Keep or Let Go? Arsenal’s Conundrum Players

Time to stick or twist with a lot of players

As we approach the final game of a turbulent season and start thinking about planning for the next campaign, it’s time to run the measure over our squad to decide who is worth keeping and who should be disposed of.

GK: Leno – Some see some improvements, some see a recurring liability. What is your take?

RB: Bellerin – Some see a Gunner for life, some see a shadow of the promise he once had. What is your take?

RB: Soares – Some see a versatile squad player, some see an expendable player. What is your take?

RB/DM/CM/AM: Maitland-Niles – Some see a versatile squad player, some see an expendable player. What is your take?

CB: Mavropanos – One to bring back as part of our rotation at CB, or one to cash in?

DM/CM: Elneny – A squad player, a starter or just another one that needs to be shipped out?

DM/CM: Guendouzi, Torreira – A glimmer of hope to be back with us; or out forever?

CM/AM: Willock – A home-grown who deserves a chance? Or a player with unfulfilled promise at AFC?

RW/FW: Nelson – Another one for the future that deserves a chance? Or should he develop elsewhere?

LW/FW: Willian – To pay or not to pay for this once reliable EPL performer?

CF/ST: Lacazette – The glue to our game? Or an older CF who needs to find playing time somewhere else?

CF/ST: Nketiah – With Balogun extended, is that the end of the road for him at AFC?

Saliba will not be sold but may be loaned out again…

The following 13 players are staying for sure and one could argue a place for El Neny too:

Chambers, Holding, Mari, Gabriel, Tierney

Partey, Xhaka

Saka, Pepe, ESR, Martinelli

Auba, Balogun

So what is your take?



22 Responses to Keep or Let Go? Arsenal’s Conundrum Players

  1. LBG says:

    Bring Leo Messo in for the Brighton game! He’s ready!

  2. RockyLives says:

    Thanks RC – plenty to ponder!

    I’ll take you questions in the order you’ve put them up and add my opinion:

    Leno – Keep (GK is not one of our main problem areas)
    Bellerin – Sell – he seems to have hit a ceiling – an OK player but not better than that.
    Soares – Keep as back-up at RB and LB.
    AMN – Sell
    Mavropanos – Keep
    Elneny – Keep
    Guendouzi – Sell (good player potentially, but will always cause trouble)
    Torreira – Sell (was always too small for the EPL)
    Willock – Tough one. I’d be happy with bringing him home to add to our MF options, but not averse to selling if we can get £30m.
    Laca – Keep
    Nketiah – Seems to have dropped down the pecking order, so sell.
    Saliba – bring back to N5

    And from your list of “staying for sure” I would also add:
    Auba – Sell (great player but we don’t play in a way that suits him).

  3. RC78 says:

    Leno – Sell

    Bellerin – Sell
    Soares – Sell
    AMN – Keep
    Mavro – Sell if we get more than 20 Mln. Otherwise, keep.
    Saliba – Loan out another year but in the EPL.

    El Neny – Keep
    Guendouzi, Torreira – Au revoir and Adios
    Willock – Sell if we get more than 25 Mln. Otherwise, keep.
    Nelson – Loan out (Germany, Netherlands or EPL)
    Willian – Let go.

    Laca – Sell (reluctantly) because I know Arteta will want to cash in on him.
    Nketiah – Sell. We have Balogun.

    As for Ceba and Odegaard, which I did not mention, I am happy to wave them good-bye.

  4. JOEL says:

    Leno : should have been sold last Summer and Martinez kept…as he is a far better gk who commands his bix and has far better distribution…but that horse has already bolted.

    Bellerin : His only attribute has been his pace and following on from injury he longer has that…Should be sold to the highest bidder…If one can actually be found.

    Soares : Seems to have fallen out of favour with Arteta.Is future depends upon Arteta’s continued tenure and whether there are any U-21 candidates to bring into the 1st team squad.

    Kolasinav : Free Transfer..

    Chambers : If Arsenal buy an expensive rb (Godfrey, Lamptey) he should probably be sold despite his versatility…although I actually believe he’s a better defender/ CB than Holding and certainly has better ball playing skills)

    Guendouzi: Has effectively burnt his bridges at the Club and is frankly not as good as he believes.Should be sold to bring in required funds.

