With suspensions carrying over from last season’s competition, the Gunners find themselves without forward Robin van Persie and reported want-away midfielder Samir Nasri. In a further twist, with the future of captain Cesc Fabregas still hanging in the balance, the inclusion of the skipper could prove to be a hitch in Barcelona’s bid to land their former youth product, as Fabregas’ participation in the tie would leave him ineligible for the tournament proper, should he move away from Arsenal. However, should Fabregas be excused from the matches, the absence of three senior players, combined with the departure of left-back Gael Clichy to Manchester City, would leave the Arsenal side with a different look to that seen in previous campaigns.
While such concerns would often re-open the debate with regard to Wenger’s apparent reluctance to invest in high-profile signings, recent media reports would suggest that the Arsenal manager may struggle to recruit major signings. With Barcelona still in the hunt for Fabregas, media reports have linked Arsenal with Valencia midfielder Juan Mata as a replacement for the Arsenal skipper. Valencia appeared to be considering sanctioning the move, but Mata has reportedly decided his immediate future lies at the Mestalla Stadium, with his coach, Unai Emery stating his belief that the player will not be moving this summer.
Another high profile link was Real Madrid striker, Karim Benzema. Despite a return of 22 goals in all competitions for Jose Mourinho’s men last season, Arsenal were linked with a rare big-money move to add the firepower that has at times deserted them in recent domestic campaigns. Yet, despite persistent rumours over a number of months, the Frenchman appears to have committed his future to Real Madrid, telling the French media that he will not be leaving Real Madrid for any other club.
While both cases would appear to be typical examples of the media frenzy that is the summer transfer window, it would also suggest that big-name players are not being lured by the prospect of playing for Arsene Wenger’s side. Since 2005, Arsenal have hit an infamous trophy-less spell, just a year after securing an unbeaten Premier League campaign. Following the emergence of North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the hunt for the Champions League, as well as the huge investment at Manchester City, Arsenal face a tougher challenge than ever to attract new signings. With a new battle to qualify for Europe via a qualifying round, at least three of last season’s squad missing from the first leg, and possible further high-profile departures looming, Arsene Wenger may face a bigger challenge than ever to build a squad capable of competing for England and Europe’s biggest honours.