Player decisions looming

There’s usually a lot of sizzle and no steak when it comes to offseason football rumours, but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger does have some actual decisions to make concerning the club’s roster for next season. As most fans have probably heard by now, Chelsea has more or less given Wenger an ultimatum regarding on-loan midfielder Yossi Benayoun. Chelsea can obviously get by without the 32-year-old Israeli international, at least in the FA Cup and Champions League, and want to know as soon as possible if Wenger wants to keep him permanently.

Benayoun’s 12-month loan is up and Chelsea are looking to offload him and get something in return. He made 25 appearances for Arsenal this season, some of them quite brief, and managed to score five goals. He played his best football near the end of the campaign and, like most players, performed better when he was given more playing time. In fact, he scored a couple of huge goals in the last three games to help the Gunners secure third place and a Champions League spot.

Personally, I think Benayoun is well worth a spot on the team’s 25-man roster due to his work ethic, experience, and skills. He’s always impressed me while playing for his country and back when he was a member of Liverpool. It’s unclear what Chelsea would want for him, but figures such as a million pounds have been kicked around.

Another player Wenger will need to decide what to do with is young Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi, who spent the last half of the season on loan with Bolton. Trotters manager Owen Coyle raves about the youngster and would love to have him back again next season. Miyaichi started his loan spell quite effectively, but then seemed to tail off as the season went on.

Wenger will have to think long and hard about the teenager since Bolton have been relegated and Miyaichi could be in for a good kicking down in the Championship League. Coyle said he’s talked with Arsenal already and would take the player back in a heartbeat if Wenger agrees. Coyle claimed that Miyaichi loved playing at Bolton, but his play suffered toward the end of the season due to minor injuries.

There’s obviously some sort of working relationship between Wenger and Coyle as Jack Wilshere and Miyaichi have both spent loan spells at Bolton. Wenger needs to consider how physical the Championship is though, and ask himself if Miyaichi will benefit from playing there or if it’ll be a step backwards for the player.

In addition, decisions need to be made about 19-year-old Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell, who played on loan with French club Lorient last season. Campbell’s immediate future may rest on what happens with Robin van Persie. If the Dutchman leaves, then it might be worth keeping Campbell around. He appears to have a bright future ahead of him at the Emirates and is probably a better option than both Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho.

Speaking of Chamakh, it’s been reported that Italian club Fiorentina are anxious to sign him in exchange for Adem Ljajic. The 20-year-old Serbian’s career doesn’t appear to be progressing in Italy since he’s started just 25 games with Fiorentina over the past three years. The 28-year-old Chamakh has struggled with the Gunners after making a big impression when he first joined the club. He scored 11 goals in his first few months with the team, but has managed to find the back of the net just twice since then in 44 games.

There are several other players who need to be cut loose if they don’t fit into Wenger’s plans. These include Carlos Vela, Nicklas Bendtner, Vito Mannone and Denilson. If they aren’t needed or aren’t going to be played, there’s not much point in keeping them around. However, football has some very odd rules compared to many other professional sports. I still find it hard to comprehend the loan system. It makes sense in some ways when you see a young player such as Miyaichi get the opportunity to develop with another team instead of sitting on the bench. However, when you see seasoned pros such as Emmanuel Adebayor being loaned out I don’t really see much sense in it.

For example, Benayoun was loaned from Chelsea to the Gunners and helped their London neighbours finish ahead of them in the standings. If these players aren’t good enough to make their own squads then they should simply be cut loose or made to take a pay cut, like they are in most other pro sports leagues when they’re sent down to the minors. It’s another story for another day, but there are too many mediocre footballers taking home king’s wages when they simply don’t earn them.

Much of this can be blamed on the atmosphere of the sport itself as well as the ridiculous contracts that are handed out by managers to unproven players. Stricter rules and pay structures need to be introduced into the EPL and a salary cap would do the game a world of good. But while it’s an open and free market, managers just have to worry about whittling their rosters down to the 25-man limit while not worrying about how much they spend or waste on players.

I’d like to see some type of regulations introduced where you actually have to manage a team by making sure you don’t spend over the allotted budget. At the moment, you can simply go out and buy the best players available, such as Man City have done. This sees the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There’s no skill involved in that at all. If everybody was on an even playing field and had a specific amount of money to spend on salaries, no matter how much the club earned, we’d see a lot more parity in the league.


From Peterborough, just about 60 minutes from Arsenal's ground. I remember going to Highbury when growing up and after my Uncle's stepson Mark Heeley joined the Gunners from Peterborough when he was just 17 back in the 1970s. Currently cover sports (mainly football, boxing, and ice hockey) for various sites and magazines. Still see most of the games when in Canada. In fact, they get more EPL matches there than in Britain.