Arsenal need to keep fringe pair next season

A lot of people are putting Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi in the “get shot” box alongside the likes of Joel Campbell, Lucas Perez and David Ospina. Whilst neither will ever be World Class, there are numerous reasons why we would be crazy to sell them this summer.

The first is that they are important squad players.

A lot of people are saying we should get shot to raise funds for other players. They have bought into the “50 million pound warchest story” and have therefore sat with their spreadsheets working out how we can raise further funds – enough to sign the goal keeper, centre back and central midfielder we so desperately need as a minimum.

The issue is, unlike Campbell, Perez, Chuba Akpom and Carl Jenkinson, were we to sell Welbeck and Iwobi to “raise funds” those funds would have to be spent on their replacements.

Danny Welbeck, for example, is 3rd choice striker.

Look at the issues Chelsea faced in January looking for a new striker. They were linked to the likes of Ashley Barnes and Peter Crouch. Tottenham have long had an issue trying to find back up for Harry Kane. A lot of money has been spent on Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen.

We would need to source a striker who is happy being 3rd choice at Arsenal. It is not an easy task buying a player who is good, but happy to sit on the bench (or not even make the bench at times). I would be very surprised if there are too many strikers out there better than Danny Welbeck, hwo is happy being 3rd choice striker.

Some might point to Eddie Nketiah, that Welbeck should be sold and Nketiah given the chance. But this is just silly. Relying on an 18 year old who has just 11 minutes of Premier League football is dumb.

Also Welbeck plays a dual role in the squad.

With Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain no more, Welbeck is our most natural wideman. We do need to go out and buy a natural winger in the summer. A player who is happy getting chalk on his boots rather than a frustrated number 10. But even when that player comes in, Welbeck has an important role to play.

We then have Alex Iwobi.

It is crazy to think that he has only just turned 22. And that is perhaps his problem. He is playing too many games when not quite being good enough. But that does not mean we should get rid of him.

Iwobi has started 20 Premier League games this season. This follows on from 18 starts last season. Whereas he should have been one of the stars of the Europa League / League Cup squads, he has instead been fast tracked into first team action. Even though he is not ready.

At times, he still looks like a school boy playing mans football. Timid on the ball, slow in possession, not really sure what he is doing. But at other times, his potential breaks through.

I am not one for the “second assist” statistic, but look at the influence he had on the Burnley game. It was Iwobi who passed the ball through to Alexandre Lacazette to who then set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. And he also played the ball through to Hector Bellerin who crossed for Alexandre Lacazette.

He does need to add more goals and assists to his own game, and be a little bit more outwardly confident on the ball, but he is no where near as bad as people make out.

His pass completion percentage is 86.5%. This is equal to Mesut Ozil and above Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. As a comparison, Dele Alli averages just 77.6%. The key difference between the pair being those final statistics, goals and assists.

With Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of him, Iwobi is 3rd choice number 10. If we were playing a single number 10, you would be happy with this, but as we play 2, it is perhaps one too high.

If Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are still with us next season (and we buy a defensive midfielder), I would prefer one of these two to be “first change” if Ozil or Mkhitaryan are out injured. This would relegate Alex Iwobi to 4th choice in that position.

Like Welbeck, if we sold Iwobi, he would need to be replaced. He has played 1688 minutes this season. Some might point to Reiss Nelson, in the same way they point to Nketiah, but that is poor judgment.

I would prefer Nelson and Nketiah to be providing the back up for Welbeck and Iwobi, with the view of those two being replacements in a few years time. For now, the establish pair are superior to the teenagers. And for us to get better, we need to buy better than what we have, not sell what we have and replace with inferior youth players.

The second key reason to keep Iwobi and Welbeck is that they are both home grown.

Premier League rules dictate that official squad lists must contain no more than “17 players who do not fulfil the “Home Grown Player” (HGP) criteria.”

Chelsea have suffered this season from not having enough home grown players. They have a senior squad of just 22 players, 16 of which are not grown. This means that they only have 1 spot left in their squad for foreign players. So this summer, unless they sell the likes of David Luiz, they are unable to buy more than 1 player who is not home grown.

This has resulted in them buying the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley. Two average players who are literally there to make up the numbers.

Manchester City face a similar problem next season as Leroy Sane is no longer considered an U21 player. He will take the squad to 16 non-home grown players.

They will free up two spots with the sale of Eliaquim Mangala and Yaya Toure leaving, but as it stands their first team squad next season will consist of just 21 players (including Gabriel jesus who does not need to be declared).

So next season, both Chelsea and Manchester City will be in the hunt for home grown players to complete their squad. It is this sort of poor planning that has led to the likes of Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell joining Manchester City, and then not playing.

In the last 12 months, Arsenal have let go Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal need to be careful not to let go of too many home grown players. Especially with the future of Hector Bellerin also in question.

By my (bad) math, we currently have just 14 non-home grown players in the squad.

This means that we can go out this summer and buy a new goal keeper, centre back and defensive midfielder regardless of what country they come from. A further spot will be freed up by losing either Petr Cech or David Ospina.

But what this would mean is were we to sell Welbeck and Iwobi (and also Calum Chambers), we would have to replace them with home grown players – or the 3 positions above would need to see home grown recruitment.

And this is where reality hits. There are not enough home grown players around who are good enough.

Lets play the scenario out. Arsenal sell Danny Welbeck. They need to replace him with a home grown striker (or winger). What options are there?

Harry Kane is no go. Next in the pecking order for England are Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy.

Vardy has already turned us down, and is unlikely to be happy being 3rd choice. Rashford’s frustration at Manchester United is lack of game time. With Aubameyang and Lacazette ahead of him at Arsenal, the situation does not change.

Then we are down to the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jermaine Defoe, Wayne Rooney and Glen Murray.

Even is you look to replace Welbeck with a wideman, the options are not much better.

The reality is for England, either Welbeck or Vardy will start wide left.

We could go for a youngster, like Ademola Lookman or Demarai Gray, but this is the situation we want to avoid. Selling a player for not being good enough, then buying others who are no better.

The only semi-realistic option would be Celtic’s Moussa Dembélé – but he will command a lot more than what we will get for Welbeck. So we free up funds selling Welbeck, only to spend even more money on replacing him, with a player who is not necessarily better then him.

Maybe we should sign that chap from Everton? Theo Walcott.

It is a similar situation for Alex Iwobi.

Dele Alli, Jesse Lindgard, Adam Llalana, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Oxlade-Chamberlain are those that play in a similar position. None of them would leave their clubs to sit on our bench.

The next in line is Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Chelsea can not afford to let him go. Then we are on to the likes of Spurs’ Harry Winks and Josh Onomah, and Gray and Lookman again.

Like with Welbeck, would it be worthewhile selling Iwobi for £10-£15m, to then have to spend £15-£20m to buy Gray or Lookman? Two players who do not get into their current sides on a regular basis?

I like the look of James Maddison from Norwich, but like with Dembele, you are not really getting a guarantee of a better player.

Arsenal need to concentrate on signing a goal keeper, defender and midfielder, unrestricted from home grown quotas, than spend time and resources on replaces fringe squad players.

Personally I would rather we went out and bought someone like Anthony Martial, who would give us that width that we need, and he then competes with Welbeck and iwobi for the last place on the bench.

When it comes to Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, it is a case of better the devil you know. They might not be world superstars, but in an era where there is a clear lack of home grown players, Arsenal need to keep what they have.


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