both players have been good servants for Arsenal, but at the same time we know they do not like each other and things came to a head with Toure asking for a move in January. Something persuaded Kolo to stay. It was one of two things, either Wenger promised Kolo that Gallas will be sold in the summer or he told Kolo that he can leave for Manchester City this summer.
Neither situation is satisfactory for Arsenal. If Gallas leaves, why has Toure not been offered a new contract yet? Toure can wait till next season and leave on a free transfer. If Toure was told he can leave this summer, this means Gallas stays, which is a good thing, but it appears that he has no intention of staying beyond the forthcoming season.
Whatever happens, the centre of our defence will be Wenger’s top priority this summer, Vermaelen is not, and cannot be the only centre-back to arrive at the club this summer otherwise we will have a massive rebuilding programme next summer.
William Gallas joined us as part of the Ashley Cole transfer. Nobody knows whether Gallas really want to join Arsenal or if he wanted to move abroad. Gallas seemed a reluctant Gooner in his first season, always complaining about the team’s attitude, their lack of desire to win. It was a surprise then that Arsene appointed Gallas as captain on Henry’s departure.
Gallas was a good captain. He inspired the team and drove us close to glory. The press had it in for him though, and the infamous Birmingham City incident gave them weeks and weeks worth of ammunition. What that incident showed was Gallas realised that some of the players did not have the nerve to win the title.
This season Gallas dared tell the truth about a spoilt dressing room, he dared reveal that too many of our players are prima donnas with haven’t earn that right and he lost the captaincy.
Since coming back Gallas has been the rock of the defence. He held the defence together, covered for all his teammates when they made mistakes. Then the dreadful day at Villarreal when he went off injured and his season ended. With this one departure so too ended our season.
We got past Villarreal, but with Gallas in the team would we have conceded four goals against Liverpool? With Gallas cajoling and helping his defence and team, will we have capitulated to Manchester United in the Champions League? Would Gallas have been caught off-guard as Silvestre was against Chelsea in the FA Cup and would Gallas allowed our defence to crumble against Chelsea in the league?
Gallas was the man who held the defence together, he might not have too many friends in the changing room, but that is because he is honest and that hurts some of our “babies” whose egos might get bruised.
Now it appears that Arsene is prepared to let him go. This is what Gallas wants, but it might be the best option for Arsenal. Gallas is the experience and rock that we need at the back. Allowing Gallas to leave is a big mistake; we should be offering Gallas a new two year contract. Instead he will be sold for £3 million and in his place we have Silvestre.
Whilst we are looking forward to players arriving next season, a squad can only have so many players, so inevitably there will be departures.
The possible or rather imminent departure of Adebayor has been well documented, but the Togolese striker will not be alone.
Reports today have Inter Milan wanting van Persie and Mourinho is prepared to spend £25 million for the Dutch striker. How much of this story is from van Persie’s agent trying to play hardball with Arsenal and how much is genuine Inter floating an idea to see what the reaction is we do not know. What we know is that Wenger wants van Persie to sign a new contract, something the Dutchman has stalled over. Whilst Arsene wants van Persie to stay, he will not allow him to blackmail the club. Wenger is thinking ahead and Dzeko’s arrival could signal his acceptance of both Adebayor and van Persie’s departure.
Defence is the area where there could be several departures.
Senderos wishes to stay in Milan, and he can stay there with our blessing. His heart is not at Arsenal and Wenger has seen enough of him to be prepared to listen to offers from any club.
Two “veterans” have been rumoured to be leaving. Silvestre has not been a success and if Wenger was honest with himself he would let him leave on free transfer. Gallas is not happy, he had the captaincy stripped from him and appears a lonely figure in the changing room with few friends. It would be a shame to lose Gallas as his experience is so valuable and he is such a great defender. It is no coincidence that our defensive failing came to the fore when Gallas was out injured at the crucial part of the season.
The final player who could be leaving is Eboue who is not happy with his squad role at the club. Eboue has stated that there are several clubs interested in him. I imagine Eboue is positioning himself for a new contract. Wenger will not have any of this from a player who is only considered a deputy for the right-back role. We have too many good right-wingers to have to rely upon Eboue for the forthcoming season. If a club comes in with a good offer for Eboue, Wenger will not hesitate in selling Eboue.
One thing is for sure, there will be several players leaving this summer, so before buying a replica shirt this summer, wait until all the comings and goings have been completed or you could end up an Eboue shirt and he could be at Atletico Madrid.
Arsenal suffered two injury setbacks on Tuesday night. First Almunia went off with an ankle injury and the Gallas had to leave the field after Rossi fell on him. Whilst both are blows for Arsenal, just as we are getting players back, the loss of Gallas will be felt more at the club than Almunia’s absence.
Almunia is expected back soon, but even if he were out for a longer period Fabianski has the quality to step in and make the number one jersey his own. He showed no nerves on Tuesday, despite ITV’s co-commentator Ronnie Whelan urging the Spaniards to test him out. In fact within minutes Fabianski pulled off two great saves. Fabianski is a very confident and able goalkeeper and I would have no qualms about him playing in goal for the rest of the season, I do not think it would weaken that position.
Fabianski was modest in a recent interview saying, “I am maybe not ready to take over the No1 spot yet but I am ready to play. I respect what Manuel has done for the club. He was playing great for the last couple of months. Now the situation is like this and I have to play – I am ready.”
For his efforts in the Carling Cup and the FA Cup, I hope Fabianski is selected for the FA Cup semi-final, irrespective as to Almunia’s availability.
The loss of Gallas will hurt us, Gallas was having a scan last night to disclose the extent of his injury with most pundits predicting a long absence after damaging medial ligaments.
Djourou is a good defender and for a while this season it appeared that he was going to be the number one centre back with Gallas and Toure vying for the other spot. Once in the team he is solid, good in the air (an advantage on both Gallas and Toure), fast and strong. I have no issues over Djourou’s qualities, but you cannot compensate for is experience.
Gallas has been a rock this season for Arsenal, and I am still of the opinion that he should never have lost the captaincy. He reads a game wells, he knows where to be at the right moment so his defending becomes effortless. He has put in some master performances this season and scored vital goals for us, the winner against Hull City in the FA Cup, vital Champions League goals at the start of the campaign against FC Twente and Dynamo Kiev and a last gasp winner against Portsmouth.
Gallas will be missed after his injury in Villarreal because he organizes the defence and the team and is still our natural leader.