It’s not who we can afford to buy, it’s who we can fit in

By Tony Attwood

I’m not sure that Arsenal actually needed any additional publicity among the football playing fraternity in order to ensure that the players the club wants, want to come to the club, but if they did, then achieving the FA Cup records they have just gathered ought to do it.

Everyone must know it is the second successive final, and anyone who bothers to look behind the wild extravagances of the campaign that suggested that Liverpool and Gerrard had some sort of divine right to be in the Cup Final, will also know that the forthcoming cup final gives Arsenal all sorts of new records such as

Highest number of finals for any club – 19, with the highest number of victories at 12 should we win

Highest number of finals for any manager: 7

Possible sixth cup victory for Wenger – equalling the record of George Ramsay between 1887 and 1920 – with Aston Villa, who of course we play.

Here’s the manager’s record in the finals thus far

2013-2014 Arsenal 3 Hull City 2, aet
2004-2005 Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0, aet, Arsenal won on penalties
2002-2003 Arsenal 1 Southampton 0
2001-2002 Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0
2000-2001 Liverpool 2 Arsenal 1
1997-1998 Arsenal 2 Newcastle United 0

But of course success one year is never enough – it has to go on and on which is why those fixated on transfer rumours are full of all the players we are about to buy.

But one should be a little cautious over such matters, for it was only this past January when numerous blogs and papers were suggesting who Barcelona would buy – forgetting that they couldn’t buy anyone having been a trifle wayward with the children.  There have also already been one or two over excited slip ups concerning this transfer window – they are still banned of course – but it is best to let that pass and contemplate something a little closer to home.

For the fact is that we still have the “25 player rule” in force, and if we buy even 1% of the players with whom we are now linked we are not going to be able to register them all – unless we sell.

By my reckoning if we keep all the players we have now at the club we will have no difficulty with the home grown rule, but we will only have one place available for a new player – and that is assuming that Sanogo, Jenkinson, Podolski and Campbell don’t return to the fold.  If they do we are full to bursting, and it is the sales that will make room for the new players.

Part of the problem for me is that I always get confused over the 21 year old rule, so I may have got some of these wrong, but I think the squad of over 21 year olds for next season (as it stands at this moment) is that listed below, with the home growns indicated with an asterisk.

  1. Arteta Amatriain, Mikel
  2. Cazorla, Santiago
  3. *Coquelin, Francis
  4. Debuchy, Mathieu
  5. Diaby, Vassiriki Abou
  6. Flamini, Mathieu
  7. *Gibbs, Kieran James Ricardo
  8. Giroud, Olivier
  9. Koscielny, Laurent
  10. *Martinez, Damian Emiliano
  11. Mertesacker, Per
  12. Monreal, Ignacio
  13. Ospina, David
  14. Ozil, Mesut
  15. Paulista, Gabriel
  16. *Ramsey, Aaron James
  17. Rosicky, Tomas
  18. Sanchez, Alexis
  19. *Szczesny, Wojciech Tomasz
  20. *Walcott, Theo James
  21. *Welbeck, Daniel
  22. *Wilshere, Jack Andrew
  23. Alves Da Silva, Wellington – (now 22)
  24. *Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexander Mark David – (now 21)

Now I have added in Oxlade-Chamberlain as I believe he no longer will be an under 21, and Wellington, who is being talked up as finally coming to Arsenal.  But, I am not at all sure about Wellington’s ability to get a visa, so that is still questionable.

Anyway, taking the list above that gives us one place spare.  Of these players, I guess the two most likely to leave are Flamini and Diaby – although I think it is also possible that if Diaby can train solidly through the summer and do the pre-season, he might just be given a low-salary contract with significant bonuses for each game.

Without Wellington, Flamini, Diaby, Jenkinson, Podolski and Campbell, we have 21 players – which means lots of space for new entrants.  Keep any of them, and the number starts to rise up to the limit of 25.  We can’t keep all of them and our loanees.

Under-21 players

Of course part of my calculation does depend on the age of the under 21s we have in the current squad.   If any of these will qualify as over 21 then they take up some spaces too.  I think there are ten youngsters currently at the club who could get time on the pitch, from the obvious Bellerin and Chambers, to players who are still very much in the academy teams.  I have put in some birthday details where they seem relevant to me (remembering the player doesn’t suddenly drop out of the squad upon hitting 21, it is how old he is as of January 1).

