Arsenal still require a major overhaul of their squad if they are to be competitive during the upcoming Premier League season, according to former striker Charlie Nicholas. The future of Alexis Sanchez remains unresolved despite him having returned to training while the club have made just two signings during the summer transfer window.
Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac have arrived from Lyon and Schalke respectively but attempts to make further additions have stalled amid uncertainty over Sanchez's future at the club. The Chile international has entered the final 12 months of his contract at The Emirates Stadium and has made no indication he is ready to remain in north London.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been heavily linked with Sanchez yet Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is unwilling to sell, even if it means losing the forward for nothing next summer. Meanwhile, a move for Lemar has stalled as the club struggle to match Monaco's valuation after three bids were rejected by the Ligue 1 champions.
Nicholas wants Arsenal to offload Sanchez, much in the same way they allowed Robin van Persie to leave for Manchester United in the final year of his contract in 2012, to finance an improved offer for Lemar. The Scot is also keen to see the Gunners' squad streamlined and a number of squad players sold off to assist in the acquisition of a defender.
"There's so much dead wood to get rid of around the club," he told Sky Sports. "That's what Antonio Conte has done at Chelsea, but Arsenal's numbers are terrifying in terms of the players sat around who aren't doing anything.
"I still anticipate Alexis Sanchez leaving this summer. Of course, I'd like to see him stay long-term but I would rather see it sorted. I know it happens all the time but clubs should not be held to ransom by footballers.
"The last time this happened Robin van Persie was sold to Manchester United and helped them win the league, but the club are in a better position now. If you can sell your best ever player in Thierry Henry, and your second greatest in Patrick Vieira, then I'd rather you sold a player playing silly games over his future.
"Sanchez has asked Arsenal for similar wages to Cristiano Ronaldo but he is not in the same world. It's not about what you lose, it's about how you replace it. They could sell £100m worth of players, sign Thomas Lemar and finally get a top-class centre-back and be in a stronger position."
As many as 13 Arsenal players failed to reach double figures for top flight starts last season. Among them, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs and Lucas Perez have all been linked with leaving The Emirates Stadium, but their wage demands are delaying their exit.
The Daily Mail understands that the quintet, as well as Jack Wilshere and Calum Chambers who spent last term on loan at Bournemouth and Middlesbrough respectively, are all surplus to requirements but they are yet to agree departures due to their financial demands which rival clubs are unable to justify.
The delay is preventing Wenger from clearing nearly £19m from Arsenal's annual wage bill and launching a renewed bid to sign Lemar, who has been identified by Liverpool as a possible replacement for Philippe Coutinho if he joins Barcelona. The Catalan giants are expected to firm up their interest in the Reds playmaker upon the completion of Neymar's move to PSG, a €222m deal which will assist in them overhauling their squad.