Arsenal have shelved plans to offer vice-captain Per Mertesacker a new contract extension even though he will enter the final year of his current deal at the end of the season, it has been revealed.
The 31-year-old is no longer one of the first names on the team-sheet with manager Arsene Wenger choosing to rotate the German with Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista, and the World Cup winner will now need to prove his form and fitness over the next 12 months in order to earn a contract extension, The Times is reporting.
Arsenal’s defence has proven weak this season with the Gunners conceding six more goals than their north London rivals Tottenham, as well as losing three more games compared to Spurs’ four defeats in the Premier League this season.
Mertesacker’s form has slipped during 2016, coinciding with Arsenal’s slump that leaves them as outsiders in the title race, and he was left on the substitutes’ bench for the recent games against Barcelona and Everton despite being match fit.
Current first-team captain Mikel Arteta is set to leave the club at the end of the season when his contract expires, having not played since the FA Cup victory over Burnley in January, and Mertesacker is not a shoe-in to take on the armband despite being the current vice-captain that has deputised for Arteta throughout the season.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech is one of those being considered by Wenger to take over the captaincy form next season, while Laurent Koscielny would also be a candidate given he has led the side this season in what is his sixth year with the Gunners.
Having not signed any outfield players last summer – with the acquisition of Cech the only piece of business completed by Arsenal – a summer of upheaval is expected at the Emirates, with a number of experienced players set to leave.
Arteta will be joined by fellow midfielder Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini in becoming free agents after the trio were not offered new contracts, while the club are said to be willing to listen to offers for full-backs Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs.
However, The Times adds that the club will offer new contracts to other first-team players in a bid to keep the core of the squad together, with plans to start negotiations with Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the 2016/17 season.
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