    Torreira : Wants to return to S America for personal reasons and therefore needs to be sold ASAP

    Willock : His goal-scoring prowess at Newcastle has covered up his lack of overall quality.Would never be more than an impact substitute for Arsenal and should be sold whilst his value is at its peak..(perhaps with a sell-on clause)

    AMN : Should be converted to rb but this isn’t what he believes is is best position….It undoubtedly should be…and given his poor relationship with Arteta needs to be sold on

    Neketiah : Is way off the quality required and needs to be sold ASAP

    Nelson : Isn’t really good enough and should have been loaned out this last Season.Probably the best option for him now if this can improve his market value…given that he will inevitably need to be sold

    Lacazette: His form this Season has been better than that of Aubamayang…and given that he has now come to the last year of his current contract…a decision needs to be made one way or another…Personally I would be looking to offload one of either of Lacazette or Aubamayang…Unfortunately the latter’s wages make him virtually unsellable.

  5. pbarany says:

    Apologies for not answering your question directly, but I’m personally more interested in the final squad size than the detailed breakdown. I have always advocated the importance of a small squad as the “hard currency” of a team is (are?) the minutes they can provide for their players to shine, nurture and develop. I thought our squad was insanely huge at the beginning of this season, and after loaning 4 and releasing 4 in the winter transfer window we are still a bit large, but no longer catastrophically. The disaster is that after this season’s 58000 competitive minutes without European football there will be only 44-46k next season. That is 20-25% reduction; meaning that we should trim our current squad by 20-25% to keep the average senior minutes at the current level – which I think is still too low (Chambers: 1000, Soares: 1800, Nelson: 450, Nketiah: 1200). Hence my anger towards Arteta, but I don’t plan to reopen the topic.

    Besides the 13 players you recommended to keep and the 14 you asked in the post there are 2 more you might have forgotten (Rúnarsson, Kolasinac), 3 players being on loan with us of whom we might influence – although not control – their stay, and a handful of academy players that either spent this season with the U23 team or on loan, but may not spend the next season with the U23 any more, or could/should be involved in the first team at some capacity – either at the Emirates or elsewhere. Since you have included Balogun in the ‘must keep’ list, I’m thinking primary about Ballard, Azeez, McGuinnes, Cottrell and John-Jules, maybe Sheaf, Coyle, Medley or M. Smith.

    So if we take making loan signings permanent into consideration, then we are talking about 13+14+2+3+5 37 players of which we must reduce to 24-25. And we didn’t talk about new signings yet, so the reduction we should aim is 15. (And Luiz was already checked out.) While I can’t stress enough how important to keep the squad under 25 when next season starts – assuming without games in Europe – the only silver lining is that out of that 15 players we don’t need in the first team next year we can keep 2 with the U23, and send a few of them out on loan again as we must seriously hope that Arsenal will return to Europe in the 22/23 season, when a 27-28 size squad could be justified again.

  6. pbarany says:

    And not to avoid some specifics to your post:

    Mavropanos: contrary to popular misbeliefs, he might be the best RCB in Arsenal ranks. Since he was not a high profile signing and currently plays in a mid-table German team (who kind of became mid-table thanks to Dinos) he seems under the radar, however he beats high profile Bundesliga CBs like Alaba, Upamecano, Akanji, Hernandez and Konaté in EVERY defensive statistics. So for me his a big KEEP, and fight his way for the starting RCB with Holding, Saliba and Ballard (whe should loan out 1 of them though).

    Guendouzi: I don’t really fancy the idea of selling him. He hopefully have matured in this year, he is the captain of France’s U21 team playing for the trophy this summer, and he used to worth 45M, so selling him for 20M at probably the lowest point of (overall) market history doesn’t seem like a good deal to me. Furthermore he plays at the CM/DM position where we need the most urgent reinforcement to Xhaka and Partey, so I would give the kid a second chance.

