The Gonners - Arsenal Stars On Their Way Out

Arsene Wenger will wield the axe in a summer shake-up after finally losing patience with his Arsenal flops. The Frenchman has given the green light to an end-of-season rebuilding plan at the Emirates which will see a number of the club's top stars depart - including £15million Russia forward Andrey Arshavin, left back Gael Clichy and Nicklas Bendtner. The Arsenal manager will also consider offers for bit-part players Emmanuel Eboue, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby, Denilson and the goalkeeper with whom he persevered for so long, Manuel Almunia.

Wenger's belief in his current batch of Gunners stars had been staunch despite their six-year trophy drought. But a sequence of one win in seven that has seen the Gunners lose the Carling Cup final to Birmingham City and crash out of both the Champions League and the FA Cup has forced the manager into a rethink. It was understood that influential members of Wenger's backroom team floated the idea of selling a number of the club's underachievers to raise money for new signings.

Wenger is primed to show his ruthless streak with a clearout and there is a feeling Bendtner has had enough time to prove his worth, with the Denmark striker so often failing to fulfil his promise. Arshavin's arrival in January 2009 was heralded as a major coup but he has struggled to replicate his dazzling Euro 2008 displays. It was revealed last month that the Gunners feared the worst in their attempts to persuade Clichy to sign a new contract and will sell him in the summer rather than risk letting him leave on a free transfer in a year.

Arsenal hope to recoup as much as £35million from player sales this summer and Wenger has already told chief scout Steve Rowley to instruct his global network of scouts to identify targets. Some are already in Wenger's sights but yesterday he gave an impassioned defence of his record, insisting being second in the league is not a 'disaster'. The Arsenal Supporters' Trust expressed their considerable disappointment at recent results but Wenger hit back, saying:

"We are second in the league. Is that a disaster for you? There are teams who invest 10 times more than us, one player cost more than the whole team and they are behind us. I don't understand the way people think. Where is the common sense? Some of the clubs behind us have done nothing for 20 years, yet suddenly they get a lot of praise. I don't understand. To be consistent at the top level is the most difficult thing in our job. We have been in the Champions League for 15 years and there are only two clubs who have done that in this country - us and Manchester United. The way we are doing things is right. If I look at this team I'm proud of them, proud of the attitude of the players and the football we play."


Exclusively by Sami Mokbel

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