So I reckon that these players will qualify as under 21s for the whole season.

  1. Akpom, Chuba – 19
  2. Bellerin, Hector – 20, 21 in March 2016
  3. Chambers, Calum – 20, 21 in Jan 2016
  4. Crowley, Daniel
  5. Gnabry, Serge David -19
  6. Hayden, Isaac Scot – 20,  21 in March 2016
  7. Maitland-Niles, Ainsley
  8. Ormonde-Ottewill, Brandon
  9. Toral, Jon-Miquel  20, 21 in February 2016
  10. Zelalem, Gedion

If I have got any of these ages wrong, and the player does move into the first team squad, that takes up another place – and I am sure I shall be told most clearly by correspondents with more knowledge than I.

But in short, when we look at all the players registered to Arsenal at the moment we have to get rid of some of our players.

There is also the issue of the goalkeeper, with a fair amount of talk about our pal Szczesny being past it.  Personally if he does go I think that Oooospina is the obvious first choice, and Martinez the back up, which means that we would promote one of the youngsters to third in line to the sticks.  With such a scenario that would make another place available.

And don’t forget, everyone brought in at a top price wants an assurance that he will get regular games.

I don’t know what the latest aaa ranting is on all our useless players, but the reality is that although our injury level is low at the moment it could rise again – one only has to remember last autumn.   Most certainly the kickers and the cloggers will be out to cripple us once again, and although the focus on referees is much stronger now, no one should believe that next season will be a paradise of fair play.

We need a squad, and we need back ups, but we have to remember that the very, very top players want to play each game.

Fortunately, another cup final and a record breaking manager gives us a certain credibility.

From the anniversary files…

20 April 1966: Sunderland 0 Arsenal 2; one of only two wins for Billy Wright in his last 16 games in charge.  During that run Arsenal scored just 12 goals.

20 April 2014: In a match delayed by advertising hoardings blowing across the pitch, Ramsey and Özil returned after long lay-offs as Arsenal easily beat Hull away, proving if it needed proving, how important these two players were. Ramsey scored and Podolski got two.


32 Replies to “It’s not who we can afford to buy, it’s who we can fit in”

  1. Thanks Tony for an insightful write-up of our squad status…makes you wonder what these media outlets are actually smoking when they link us to every available (and not) player on the planet!!!

    One other player I am keen to see with the shirt on and on the field – is a certain youngster namely Krystian Bielik 😉

  2. Personally I think its far from certain that Walcott will be an Arsenal player next season. So I’d expect us to lose Theo, Flamini,Szczesny and Diaby from that squad. I can’t see any of the four loanees returning either. I’d buy a keeper and don’t believe we have to guarantee games. Ospinna, Bellerin, and Coquelin are all evidence that opportunities arise and you will get games.

  3. I really hope that we dont get rid of Sanogo. I know his goal-scoring has been up to scratch as of yet, but when he has played you can get a good idea of what hes about and i think he has the potential to become a great player.

  4. Some back-up for Coquelin would be great as well. Cant see Flamini staying and would be perhaps unwise to rely on Diaby and Arteta with their injury record. Maybe Bielik? Very excited about him too, but will probably be too soon to come into the first team unless hes got something really special! And a cherry on top of the pie would be Reus, but thats being a bit greedy haha. Finally Szczensy to go and Martinez promoted to 2nd choice. Looked very very impressive those few games he played for the first-team and would hate for him to leave in search for more games.

  5. @Jammy J,
    I’m firmly with you about Sanogo.
    Before Arsene wisely sent him out on loan, he showed potential every time he played in an Arsenal shirt.
    Raw, gangly, big, quick and enthusiastic.
    One for the future for sure.

  6. My thoughts exactly Nicky! I cant really see Wenger getting rid of him to be honest, but its going to be extremely hard to get a game with the likes of Akpom coming through. Depending on who Wenger sees the brighter future in, im guessing 1 of the 2 will be put out on loan (preferably to a premier league club). Sanogo has the characteristics of becoming a great player, just needs a bit more refinement and im certain we will see another masterstroke by Wenger!

  7. Blacksheep63

    I really hope you are wrong about Theo.

    Before his injury I always had Theo as my ‘first on the team sheet’. That dubious honour, as I wrote some weeks ago, now weighs heavily on Giroud 🙂

    Back to Theo, and there’s a couple of questions to answer.

    1)Does he want to stay, and who would want him?