    Nelson: a few post ago we agreed on Arsenal is/was among the worst clubs when in comes to disposing players. Yet some of the critics are unfair, as in many cases we didn’t have much of a say: Virginia, Malen and Musah didn’t sign new deals as were not given guaranteed first team minutes, Bennacer, Jeff R-A, and Gnabry couldn’t really demostrate their class on the pitch. But if we lose Nelson, everything will be on us. Or rather on the club, as for some fans it was always trivial that Reiss is top quality and after his loan spell in Germany (winning young player of the month 2 times) he should have been given more chance. A couple of years ago he was a considerably better player than Saka, which only changed as Bukayo had a rare chance to get in the ring as a LWB, which took with both hands. But Nelson was the clear prospect of the academy that has the potential to break the 100M barrier. I hope this is still there, and he will do it in Arsenal jersey. But signing Willian was not only a sin in hindsight, but was plain stupid even by the time of the purchase. But many people – including but not limited to Arsenal board members and decision makers – though that a coup against Chelsea was more important than the long term interest of the team and the individuals.

    Willian: while it was a nice gesture to ask the audience, I – contrary to Romano – don’t think we have any chance to sell Willian. Hell, even a free transfer seems utopistic. He makes so much money – which wasn’t properly tied to performance-related indicators – that he won’t be interested to play for less, and other clubs have their own common sense not to play these wages after his recent season, as well as being 1 year older than when Arsenal signed him. Fun fact though: Willian had 3 good games this season. He was either so good or the rest of the team so balanced, that his performances earned him 3 MotM rewards from WhoScored; making him our #1 in the ranks from that aspect – tied with Lacazette and Pepe. However if we take a look at his average PL ratings Willian is only the third from the bottom among those who played at least 1500 minutes this season, with only Leno and Elneny behind him.

  7. RockyLives says:


    Got to agree with you about Willian – he’ll be a hard one to offload.
    He was MOTM in our opening game against Fulham last season but I can’t think of any other games where he was even close to being MOTM so I’m not sure how WhoScored make their assessments.

    Your comments on Nelson are interesting. From what I have seen he has shown glimpses of looking like a quality player but has never been given any kind of consistent chance, so he also has appearances were he seems not to get in the game.

  8. RC78 says:

    pbarany – thanks your comments!

    I also agree that it will be hard to offload Willian but I m thinking that Edu may persuade him to end the contract and help him find a new club for free…

    As for Nelson, I think he should go on loan again. The kid has clear potential but he needs playing time.

    Concerning Guendouzi, he is a talented and brave player. He is not a great prospect anymore though. He has not matured so much in Germany. He will be very well appreciated in Marseille and I think we should sell him there. Marseille want him alongside Vidal so let them have it. They will pay 20 Mln. Now, if we can get Milik from Marseille, it is a win-win 😛

    Concerning Mavropanos, he is having a good season in Germany and his statistics are also good but inflated because the way Stuttgart plays too compared to other players. That said, I am happy to keep him UNLESS we get an offer worth 25-30 Mln because we will not get much more for him and we may need that cash to strengthen other positions too…

    Arteta is making it sound like he wants to keep Willock but Bruce will test Arsenal’s resolve. I d be happy to sell him with a buy-back clause.

    You are totally right with the size of the squad – 25 is the magic number for me:

    – 3 GK
    – 8 defenders –
    – 5 DM/CM –
    – 2 AM –
    – 4 FW/Wingers –
    – 3 ST – ,

  9. RC78 says:

    Joel – thanks for your comments and inputs too! A bit harsh on Willock, no?

  10. LBG says:

    We have seen good things briefly in the Premier League. He was then never given a proper chance. Seems unfair to then underrate him due to the style of his current German team. He deserves to have a chance to prove Greek defenders can be “cultured” and efficient. I even believe he could turn out to be a better option than Gabriel.
    Sell or get rid of those we KNOW will not improve themselves or the team either because their skill level, attitude or professionalism, personal drive, is deficient. Start again, train for a system, pick ( and keep) only those that fit that system in mind and ability.

  11. RC78 says:

    LBG – I am happy to keep Mavro but imagine if we are struggling for cash to fund players identified by Arteta and Edu…I am afraid both him and Willock could be sold.

