Arsenal Analysis – Will 2022 be the summer of free (transfer) love?

Will 2022 be the summer of free (transfer) love? by Argooner

In recent years a lot has been made of Arsenal players running down their contracts and leaving for nothing, or receiving lucrative contracts that seem inflated. While some of this may be down to mismanagement, it should be noted that this trend has been accelerating within the football world over the last few years. Free transfers are nothing new of course since the Bosman ruling in 1995, with Sol Campbell, one of our greatest ever defenders, arriving from our North-London neighbours in perhaps the most contentious free transfer in history.

Other notable examples include Pirlo (Juventus), Ibrahimovic (Man Utd), Ballack (Chelsea) and Lewandowski (Bayern).The quantity, and quality, of players involved, however, seems to be increasing every year. Only this summer PSG signed Donnarumma (AC Milan), Ramos (Real Madrid), Wijnaldum (Liverpool) and the one and only Messi (Barca) on free transfers. Barca, having lost Messi, signed Depay (Lyon), Aguero and Garcia (both Man City) all on frees, and Alaba moved to Real Madrid from Bayern for nothing.

This phenomenon was actually predicted by our very own Arsene Wenger back in 2017, as he said that he believed that more and more players would run down their contracts and move on under the Bosman ruling, as transfer fees continued to increase exponentially.

The benefit for the players is obvious, they can demand significant signing-on fees and wages as clubs do not have to splash the cash on transfer fees to their previous employers. In the summer of 2022 Kolasinac, Chambers, Elneney, Lacazette and Nketiah will all be out of contract and from the start of January will be able to start negotiating with clubs outside of England. While this may seem like a lot of money walking out the door, we are not the only club this will be happening to, and taking a look at some of the players who will be out of contract at the end of the season is quite astonishing.

The biggest names are three French players who commanded incredible transfer fees when signing for their respective clubs. Mbappe cost PSG a cool £160million in loan and permanent transfer fees but could leave for nothing at the end of the season, Dembele set Barca back an incredible £135 million, while Man Utd shelled out around £90million for Paul Pogba, and, having already lost him on a free transfer once before when he signed for Juve in 2012, could now be set to do so again. Other globally recognised players such as Dybala (Juve), Insigne (Napoli) and Kessie (AC Milan) all have a little over 6 months left on their contracts and could be set to move on to pastures new.

Chelsea could be set to lose two centre backs in Christensen and Rudiger, reported Arsenal targets Onana (Ajax) Zakaria (Monchengladbach), Belotti (Torino) and Boga (Sassuolo) could all be available, in addition to a few handy players such as Brozovic (Inter), Sule (Bayern), and Romagnoli (AC Milan). These are players who are all still in their prime as opposed to aging has-beens, and there are even some top-quality young players including Kamara (Marseille), Cantwell (Norwich), Mazraoui (Ajax), and Zagadou (Dortmund) who could be on the lookout for new clubs. Although perhaps not the most fashionable, even the likes of Corona (Porto), Ginter (Monchengladbach), Tarkowski (Burnley) and Lingard (Man Utd) could prove shrewd additions to premier league clubs.

Of course, not all of these players would be available to us, with clubs scrambling to take advantage of this new context, nor would we necessarily be interested in all of them, but the potential sides that could be put together this summer are mind-boggling. Newcastle, for one, might very well be looking to take advantage of that. Imagine a squad of Onana, Johnstone, Mazraoui, Azpilicuelta, Marcelo, Vrsaljko, Rudiger, Tarkowski, Sule, Christensen, Denayer, Pogba, Kessie, Kamara, Brozovic, Cantwell, Isco, Lingard, Insigne, Dybala, Dembele, Di Maria, Boga, Mbappe and Belotti (which would meet the requirements of association-trained, or “home-grown”, players), assembled with no transfer fees!

