Sunday 21 January 2018

Arsenal to reduce squad with last-minute exodus

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal are preparing for an exodus of players in the final days of the transfer window. The club are finalising the £7m (€8m) departure of Kieran Gibbs to Watford and are ready to sell Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi.

Incoming signings are now unlikely but a combination of Oxlade-Chamberlain's refusal to accept a new contract offer of £180,000 (€195,000) a week and Wenger's desire to reduce his squad has meant that there will still be plenty of transfer activity between now and Thursday.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's participation against Liverpool today has become doubtful following his failure to agree a new contract and, unlike their stance with Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal's attitude is that they would prefer to sell rather than potentially lose him for nothing next year. Chelsea and Liverpool are preparing to bid but Arsenal have not yet received the expected £35m (€38m) offer.

The situation is likely to evolve imminently. Similarly, Arsenal are willing to lose Mustafi if they can recoup the £34m (€37m) they paid Valencia last summer. Inter Milan and Juventus are interested.

Arsenal are not lining up any immediate replacement for Mustafi, despite their interest in Southampton's Virgil van Dijk, and believe they have sufficient centre-back cover in Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal, as well potentially as Sead Kolasinac.

One deal that is close is the sale of Gibbs to Watford. Gibbs has been at Arsenal since 2004 after coming through their academy, although any personal upheaval will be minimised by the location of Watford's training ground next door to Arsenal's.

Perez is also expected to finalise a move away from Arsenal before the closure of the transfer window. The situation in terms of incoming players could change if targets such as Van Dijk or Thomas Lemar became available but Arsenal's feeling is that it would be better to wait until January or next summer in the hope that such deals become feasible rather than commit resources to lesser options now.

Though critics tend to focus on the north London side's defensive frailties, Arsenal have not been the Premier League's top goalscorers since 2004-'05, and history suggests the title is won more often by the team who scores most rather than concedes the least.

One Arsenal player who has endured finishing trouble is Danny Welbeck. He was guilty of spurning opportunities at Stoke, and Wenger wants him to show a ruthless side. "Danny's completely honest," said his manager. "There will be a penalty on him, but he'll never dive. He needs to gain a little bit of viciousness, a more streetwise attitude."

Telegraph.co.uk

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