Unai Emery will sanction an Arsenal clearout this summer — with defender Shkodran Mustafi among the players for sale.
But the manager, who has impressed the Gunners hierarchy during his first season, has been told he can reinvest a significant amount of any money raised from player sales.
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Emery is therefore ready to offload a number of his players so he can bolster his kitty. Despite the progress made in his first campaign — Arsenal already have three more points than last seasons final tally under Arsene Wenger — Emery still believes his squad need major improvements.
Among those whose futures are in doubt is Mustafi, whose latest horror show in Sundays 3-2 loss to Crystal Palace reinforced the belief at the club that they should listen to offers for the German.
The West Midlands side have impressed since being promoted to the top flight at the end of last season, with Premier League wins over Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United, and an FA Cup run that saw them reach the semi-finals after knocking out Liverpool and Ole Gunnar Solskjaers Red Devils.
Arsenal have been open to selling Mustafi, who joined from Valencia in 2016 for £35m, for the last two summers but have struggled to find a buyer. And given his poor season, that is unlikely to change.
Wolves are currently 10th in the Premier League table, and are only one point behind seventh-placed Everton. After facing Arsenal on Wednesday, they have a trip to Watford on Saturday, and then Fulham at home, before their final match of the season against title hopefuls Liverpool at Anfield.
Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will also be in the shop window. The Gunners are under pressure to reduce their wage bill, especially if they fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggled to hide his fury and hurt at what his players had offered at Goodison Park by way of a response to last week’s surrender at Barcelona. Usually, it is far too simplistic to suggest that the root of an underperforming side’s problems can be found in their effort levels, but on Merseyside, it was clear to anyone with eyes that United were phoning it in. Their most shameful performance of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era? Probably. Their worst ever in the Premier League? Quite possibly.
Selling Ozil, despite his recent renaissance, remains a key objective because of his mammoth £350,000-a-week wages. Mkhitaryan earns £180,000 a week and the Armenian is another one Arsenal hope to sell.
The club will also listen to offers for Carl Jenkinson and Mohamed Elneny, while Calum Chambers and David Ospina are likely to be sold once they return from their loan spells at Fulham and Napoli respectively.
The departures of Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey will slash close to £200,000 from the weekly wage bill. Danny Welbeck, who earns around £80,000 a week, is also expected to leave when his contract expires this summer.
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Title races, Champions League places, a Manchester derby and Liverpool fans faces – its a wonderful Wednesday Premier League double!
The problem, you’d think, would be finding a buyer. Mustafi joined from Valencia for £35million in 2016 – and the Gunners may have to settle for a significantly smaller fee if they want to shift him.
They managed to turn around some atrocious away form to beat Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road, but then suffered a European hangover following their midweek win over Napoli and ended up losing 3-2 to Crystal Palace at home. It was a second reverse in three league games and hurt their top four credentials.
The Gunners’ home form is the main reason they’re still in contention for top four and the Palace defeat is only the second time Arsenal have lost at the Emirates in the league this season. Oddly enough, though, Chelsea seem to want top four less than Arsenal do at the minute after the Blues produced a Sarri performance during their 2-2 draw with Burnley on Monday night.
That point put Chelsea into fourth for now, but the right result here will see Arsenal leapfrog them yet again, and Emery has something else going for him heading into the final stretch of the season.
Arsenal’s run-in consists of precisely zero teams from the top six and only two teams who, at the time of writing, occupy spots in the top ten: Wolves and Leicester City. Chelsea, however, face United next and will also play Watford and Leicester before their season comes to a close.
As evidenced by the spectacular fashion in which The Gunners imploded against Palace, though, it hardly matters who they take on – what matters is what version of Arsenal turn up on the day, and Emery really can’t afford any more of this Jekyll & Hyde stuff when he also has two legs of a Europa League semi-final to navigate in early May.
Meanwhile, recent patchy form has seen Wolves slip to tenth in the table and they’ll be looking to finish the season strongly to maintain a top-half position. Their results have been curious in that they drew with Brighton and lost to Burnley and Southampton, yet took points off both Chelsea and Man United, so they only seem to really turn it on against the big sides – which is bad news for Unai Emerys men.
A good reverse psychology tactic for this one might be for Arsenal fans to spend the build-up tweeting about how they’re really just a small club. That’ll feed back to the Wolves lads who will then turn in a sh*te performance. It should work, as long as the Nuno Espírito Santos players don’t realise they’d actually be mixing Arsenal up with London’s smallest club, Spurs.
All that said, you have to go back to September 1979 for the last time Arsenal lost to Wolves in any competition, though their most recent meeting ended 1-1 at the Emirates in November.
Wolves still have to face Arsenal, Fulham and Liverpool before the season is out, and they will also travel to Watford on Saturday, in a match which looks to be vital to both sides aspirations.
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It’s a tough one to call given Arsenal’s penchant for hitting the self-destruct button, so we like the look of both teams to score at 13/20 for leg one of our double.
Ole’s at the wheel, they said, and this might be true, but once the Norwegian was handed a cushy three-year deal, the wheels came off as United have since been eliminated from the Champions League and have lost two of their last four league games – including Sunday’s bizarre 4-0 demolition by Everton. Suddenly, all the goodwill earned during his caretaker spell has dissipated.
United now face the unenviable task of trying to bounce back against a Man City outfit who have won their last 10 league games on the spin, all while knowing that any kind of result in their favour pushes the Premier League title more firmly into Liverpool’s grasp. Most United fans will tell you that when choosing between the lesser of two evils, they’d sooner see City win the league than the Scousers.
Yet defeat to the Citizens would almost certainly quash any lingering hope Solskjaer’s men have of sneaking into the top four ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea. What a conflicting time to be a United fan.
As for City, now that they’re out of the Champions League and have their FA Cup final place secured, they can focus all their attention on this incredible title race. Given that Liverpool still have the Champions League to distract them, there is a risk that their attention could be split, so the Reds will be looking to the Red Devils (of all people) to do them a favour here.
Thats right, Liverpool fans – you need United to be your friends. Imagine the look on their faces when that realisation sets in. What kind of sick world has this become?
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In any case, recent derbies have favoured Pep Guardiola’s charges as they’ve won three of the last six encounters, with another of those games ending in a draw. Their most recent trip to Old Trafford was also successful as they claimed all three points in this fixture last season, and with their recent blistering form domestically, City will be heavily favoured in heading into this one.
Despite that, we reckon United sleepwalking their way to an embarrassing defeat at Goodison Park was an overdue shock to the system which should eliminate any complacency.
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We fancy Solskjaers side to reluctantly take something from this one and inadvertently help Liverpool to Premier League glory, so we’re going for the Double Chance market here, specifically United and Draw at 17/10.