So, who could Arsenal target next summer? It is, obviously, speculation, but with some of our own players leaving there will be gaps to fill or upgrades to be found. A goalkeeper to replace Leno? How about Onana, Johnstone (WBA) or Perin (Juve)? A new right-back to cover/compete with Tomiyasu? Mazroui could be our man. An upgrade on our cover at centre-back? Romagnoli is left sided so could be brought in to replace Mari, as could Zagadou if we’re looking for a younger alternative, or Denayer (Lyon) to boost our association-trained quota. The aforementioned Sule could be an option if we don’t go with Saliba next year, Tarkowski has done well in a poor Burnley side and is proven in England, as is Christensen, while a cheeky offer to Rudiger could make him the modern-day equivalent of Sol.

On to midfield. Not a Xhaka-lover/looking to replace the departing Elneny? Well, the Swiss’s international teammate Zakaria might be available, Kessie or Brozovic could be the defensive midfielder we’ve been crying out for, or Kamara may be a star in the making. And if we want to add some creativity, Isco’s (Real Madrid) talents are well-documented and Tolisso (Bayern) is vastly underrated. Further forward Pepe may cut his losses and move on, so how about Dembele or Insigne to come in as forwards, and, if the competition for them is too fierce, Boga comes with the added advantage of being trained in England (at Chelsea). Finally, it’s well-documented that we’re most likely going to need a striker to replace Laca and/or Eddie, so could Dybala or Belotti be the man to link up with Auba? All of this without even mentioning the possibility of pulling off a major coup, however unlikely, in landing someone like (whisper it quietly) Mbappe!

Additionally, with clubs not willing to miss out on transfer fees for their players, there is the possibility that they will be willing to accept a knock-down deal in January, rather than see their assets walk out the door for free at the end of the season, particularly in the continued aftermath of the global Coronavirus crisis. The potential knock-on effect could see transfer fees become a thing of the past, changing the footballing landscape for years, decades and generations to come. One thing is for sure though, this summer could be one of the most interesting, and important, in the history of football.




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  1. No surprise about that, don’t need a sage to figure out players will do what is in their own best interest.

    Only surprise is that it’s taken this long. Want another obvious prediction? Shorter contracts will be trending, 2-3 year contracts as 5 year ones begin evaporating.

    So much money is flooding into the game; owners, broadcasting, etc… that players will chase success and not want to be tied down long term. Fortunes are changing.

    Buying young potential will be the new thing, academy promotions, and probably homegrown quota increases to try and restrict, limit, and control player power.

  2. THIS is an EXCELLENT AND DETAILED article that makes a serious argument and which IMO holds much water for the present and foreseeable future, on transfer fees(or rather, the lack of them quite often) !

    It actually says something of INTEREST AND IMPORTANCE!

    As such, this fine article is the benchmark in sheer quality that all JA would be proper writers should at least attempt to emulate. Much applause to this writer!

  3. Excellent article Argooner, one to make you stop and read again!!!
    I believe this kind of activity would suit our owner, with no hefty initial layout and sensible two/three year maximum contracts.

  4. not some mismanagement, MOSTLY mismanagement…the vast majority of our problems came as a result our propensity to offer ridiculously unjustifiable wages, which made it infinitely more difficult to either re-up or sell said players

    likewise it only makes sense that allowing a contract to rundown would become a more prevalent course of action…by doing so, this could provide you with considerably more leverage when it comes to deciding your next landing spot and when negotiating your new wages, due to the lack of any transfer fee…just look at the ridiculous sum Juve offered Ramsey

    regardless, our history with “free” transfers is spotty at best, so I wouldn’t want to rely on this as a business model moving forward, but I certainly wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, if the right “free” player came along and we could secure their services for an appropriate wage and term

    1. The point of the article is that although players running down their contacts appears to be mismanagement, and in some cases it is, it may also be a result of the shift in focus of the players and clubs. It is not just happening to us, and in fact other clubs are losing players who would be considered far more valuable than Ramsey, Sanchez and Ozil. Are all those clubs mismanaged too, or is there something deeper there?
      As for relying entirely on free transfers, no one is suggesting that, but if the context changes the club have to be ready to adapt and take advantage of it. Paying a fee for a player doesn’t make him any more likely to succeed, and indeed they are still the same player, its the way of doing business that appears to be changing.

  5. the media never like free transfers….

    they will get the fans to pressure the club to spend

    Just like Real Madrid, they are willing to spend up to 200m to sign (a 4 month left contract) Mbappe in January

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