Arsenal appear keen to free up wage space this summer, will it result in a high quality of arrivals?
Integral to who comes into the Arsenal squad will be determining the playing positions to be reinforced.
There are a number of factors that usually determine team-planning dynamics. First, and the most obvious, is usually identifying positional “weaknesses” in the first team and the necessity to reverse this.
Second is confirmation of availability of funds to secure top quality reinforcement. However, underpinning all of these, despite the traditional self-explanatory need to reinforce, is the question of space availability in the squad.
The benchmark competition is the Premier League. The PL rules permit the registration of 25 players as the playing squad. No more than 17 of those can be outside the Home Grown Player Criteria.
A Home Grown Player is a player who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the English or Welsh FA for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday.
Under 21 players are eligible over and above the limit of 25 players per squad. For the 2012-13 season, Under 21 players will have been born on or after 1st January 1991. Other competitions also provide upper limits of squad numbers.
At last count, taking stock of the playing squad, Arsenal has about 50 players. Removing those younger players 21 and under issued squad numbers but still technically players in the academy, a “full” squad of 25 emerges.
In this squad at the start of the season were Johan Djourou, Sebastian Squiillaci, Andrei Arshavin, Craig Eastmond, Marouane Chamakh and Andre Santos. Add to this number longer term loanees Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Chu Young Park.
Of this number, several did not did not feature in any games in the Premier League. Some may have had a bit part in the cup competitions at the earliest stages but there ended their active season.
In effect, these players are those who made - for a variety of reasons ranging from loss of form, injuries, loans and probably lack of “quality “ - virtually no contribution to first team duties.
By the very depiction of their actual involvement – or lack of it - they are, with the utmost regard for their abilities, surplus to the needs of Arsenal and, therefore, regretfully, superfluous to playing requirements.
If media reports are to be believed, their respective remunerations, averaged out, can be pitched at a conservative £45,000 per week, amounting, collectively, to a whopping £21 Million per annum.
Although the loans cushion this effect, the outlay in wages is still considerable for the return. Whilst many still have unexpired contracts, incisive accounting and number crunching from a combination of non-renewals and cancellations of contracts may see the club lose minimally if some of the contracts are paid up.
This will make positions available and limit future commitments to salaries to some, if not all of these players. This is a careful exercise that requires astute balancing of interests in negotiations between players and club but is a necessary one if this most necessary strategy is to be pursued.
It follows, therefore, that as much as the team requires reinforcement by acquisitions, there must be a correspondingly proactive drive to “release” these players to other, better suited, teams.
Doing this is just as important as acquisitions especially because it also helps to remove that other collateral consequence – present but generally unspoken - of peer dissatisfaction which occurs when some of the players are training and playing games whilst others are not, all being paid.
How many of Arsenal's 'deadwood' can they successfully offload this summer?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald