Mikel Arteta has been told to offload one star this summer by former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson. The Gunners’ Europa League exit last week sees them staring at a financial black hole if they do not play in Europe next season.
Arsenal are eight points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League having played one game less, with fifth-placed Manchester United five points away knowing that position could also offer Champions League football if Manchester City’s two-year UEFA ban is upheld.
The north London outfit, however, face City, Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and Liverpool before the end of the season and therefore face a huge task to secure a spot in the continent’s premier competition for next year.
Having only won eight matches from 27 this term, Arsenal must develop a streak of winning consistency that has evaded them all campaign thus far in order to gatecrash the top four for the first time since 2015-16.
But Arsenal are likely looking to reach the Europa League spots, for which there is also huge competition with Wolves, Tottenham, Sheffield United and Burnley all separating United and the Gunners.
Failing to qualify for either tournament would leave them down in excess of £40million due to the money they would lose out on in gate receipts, prize money and commercial income.
And it would also represent a blow to Arsenal’s summer plans, given it would decrease the funds available to Arteta.
But regardless of what happens between now and May, Merson thinks Arteta should be ruthless in the summer – warning that if he is not, Arsenal risk enduring another difficult campaign next term.
He named experienced centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos as one player the Spaniard should be willing to offload, adding that there are good number Arteta needs to cull from his squad.
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Merson wrote in his column for the Daily Star: “Mikel Arteta gets some players in and out of Arsenal this summer this team is going to finish seventh or eighth next season.
“I’m not surprised Mesut Ozil’s agent says he’s not going anywhere though. Where can he go on that money?
“If he was on £50,000-a-week everybody would be trying to sign him but because he’s on £350,000 everyone hates him.
“Arteta needs to get players out though, and I don’t think he’ll be too upset that Sokratis says he’ll go if he’s not playing enough.
“I like players who are honest like that to be fair to him. It’s better than being prepared to just sit around picking up your money.
“Arsenal need to get their wage bill down and get rid of players who don’t have a future there. So Sokratis is expendable.
“But I hope Arteta gets to bring in a few too because he hasn’t really got his own players there yet.
“He will need a good pre-season and some new signings but I can see progress already even though they went out of the Europa League.”
Arteta made two signings in the January window, signing centre-half Pablo Mari on loan from Flamengo while recruiting right-back Cedric Soares on a temporary deal from Southampton.
Arsenal have the ability to make both deals permanent, with Mari having impressed on his debut in an FA Cup fifth-round win over Portsmouth on Monday night while Cedric has yet to play due to injury.
Signing both permanently would cost £8m with the latter out of contract with the Saints this summer. Arsenal have already spent over £5m to bring the duo in on six-month loans.
Arsenal, meanwhile, return to action tomorrow when they take on relegation-threaten West Ham at the Emirates (3pm). They play their game in hand against reigning champions City on Wednesday (7.30pm).
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