The Arsenal contract mess

I was kind of liking the Arsenal quiet zone that had existed whilst all of the players were away on international duty. It was like an oasis of calm amidst the gnashing of teeth on all sides at the moment. The silence wasn’t deafening, it was bliss, and I took advantage to have a nice relaxing weekend and hoped not to worry about Arsenal too much until Thursday came around.

I didn’t really watch any of the international games, although I had the first half of the England game on in the background as I was cooking and at the right moment, I was able to turn around and see the Ox blaze a ball over after some good initial work to get in to space. Sound familiar?

Mesut Özil having a blinder too – albeit I’ve seen it through the prism of a Twitter video compilation – was good and one hopes we can see more football like that from him for what I’m 95% sure is his final season.

But what I didn’t expect was the classic ‘media briefing’ from Arsenal. You know the one – where a journalist that they are close to publishes something after they’ve given him a bit of intel. Normally it’s saved for ‘war chest’ stories, but not yesterday, oh no. Yesterday was about getting some noises out the door of Highbury House that Arsenal were already sitting down to plan talks for a host of players whose contracts run out in 2019.

Wowsers. It’s almost as if giving yourself time isn’t something the upper echelons of the club have thought about. It’s almost as if this sort of stuff hasn’t happened to us before and it’s almost as if we’re not already potentially facing a crisis come next summer. It’s almost as if the club are learning a lesson.

Except they’re not. They’re not because surely these ‘conversations’ should have started about six months ago? Surely this media briefing should have been released in January because surely that’s when the talks actually started?

Now I’m no expert, but from where I sit, it seems to take quite some time to sort out contracts these days. No more Ian Wright banging down the door and saying “where shall I ink my name?”, because there are more clauses and discussions about image rights that have to be had, than any normal man can countenance. So with that in mind, give this ‘briefing’ that’s happened, aren’t Arsenal again leaving it a little late? Because from where I sit, as soon as you get to January, both player and agent can sit tight until summer and force the kind of situation that had Arsenal offering The Ox a rumoured £180,000-per-week.

So rather than this news coming as a relief to me, it just makes me more concerned that yet again we’ll be messing around with players come January into June, although when you look at the players in question you wonder whether my whole argument above is redundant, because on that list we have:

  • An ageing Petr Cech
  • A misfiring Danny Welbeck
  • An inconsistent and injury-prone Aaron Ramsey
  • An overpaid Theo Walcott

It’s hardly the same mess we’ve got next summer in replacing our star players, is it? Only Nacho Monreal feels like the sort of player you want to wave your chequebook at and say “you first matey”. The rest still have a lot to prove.

Perhaps that kind of answers my concerns about leaving it too late with players, but my frustration isn’t so much the players in question, it’s more to do with the fact that this two year mark always seems to be our starting point and when we have players who have been very valuable to us in the past, that model has totally screwed us over. So much so that if a big name player signs for Arsenal these days, I’ll be thinking that we’ll probably only have them between three to four years. Think about it; if you’re a big name player and you have Arsenal interested, in recent memory you’ll be able to see Nasri, van Persie, Alexis and Özil all leaving either with a year to go or on a free at the end of their contract. Either way you’ll know that a few years at Arsenal is getting you a bumper exit package. There isn’t one precedent that has been set for this behaviour, there is multiple examples of it, which makes it a trend you can follow rather than a path you’re blazing yourself.

Our contract negotiations have simply allowed players to know that if they opt for a four year deal at Arsenal, they only have to do a couple before they can start asking for megabucks, or go elsewhere on a free. 

The only time we’ve tied down players in the last ten years have been those whom the jury is out or they are young and we still don’t know exactly where their ceiling is (Denilson and Bendtner early in their Arsenal careers, for example). Unfortunately it’s turned out that the ceiling was pretty low. Like, Hobbit house, kinda low.

I understand the club are in a difficult position, but this is a position made entirely of their own making, over a number of years. This is repeated failures and we have to only hope that they are going to learn a lesson the next tine a big superstar joins us. Because right now we look like we’re being run in such a farce, that any player worth their salt, will just see us as a contract booster stepping stone.

Catch you tomorrow.

About the Author:

Gooner born in 1982 from Harlow, Essex, with a love for Arsenal that knows. I’m not an AKb, nor am I an ‘In Arsene we Rust’, but I like to think that I can tip-toe between the two, occasionally veering into both camps.

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