    I don’t think Theo would consider Chelsea, but even if he did, there is no way Jose would consider Theo. So that’s out.


    Possibly, but we are as good, if not better than them anyway. Honestly, now, are City a better option than Arsenal? I think they would be in for him though, if available.

    MAN UTD.

    Possible again. Despite there decline, they are still MANCHESTER UNITED. They are a pull for most players. I would like to think we are better placed than they are, but to me, they will be the biggest draw for Theo if he does want to leave, and what’s more I think they would definitely be in for him.


    Why? Come on, WHY? I just cannot see a single reason why Theo would consider them at all. They may want him. He wont go there.

    Theo would not consider anyone else in the PL.

    2) Does Wenger want him to stay?

    Well, if we believe what Wenger has said, he definitely wants him to stay. I guess it depends how much he wants him to stay, as well as how much Theo WANTS to stay. Lets be honest here, it’s not ALL about the money, but that is a big aspect.

    If both parties are of the same mind. IE Theo really wants to stay, and Wenger really wants him to stay, they WILL find a solution.

    If one is not as sure as the other than you may have a problem. That is when you can be tempted by other Clubs Overtures.

    If Theo is in 2 minds, then an incredible wage offer may be enough to tempt him.

    If Wenger is in 2 minds, then an incredible bid may be enough to tempt him.

    Personally I hope and believe the will is there from both sides so I think a deal will be reached.

    If it is not, I have a feeling Manchester United would be his destination.

    But as I say, I am confident we will be seeing Theo in an Arsenal shirt next season.

    NB I didn’t even mention going abroad because I don’t think that’s even on the agenda.

  8. @jammy j

    dont see why we should let Szczensy, still an immense talent that can grow. I dont see how is at fault in the reading goal, he covered the right area, had gibbs not had an unlucky touch on the ball, pretty sure he would have saved it. The only reason that he isnt starting, is just simply ospina didnt allow him to~


  9. Tony,
    I’m sure that Wellington now has a Spanish passport so there won’t be any work permit issues with him coming to England, the question is more is he good enough to warrant a place? Pre-season will give Arsene a much better idea of the answer to that question.
    Bielik will be 18 and if good enough will be eligible as part of the U21 quota.

  10. If at all possible I’d love to see the squad stay intact, with just one addition for that spare place wherever the manager deems cover is required. Sure we can all see the team has gelled (took a while due to all those disruptions through injury to key players) and given there are not many major international tournaments going on this summer, they all should be able to take off from this form next season. There’ll be no bedding periods required for anyone, just up and away 🙂

  11. @blackfoox – its not that i dont think Szczensy is a talent, but i just feel we have better keepers in Ospina and Martinez and with Szczensy still there it may hamper Martinez’ development who i think has much greater potential. I know he only played a few first-team games, but i got the impression that even now he is a better keeper than Szczensy (not to take anything away from Szczensy, i was just extremely impressed with Martinez)

  12. I hope Theo stays, but it does not look that way a.t.m.

    Chezzy will get back to his best and improve, but i suspect he has mental or personal problems right now. The buy of Ospina was a surprise to me, but AW probably saw what was coming to Chezzy and was not going to make the mistake of not having an experienced GK.

    I do think that Arsenal will pursue players and if successful some (at least 2)players will leave, even if only on loan. I do not know which players, but for sure we will buy at least 1 youth for the academy if not 2.

    All hands on deck of the next match. Is a must win, not only to brake(slow down) Chel$ but to prove Arsenal and AW are the better team and manager. Would i LOVE it if AW can out-tactic Mou on Sun.

    A little rest for the players and then training to massacre Chel$.
    Come on Arsenal the TEAM.

  13. Concerning out-tactic, would be even more pleased if the lads managed it comfortably, but we know Chel$ will try to mind-game us nd will be fired up.

    Look out for the comments to come in the media this week from Mou concerning Arsenal. He already knows that the rivalry next season will be Arsenal – Chel$, (as he already said, he has Manu in his pocket a.t.m.) cos Arsenal are now a new breed and a definite threat.

