26 May 2013

First, a little spring cleaning...about £29,000,000 worth should do it

Amid all of the of breathless chatter about who we're pursuing and who is available, we're overlooking one other pressing issue: clearing out the clutter of loaned-out players whose contracts still weigh heavily on our books. For the most part, I bear no ill will to these men, who are both victims to and beneficiaries of the current financial system. In its simplest form, they signed contracts that are arguably more generous than their performance before signing would warrant, and they are now too expensive than their performance since signing deserves. As such, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to unload them unless they are willing to accept smaller contracts from smaller clubs, even if they do earn a chance to shine, thereby re-earning a chance at a larger contract (just not from us).

The case study for this problem is, of course Nicklas Bendtner. While he showed flashes of brilliance, he's hardly been worth the money we've paid him. His fall from grace has been so thorough that we can't seem to give him away, much less transfer him, at least not to the kind of club he deems worthy of playing for. His loan to Juventus has not led to much playing time, and it seems that our only option for getting rid of him once and for all depends on him accepting a transfer to a "lesser" club, one that would actually lead to some playing time that he could use to display his no-doubt limitless talents and play his way back to the top. Given his, um, self-esteem and his glaring lack of charisma or awareness of how to operate a car with discretion, he might the most-difficult of our various on-loan dead weight to unload. Fortunately, it should be tolerably easy enough to clear out other players, either due to better character or more-reliable performance.

When you look at who's on-loan, you start to get the impression that we using loans as a way of ignoring disappointments instead of giving young players a chance to develop. While we do have a fair number of young men out on loan, (Miyaichi, Anebe, etc.), just look at how many more-senior players we're paying to play elsewhere, players who are known qualities (for better or for worse). These are grown men who, while still capable players, are probably past the point of making dramatic improvements in ability or attitude. The sooner we can unload them--even at drastic discounts--the better-off we will be.

Using a variety of sources, I've come up with an estimate of each of the above-players' current annual salaries and, using transfermrkt.co.uk, their current market values. What's remarkable is how apparently valuable these players are. In total, we're paying out nearly £30m a year for ten players (including Gervinho) who I'd argue have little to add to the squad next year. If we can clear them out this summer, even if we have to settle for less than we'd like, we'd still do better than keeping them six months. We already face the prospect of simply writing off Arshavin, Fabianski, and Squillaci's contracts and getting nothing for them to the tune of nearly £10m--enough to sign Ashley Williams or perhaps Christian Benteke.

It's a shame when we sign a player and it doesn't work out, for course, but there's no good reason for keeping these players around. The worst that can be said is that they've grown lazily accustomed to the high wages and soft lifestyles we've made available to them, and the prospect of trading down--in lifestyle, prestige, salary, etc.--is an understandably distasteful one to them. Living in London and sitting on the bench at the Emirates is certainly far preferable to living in, say, Kazan and playing at Central Stadium. I wouldn't wish suffering on any of these players (well, maybe Bendtner), but I do believe it's better for Arsenal and arguably better for them to move on. They're not going to play for us any time soon, and if they're serious about being footballers, they'll accept a permanent transfer somewhere, anywhere. We'll then free ourselves up that much more to sign players who can contribute.

The balancing act, of course, is to find players good enough to contribute but not so good that they demand more playing time or look to leave for more playing time elsewhere. However, a quick look at the list of players above suggests that we've achieved neither goal. None of them is good enough to contribute, and few if any are good enough to be wanted elsewhere, at least not urgently. If any club makes any reasonable offer, I say take it. Twist the player's arm until he signs it. Offer to sweeten the deal if necessary. Point out, for example, that he has to take the offer or be let go when his contract runs out. Offer the sad example of Andrei Arshavin, who attracted almost no interest from anywhere and now faces a forced retirement. If a player of his quality, faded though it maybe, can't find a new home, what choice would the likes of Chamakh have?

Long story short, it's in the best interests of players and club to part ways. May the parting bring sweet sorrow to us all.