  12. pbarany says:

    I’m less optimistic about Edu’s persuasion skills, RC78, but I hope time will prove you right. Rocky, Willian was named MotM against Fulham, Leicester (, and a few days ago against WBA. He made the most key passes though.

    Regarding Nelson, it’s hard to assess consistency. I personally don’t think there was any problem, but I can be wrong, even biased. Nevertheless he was rated above 7.0 all but 1 the games he played at least 50 minutes (to save us considering the 8-20 minute cameos). Unfortunately we are talking about 5 games altogether in this season – 3 EL, 1 FA Cup and 1 Carabao – and he only game he got below 7 was his shortest 56 minutes against Newcastle. Yet, he didn’t play a single minute in the knockout stage of the EL, or ever since the 9th of January. I know, WhoScored is not the infallible source of performance, and biased towards goal contribution, so shouldn’t be applied to compare an attacking and a defensive player, but that’s all we have now. However we can compare it to another winger – for example Saka, who would likely receive the most votes for our player of the season. So Saka made a single goal contribution in his last 7 games, and received a WS rating about 7 only once (against WBA). I’m not saying that makes Reiss a better player than Saka, I would only go as far as implying
    – he is quite good
    – consistency was not really an issue, rather the surplus on the RW position
    – Arteta rotates much less than Wenger and Emery, and him sticking to Saka and ESR seems kind of a double standard and kind of cost us the EL semi 2nd leg (don’t get me wrong, I love Bukayo and Emile, I just don’t like Mikel’s team selection methods)
    – Nelson has almost Pepe-esque footwork and dribbling skills. He should be competing with Saka, Martinelli and Pepe for the starting places on the wings, without Willian and ESR
    Here is a clip on Reiss’ touch from Arsenal:

  13. fred1266 says:

    any AA going to the final game on Sunday

  14. RC78 says:

    pbarany – I think that Nelsson is indeed a great prospect. For me, we must not sell him but I also believe that another loan would do him good. He has the pace, he has the skills – he now needs to build his EPL resilience and experience and that requires game time. Even if he is kept as a 4-man rotation on the wings, he won’t get enough playing time and that is hoping that Willian leaves and Auba plays centrally…

    FW/Wingers: Saka, Pepe, Martinelli, RN

    There is one player that I rate playing in Germany who is a great crosser of the ball and has a fantastic engine…It is Filip Kostic from Frankfurt. He plays LWB but can be played further up the pitch too. I think he would meet Arteta’s requirements.

  15. RC78 says:

    I think Arteta and Edu will go in for 5 players this summer
    – 1 RB
    – 1 experienced CB
    – 1 back-up LB
    – 1 DM/CM
    – 1 FW/ST

    They will try to get some players on the cheap and I am sure they will invest in EPL ready players as well…so let us see what comes our way and what goes away

  16. pbarany says:

    RC78, we are in full agreement on Nelson needing a loan. I hope it will turn out that way.

    Me personally would prefer if we sign only a single player this summer, but I’m aware I belong to the minority here. I believe in the current squad, and I think we would be competitive with a CM/DM reinforcement (could be Bissouma, Berge, Aouar, Zakaria, or anybody else). There is a good chance though that we might also sign an attacking midfielder (there are always rumors about Coutinho, Calhanoglu, Odegaard, Buendia, Nkunku, Kokcu), which would put pressure on ESR, indirectly on the wingers too, and especially on Willock, as it wouldn’t make any sense for him to stay if not rotating at AM. While might be more of a box-to-box midfielder than a classic #10, Arsenals current 4-2-3-1 wouldn’t let Joe playing in the midfield tandem (which is a good thing, as he is weak in tackling and a mediocre passer), so if there would be any place for him in this formation, it is the – backup – attacking midfielder.

    Without midweek games I don’t think we need backups for both RB and LB. I think Tierney and one of Bellerin or Chambers would cover the first team roles, and Cedric Soares would be a great stand-in for both full-backs. And let’s not mention that Saka is capable to play LWB, Xhaka did good at LB too, so I’m against either spending cash or a free transfer there (with a hefty sign-on bonus and huge salary). And we did not sell Kolasinac yet, so literally there is not even a shortage there.

