Mikel Arteta must sell before he can buy this summer as he tries to rebuild his Arsenal squad.
That explains Arteta’s very pointed post-match comments after beating Liverpool about not having money to spend this summer and saying the uncertainty was a “big concern.”
It comes on the back of the club facing the prospect of missing out on a Champions League place for a fourth year running and if they miss out on the Europa League that would cost them £30m in lost revenue.
Arsenal are therefore facing up to the prospect of Arteta having to generate any cash to spend with sales, he will be able to put any savings into new contracts but no fresh money is expected to be available.
Gunners boss Arteta knew he was signing up to a big rebuilding job when he took over last December but the club’s financial position has been made even worse by the coronavirus crisis on top of an early exit from the Europa League.
They are the only Premier League to ask their players to take an actual pay cut and that highlights just how hard they have been hit financially, especially as the 60,000 seater Emirates is huge in terms of gate revenue with games now behind closed doors.
Arsenal want to sell Matteo Guendouzi after he fell out of favour but Mesut Ozil is on £350,000-a-week and will simply not leave with a year left even after being given the cold shoulder since the restart. Ozil is now at least training again and could be in the squad on Saturday.
They face a major dilemma on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has a year left on his contract, talks are ongoing and he is 31, wants a big new deal and they cannot face another ticking time bomb as they had with Ozil which made them a hostage to fortune.
Arteta warned on Wednesday night that the Liverpool victory proved very little because the gap between the two squads was “enormous” and he regards it as a huge rebuilding job which will take time to turn the club’s fortunes around.
Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke and his son Josh are passionately supportive of Arteta and can see the inroads he is making.
The Kroenkes put their tried and trusted lawyer Tim Lewis, of Clifford Chance, who has advised them for many years even back to the purchase of their ITV shares in Arsenal and his background is M&A (merger and acquisition) to ensure his clients get best value for any investment. Those auditing skills will be valuable on contract renewals and future deals.
It is clear they want to keep close tabs on spending and as to why there has been so much outlay in the past 12 months, the Kroenkes twice effectively underwriting the club’s expenditure. First, so they could spend big to buy Nicolas Pepe last summer and then during the pandemic.
The Pepe deal cannot be seen as a success to date as he cost a record £72m from Lille when they really pushed the boat out to try and make a serious attempt to get back into the Champions League but have fallen well short.
It has put the recruitment under the spotlight, the use of super agents has come under scrutiny after recent deals for Cedric Soares and a new contract for David Luiz while Kia Joorabchian is keen on taking Willian and Philippe Coutinho to the Emirates. Willian could be a free agent this summer while Coutinho could be available on loan.
Arsenal’s head of football Raul Sanllehi was also brought in because of his contacts book and connections established while at Barcelona as one of football’s big operators and politicians.
Sanllehi won a power battle with former scouting boss Sven Mislintat – who clinched deals for Bernd Leno and Aubameyang – which saw the Spaniard become Arsenal’s transfer kingpin.
However, Sanllehi put his own reputation on the line for Pepe because ex-boss Unai Emery wanted Wilfried Zaha and yet Arsenal brokered a huge deal with Lille – where ex-Barca executive Marc Ingla is chief executive – on instalments.
Arsenal must now hope that Arteta can reinvigorate Pepe and get the best out of a player whose talent is obvious but has only been seen in flashes.
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