Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck are all leaving the Gunners in the summer – and several more could follow
Arsenal are planning to undergo a major clear-out this summer as the club look to rein in their crippling wage bill.
With a top-four spot in the Premier League now all but impossible following Sunday’s 1-1 home draw with Brighton, the Gunners know their only route back into the Champions League is by winning the Europa League – with Unai Emery’s side leading Valencia 3-1 going into Thursday night’s semi-final second leg in Spain.
Should they go on and reach the final in Baku they will meet either Chelsea or Eintracht Frankfurt on May 29 and the outcome of that match will be huge in terms of Arsenal’s planning for the 2019-20 season.
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Money has become increasingly tight at the Emirates Stadium in recent seasons, with owner Stan Kroenke refusing to put any of his own cash into the club.
The club’s self-sustaining financial model has been based around qualifying for the Champions League each season – but should they fail to qualify this year it would mean three successive campaigns of Europa League football for the Gunners.
It’s estimated that Arsenal’s 2017-18 financial performance saw a £40 million ($52m) drop in revenue from 2016-17 – with £35m ($46m) of that being put down to a lack of Champions League football.
At the same time the wage bill spiralled by nearly 18 per cent, rising from £200m ($262m) to £235m ($308m) – a figure that takes into account the pay-offs for Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff.
This was, however, all covered by player sales, with the club recouping big fees for the likes of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
That all meant that despite Arsenal’s drop in revenue, the club made a pre-tax profit of around £70m ($92m), but given the lack of player sales this time round it’s forecast that the Gunners could be heading towards a loss of between £60m-£70m ($79m-$92m).
Arsenal were unable to spend any money in January on transfer fees, with the loan addition of Denis Suarez from Barcelona the only bit of business done in terms of incomings.
There will be cash available this summer, with the new commercial deals with Emirates and Adidas kicking in, but if Arsenal do not qualify for the Champions League then the budget will be set at around £45m ($59m).
That figure can rise, however, through player sales and Goal understands that the club are looking at moving on a significant number of the first-team squad to help boost the budget and trim the wage bill – which is believed to be running at about £220m ($288m) a year.
That will be reduced in the summer with the departures of Aaron Ramsey, who is moving to Juventus, and Petr Cech – who is retiring. And it was announced on Sunday after the Brighton draw that Danny Welbeck would also be leaving when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Removing those three players from the wage bill alone will save more than £1 million ($1.3m) a month, but Arsenal want to reduce costs by far more than that.
Goal understands that Stephan Lichtsteiner will leave, with the club having decided not to take up the option in his contract which would have seen the defender stay for another season.
Buyers are also looking to be found for Carl Jenkinson and Mohamed Elneny – while offers are being encouraged for Shkodran Mustafi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with the latter on around £180,000 a week.
Mesut Ozil is the highest earner at the club on £350,000 and Arsenal are keen to move him on, but are aware how difficult that will be given his desire to stay in London and the lack of interest in the German from elsewhere.
Decisions also need to be made on Calum Chambers and Emiliano Martinez, who have been out on loan this season and are due to return in the summer.
The planned cull is designed to ease the pressure on the wage bill but also to bolster the budget for up to five new additions, with the club looking to inject some youth into what is viewed as an ageing and unbalanced squad.
Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli will arrive, with a £6m ($8m) deal already agreed with Ituna, and Emery is also keen to bring in a replacement for Ramsey, as well as a left-back and a winger.
Arsenal have been keen on Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe for some time and talks with the Ligue 1 club stretch back for more than a year, although the 23-year-old’s impressive form this season may have put him out of the Gunners’ price range.
A centre-back could also arrive, but much will depend on whether Arsenal can find a buyer for Mustafi, who is about to enter the final two years of his contract.