  14. I’m sure some of the old heads will stay for next season. Personally, I believe all the current Arsenal players are important, just that not equally important. Arteta, Flamini and Rocisky provides what none of the other players provide, experience and leadership. Diaby, Walcott, Sanogo and Sces are still outstanding talents. Maybe Podolski is going back home to his beloved, Koln FC. The most important aspect of all is the pre-season preparation of the squad next season because as it stands, Arsenal don’t have to qualify through playoffs as 2nd place in EPL. That’s vital. Sanchez, Ozil, Welbeck, Coquelin, Gabriel, Bellerin, Ospina and Koscielny should be unstoppable next season if everything goes well in pre-season. I’m sure a number of youth players will break in and provide more competition like Coquelin and Bellerin had this season. A bird in hand is always worth more than the two in the bushes. Let’s not dream too much and let AW to do his job successfully, as always. Only Arsene knows how to improve his squad.

  15. Jambug

    The lovely Melanie could have some input here.
    Did she continue her physio’s career after Finlay’s birth?
    Would she want to move North? Would anyone?
    I don’t think Theo has as strong a bargaining position as last time, but really hope he stays for so many reasons.

  16. @Tony

    I will be surprised if Flamini and Diaby dont move on. I’m not sure Walcott will stay either.

  17. Chez is a fantastic keeper that needs some serious coaching. He should be loaned to a Spanish club to get some confidence & experience against technical players. I feel he does not position himself safely – he takes too much for granted because he is tall & flexible.

    Arsenal need one player – a nasty tough midfielder who can cope with physical abuse that PGMO allow. He can play alongside Robocop or on his own. I’m sure Wenger will find someone to do that job.

    The most important thing that has to be done in English football is a change in the FA who are destroying the game by using PGMO!! England will never get success if players expect officiating PGMO style in international matches.

  18. Re Melanie.

    Exactly what Mrs Jambug says.

    Why would any women NOT want to live in London?

    One word….SHOPPING.

    If Theo knows what’s good for him he’ll stay precisely where he is. 🙂

  19. I like the idea of loaning Szczesny out to Spain (Brazil, Argentina, …) for a year, closer being better than farther away.

    I think shopping is better around good transportation, not necessarily large populations. Come visit Edmonton, Alberta some time. Better shopping than the centre of the universe, 1/3 the people.

  20. Instead of a nasty midfielder, I would rather see someone with a hard shot that is accurate. If the PGMO representative pretending to be a referee is having a bad day, and a situation arises where the referee is close to downrange of where the ball is, bounce an 80 mph shot off the side of his head.
    We don’t need to play illegally because the officials encourage others to play illegally, we need the officials to do their job. This would just be sending a “wake up”.

  21. Alex Scott has an article at about their game yesterday. No mention of the headbutt by ManCity. But this is the second off the ball incident this season (3 games old) for ManCity, the other being the goaltender(?) throwing punches. Predictably, ManCity is sending out, “She is not that kind of girl” messages.

    The U21 is in action against Middlesborough tonight 7pm. No article on about this. Under this fixture, is a note about “closed doors”, but it is ambiguous as to which game it applies to. Does someone know about this closed doors business?

    Middlesbrough are 2 points clear at the top, Arsenal are 10 behind, with 2 games in hand.

  22. I think Chez just needs to focus more on football and less on other cheeky stuff. He is a very likeable Gooner and Gunner but he should take a few advices from Jens Lehmann. Jens was known as Mad Jens but he was also a guy who was winning big games for his teams, especially on penalties. Why? Because he had kept data about every player from Bundesliga on his computer, for example. We are talking about nineties and beginning of the century before Opta, Squawka and Whoscored. Chez has talent, frame…everything. But if he doesn’t start nurturing his own talent, our Buffon v2.0 Martinez will squeaze him out of starting eleven for good.

    @jambug – Theo grew up as a Liverpool fan. Who knows. Manchester City need him the most as they don’t have width in their game and home-grown quota is their enemy. United? If he is a real Liverpool fan, I don’t see him there.

  23. The only changes we need for a serious run at the title are cover for Coquelin and Peta Cech.

  24. Oh oh, our u21 team are set for another defeat tonight. Am I going to attempt to blame it on referees? You f***ing bet I am!

    Our keeper was sent off 14 minutes in. It may have been completely within the letter of the law and it may have been after a foolish challenge by the keeper, but all I know is that there is generally some mercy shown by refs in youth football, but they make a big exception for us.

    Last year in a derby against Tottenham our captain for the night, Hayden, was sent off a quarter of an hour in for pulling back someone who had passed him. If I remember right it would have been a good shooting chance, but one with enough room for a ref to show a little clemency. But no, rules is rules decreed the ref, time of game and level of game doesn’t matter, off he went.

