David Ospina, Carl Jenkinson among the fat Arsenal need to trim before end of transfer window
It is only three short years since Arsene Wenger achieved the notable feat of being the only Premier League manager not to sign a single outfield player during the transfer window. If the summer of 2015 seems like an era ago, that's precisely because it was. The new hierarchy in place at Emirates Stadium have been rather more efficient in terms of signing players. Almost too efficient.
If transfer manoeuvres under Wenger sometimes felt undercooked as deals failed to get off the ground, or, at the other extreme, too rushed as the club were pressed into panic purchases right at the end of the window, this summer has presented an alternative problem. Arsenal's recruitment drive has been so clean and easy that for what remains of the window the mission is now to try and reduce the size of the squad.
The transfer window closes early on Thursday evening and Arsenal currently have 29 senior players on their books. It is an unsustainable number -- primarily because Premier League rules restrict you to a squad of 25. Having European football offers some flexibility but Arsenal still have enough players to construct two entirely separate teams and a substitutes' bench with the players currently available to them.
Squad depth is something to be coveted but if the playing staff becomes too bloated it only increases the chances of dissatisfaction seeping into the ranks. It becomes unwieldy and impractical too. As Mark Hughes once said, "If you have more than 25, it is difficult to have a meaningful training session."
Clearly, Arsenal need to cull some of their first-team squad in the next few days -- and thankfully the candidates are glaringly obvious.
The first move in this direction seems to be the decision to offload Calum Chambers on loan to Fulham for the season -- a transfer which is reportedly in advanced stages of negotiation. Rob Holding might have seemed a more likely candidate to loan out but with Sokratis Papastathopoulos joining Shkodran Mustafi and Konstantinos Mavropanos in the centre-back ranks -- with Laurent Koscielny returning at some point in the future -- and Stephan Lichtsteiner coming in to compete with Hector Bellerin at right-back, the chances of Chambers seeing significant game time were minimal.
Lichtsteiner's arrival should also end the pretence that is Carl Jenkinson's Arsenal career. He hasn't played for the club since Nov. 2016 and wasn't even included in the squad which toured Singapore this summer. Jenkinson has some theoretical value as a homegrown player to help meet the full Premier League quota of eight for the coming season -- but that only really becomes active as a factor if you are planning to play the player in question.
Meanwhile, the signing of Bernd Leno has effectively made David Ospina redundant. Petr Cech will compete for the No. 1 role so Arsenal need to ensure the Colombian is packed off before the window closes, with Emi Martinez an adequate third-choice keeper. Besiktas have been linked with Ospina since the end of the World Cup but that talk has gone cold. Ospina has never looked truly convincing in the Arsenal goalkeeper's jersey and it's time to shift him on.
If Ospina and Jenkinson join Chambers in leaving in the coming days then Arsenal are working with a theoretical squad of 26. Smaller, but not small enough, and two obvious candidates for departures present themselves in the attacking ranks.
Joel Campbell made two appearances at the World Cup but it is over two years since he played for Arsenal. A parade of six loan spells have made him a perpetually peripheral figure and there is no space for him in a squad which has plenty of senior attacking options and some exciting young players emerging too. Arsenal will do well to record much of a transfer fee with Campbell's contract expiring in under a year but a permanent exit should be arranged rather than kicking the can along the road via yet another loan.
That would represent a nice round 25 but the same logic which applies to Campbell also applies to the strange figure of Lucas Perez. In a squad which contains Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck -- with Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe pushing for inclusion -- there is simply no room for a player who would only grow frustrated when stuck on the sidelines.
Twenty-four players is the ideal number Jose Mourinho works towards, and if Arsenal can trim their fat accordingly in what remains of the transfer window it will give Emery's squad a leaner and more focused look going into the new season. Far from being in a rush to bring in new faces, for once, Arsenal are now in a race to make fighting weight.