Arsenal could be saying goodbye to three veteran midfielders this year with Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky all seeing their contracts expire in the summer.
Each part of Arsenal’s last two FA Cup successes, the trio will potentially leave the clubs with winner’s medals at Arsenal, something that was hard to come by for departing players before 2014 – Arteta also has the honour of being team captain and club captain for both cup final victories.
End of an era
Should the three leave this summer, it will be the end of an era at the Emirates. Arteta has been club captain for two years and an on-field leader since moving from Everton in 2011, Rosicky was Arsenal’s first major signing when they moved to the new stadium in 2006 and Flamini has been a cult hero during his two spells at the club.
It doesn’t leave the team with a lack of leaders mind you, Per Mertesacker is now first-team captain in Arteta’s absence and the Gunners have more experienced players than they did when Arteta arrived with Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny in their thirties and Nacho Monreal approaching 30 too.
Aaron Ramsey has grown in stature since Arteta's arrival and Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud are all players in their mid-20s, there isn’t a feel that Arsenal’s squad is too inexperienced like it was in 2011.
Could any of them stay?
All three have struggled with injuries in the last few years, especially Arteta and Rosicky, the latter of whom looks destined to finish his Gunners career in the treatment room. Although Rosicky has remained a flamboyant player in the brief appearances he’s made, wowing fans with stunning goals against Tottenham and Brighton in recent years, it’s clear he isn’t going to get into the Arsenal team ahead of Özil or Santi Cazorla. He also faces stiff competition as a squad player from youngsters Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi - who have shown flashes of brilliance in their outings for the team.
Mohamed Elneny's transfer from FC Basel in January perhaps spells the beginning of the end for Arteta at Arsenal, since his move to north London he’s been moved away from being an attack-minded midfielder to a more defensive midfielder but with Elneny and Francis Coquelin ahead of him, his place in the squad is in jeopardy. It hasn’t helped; the Spaniard has looked out of his depth this season, having a very bad day at the office at the Hawthorns in November as his first-half own goal saw the Gunners lose their third league game of the season.
Flamini, however, may be able to secure a new contract following his performances this season. The Frenchman was used as cover for Coquelin prior to Elneny’s arrival and put in some solid shifts during December but since the turn of the year it has felt like Flamini has overstayed his welcome in the Arsenal team and came in for heavy criticism following a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in late January.
Where next for the threesome?
With the Chinese league offering big money for players in 2016, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the three in the Far East next season.
The MLS may also be a new hunting ground as well, although they wouldn’t be the most marquee signings with former UEFA Champions League winners David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Kaka and Didier Drogba all former signings in the league, the US wouldn’t be out of the question for players who still have something to offer.
There’s probably no shortage of mid-table Spanish and French clubs looking at signing one of these three either.
With a slower style Mikel Arteta may be more suited to a return to La Liga and it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Mathieu Flamini emulate Mathieu Debuchy - who joined Bordeaux on loan in the January window.