The signing of Nicolas Pepe last year gave Arsenal supporters hope of a more exciting future.
With no Premier League title since 2004 and heading into a third season without UEFA Champions League football, the £72 million club-record capture of Ivory Coast international Pepe was seen by many as a signal the club were becoming more ambitious in the transfer market.
Eight months on from that deal, though, Arsenal find themselves facing new difficulties.
This time it’s not adapting to a new stadium or failing to deliver on the pitch that is changing the thinking —the club are feeling the financial impact of COVID-19.
Arsenal have just convinced most of their first-team squad to accept a 12.5 per cent pay cut, a measure designed to save them around £25 million at a time when revenue from ticketing and merchandise is at an all-time low.
And sources have indicated to B/R that the situation means Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is almost certain to leave the club, with up to five other players also likely to be made available for transfer.
Signings for next season are going to have to be smart, too.
Pepe’s fee to Lille is being paid in instalments over the duration of his five-year contract, and going forward they will need to negotiate cleverly over fees, or look for bargain purchases.
This all comes, too, at a time when American billionaire owner Stan Kroenke has other issues to deal with.
His new Los Angeles Rams stadium is a reported $2 billion over budget, per a report from 12Up, and faces building delays that mean it is highly unlikely to open in July as planned. Concerts were scheduled, and setbacks are going to hit Kroenke in the pocket.
Where does all of this leave Arsenal?
The club introduced an incentive of Champions League qualification to reimburse the players who have agreed to the pay cuts, and while they are not the only club to look into such measures, the concept of a cut rather than pay deferral is interesting.
Mesut Ozil is one of the players not to accept the proposal, as he is believed to question exactly why this decision has been taken.
Arsenal’s decision to give Ozil a £350,000-a-week contract is one they most likely regret. His output has decreased since signing the deal, and the club have been open to offers for the past year.