Though it has been on the cards for some time, Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger has finally confirmed that three club stalwarts are to leave the Emirates this summer.
The contracts of midfielders Tomáš Rosický, Mathieu Flamini and club captain Mikel Arteta are all due to expire in the coming weeks, and Wenger has revealed that the trio will not be getting new deals at the club and will therefore be leaving.
The mooted arrival of Swiss international Granit Xhaka has meant that space in the squad will need to be made – and with more arrivals set to follow, a restructuring of the existing playing staff is in order.
Speaking at his pre-Aston Villa press conference – his final one of the season – Wenger paid tribute to the departing players, saying:
“Mikel Arteta is the captain of the club and has been a great leader.
“Tomáš Rosický has been with us for 10 years and I think everybody loves him as well.
“Mathieu Flamini has been an extremely strong leader on the pitch and off the pitch.
“We lose three big personalities.”
35 year old Rosický arrived at the club in an €11million deal from Borussia Dortmund in 2006. The Czech international has played in 246 games across a decade at Arsenal, but his time in England has been blighted by injuries. He missed the entirety of the 2008/09 season due to a hamstring tendon injury, and his only first team activity this term has been a 30 minute substitute appearance against Burnley in the FA Cup back in January.
Despite his injury problems, he still hopes to be included in the Czech Republic squad for this summer’s European Championships.
Jack Wilshere has paid tribute to the departing Rosický on his Instagram account:
Captain Arteta leaves after five years at the Emirates. Another who has seen his time at the club hampered by injuries, the 34 year old has featured in just 23 matches in all competitions over the past two seasons. His last appearance for the club this term came (like Rosický) in the FA Cup game against Burnley in January.
He is set to retire at the end of the season, and could be in line to join Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff at Manchester City.
Ex-French international Flamini, meanwhile, will depart the club for the second time. Flamini returned to Arsenal for a second spell in 2013 after a five year stint at Italian giants AC Milan, and has been used primarily primarily as a squad player in by Wenger since his return.
The 32 year old has made 93 appearances since he came back, but the rise to prominence of Francis Coquelin effectively confirming his status as a backup player.
While two of the three could play some part in Sunday’s clash with Aston Villa (Flamini has already been ruled out injured), Wenger will be fully aware that at least a point is needed to confirm third place, while a win could see the Gunners finish in second if Tottenham slip up against Newcastle.
Therefore, there may be no room for sentiment – the goodbyes may have already been said for these players.