    I know (and accept) that it should be filed under “who gives a shit?”, but I would be really pissed as well as disappointed in the entire management if Arsenals buys an experienced CB in the summer. Even without Luiz we have a long list of capable players there: Mari, Gabriel, Holding, Chambers, Mavropanos, Saliba, Ballard, McGuinness. Let’s not make the Willian mistake again. And we are short on funds: we have covid-related debts, there is no EL-money next season, so instead of 4-5 15M signing I would go for 1 (max 2) 40-50M to prioritize quality over quantity.

    We should only sign a striker if we sold/loan 2 or maybe more. Auba likely has a good year in him – and he is not playing as LW recently – so currently Lacazette (our most in-form player) is struggling for minutes, Nketiah became a spectator, and Balogun is probably close to regret his contract renewal. Odsonne Edouard played more than 3000 minutes this season, I don’t see him coming for 1500 – or anybody else for the matter. While there are better players than Lacazette, not many of them are both affordable and interested in joining a mid-table PL team. So I don’t expect new player to come, and we still have to either loan Eddie or sell Lacazette, as 3 would still be plenty at FW/ST.

  17. RC78 says:

    pbarany – I agree with you mostly except that I think we need to at least add 3 players to our squad and that we still need to clear some players out…

    I am also convinced that Arteta will want an experienced CB. He may look for a cheaper option but he will get one. I have a feeling. Why not Cahill for example?

    Auba will stay, which means that Laca will most likely go and I think Nketiah will also be allowed to leave (Newcastle?)…let us see

  18. pbarany says:

    It’s a matter of perception, but I see no added value in Cahill. None at all. He is a year and a half older than Luiz, doesn’t possess the (unique) leadership qualities of the Brazilian, made more clearances but less interceptions. Even if Gary has a good year in him (which I doubt as he played only 1700 minutes this season compared to Luiz’s 2000 despite the latters many injuries) I don’t see a single advantage over David. They play about the same level (WhoScored gives a 6.60 average to Cahill and a 6.54 to Luiz, while FootballCritic gave 6.5 overall [only 6.3 in the PL] to David, while 6.2 to Gary, and rates the Brazilian’s current footballing skills 8 points higher than of Cahills).

    So in my opinion Cahill would only suck minutes away from Saliba, and Mavro, but that would apply to practically anybody. Gary is old, Fernandez, Dawson and Clark are not good with their feet, Ben Mee and Lowton are way too short, Evans is a card-prone fault-machine (but a decent player), Ogbonna doesn’t seem Arsenal quality. If I would be forced to pick a 30+ CB (with a gun to my head), I would probably go for Romain Saïss or Williy Boly, but it is a bit cheating as they are only 30-31, and both would further increase our exposure to the ACN…

    Disagreeing with Arteta, I think we have the quality and quantity at CB. While there are still some errors in our play (thus area to further improve) there was a big development compared to the last seasons, which made Arsenal the third lowest conceding club behind Man City and Chelsea. An “award” we will likely keep even after the last round, as even Liverpool has conceded 3 more. (In fact this is the only quantitative improvement of the Arteta era, but a major one nonetheless.) The focus next year should be on the defensive leadership qualities as Luiz had undisputed qualities there, but otherwise we are good. A new signing would only hinder the development of this promising bunch.

  19. RC78 says:

    Let us see what the future holds, indeed…

    Holding, Mavro, Gabri, Mari is not too bad knowing that Chambers, Tierney can play there too and that we could still keep Saliba…

    If we were to buy a CB, my preference may go to Romero from Atalanta, Koulibaly from Napoli and Fofana from Leicester but it is not looking likely at all

  20. Maxwell says:

    RC. Thanks for a good read, and opening for a contentious discussion. One point of disagreement – I cannot see why you have such a negative opinion of Calum Chambers. For me, his negative is a lack of pace, but in every other way, I think he’s a really good player. He is strong, good in the air, solid in the tackle, his ball control is sound, his passing is safe, and he’s an excellent crosser of the ball. I’d like to understand why you don’t rate him.

  21. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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