    A few weeks later in a big game against Chelsea, Maitland Niles got to a through ball on the edge of the box in front of goal, well past the nearest defender, and was wiped out by the keeper. As clear a goal-scoring chance as you can get, given keeper was out of it and Niles’ touch was good. And the ref says…yellow. A quick check revealed it was the same ref who sent off Hayden a few weeks before.

    Tonight’s game was a big one, a win was almost certainly needed for a chance of promotion. In a curious act of symmetry, the team probably needed to win that close game against Chelsea last year, when the ref was so generous to the Chelsea player, to avoid the fate of their eventual relegation.
    If it is the case that even refs in youth football are displaying a bias against us (some of the many pens our u18’s have conceded lately have been ridiculously weak), whoa, it suggests it has now permeated very deep into the psyche of the referee community here.

    Oh well, at least it is good preparation for what the young players will have to face if they make it to the first team

  25. Getting a bit worried about some of our academy results lately…..seems we have the talent, but are not getting the results? Not great for a club that has a real history of developing youngsters…..or am I missing some sort of trick here?

  26. Many Dodd,

    Only thing I can make out for sure of youth policy is that they are very serious about putting development first. The better 16 year olds are quickly pushed up to u18 and if they do ok they tend to stay there. This is bound to make things more difficult, in terms of winning games,for both age groups. On the whole I support it- the reality is pretty stark in terms of how good you need to be to play first team football for Arsenal, so chances are someone who will end up being good enough should be able to live with u21 football from an early age.

    In a similar vein, they won’t tend to delay things too long if they’ve decided it’s not going to happen for a player, so they’ll loan them out at 18 or 19 ,or release them at any age, instead of keeping them as someone who might be handy in getting results in youth football. Then there are the over-18 players they do think could make it, and these are also quite likely to go out on loan.

    Overall, it is surely a good idea to approach things this way, but I can’t deny there’s something unpleasant about hearing of so many defeats for any age group. As fans I think we should try keep in mind the ultimate goals- trying to deliver players who can play for the first team, and trying to do right by the rest of them so each has a chance to make the best of their ability.

    Like everything, I suppose it comes down to trust. If you have trust in the people who run the club, it becomes a bit easier to keep faith, look past the results, and always give benefit of the doubt. On Saturday for instance the u18s, who’ve had a hard old season and who have almost never selected anything like the strongest team available, effectively chose to pick a weaker team, because the youngest yet, than at any point so far. They got slaughtered.

    It’s hard to see what the thinking was in making life quite that difficult for them, but I’m trying my best to believe it’s all part of a cunning plan. If it is, I guess it’s based on something only professionals can see and understand, as from the outside it feels as though too many defeats, especially heavy ones, will do a lot more harm than good.

    In my latter years of playing, for all that I’d come to believe it should be possible to get something out of even the worst games, the reality was that when the team went past a certain point of struggling, it was nearly impossible to get any enjoyment from the game. If you’re getting crushed, you end up wanting the game to finish. Oh well, hopefully it’s not possible for things to get quite as bad for any Arsenal team as they regularly did for my rubbish lot, but 6-0 at Newcastle sounds like it’s in that territory.

  27. Josif

    Indeed he did.

    And that may well be a stumbling block for him, but it didn’t stop ‘Scouser’ Rooney did it?

    You never know, he may end up hearing the same “Little Boy Within” Judus heard !!

  28. I think we should list all the players officially contracted to the Arsenal up to 30-June-2015. In such a case, we have 29 players; the 24 Tony has listed, and 5 more loaned out this season. So that’s at least 4 senior players that must be loaned out or sold or released. And then the same number as the number of players we want to buy next season who’s over 21!

    In the Premier League, there’s no limit in the number of Under-21 players you can register (those born on and after 1-January-1995 for next season).And we tend to name all the players we have in the Reserves and the Academy! However, we have to take note the rules governing players registered for the Champions League (which is a taken every season nowadays!). It seems that players like Chambers and Bielik may have to be registered in the 25 man squad if we want them to play in this CL although they are still U-21. And that includes any new players we buy that has to go into this same squad (why buy and not play them in Europe?)

    Therefore, even before we buy any player for the new season, room must be made for the 25 player CL squad and I see at least 6-7 players may leave the Arsenal for one reason or another next season.

  29. Thanks Rich, some really interesting points, guess sometimes we nerd to look past just the results

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