Yesterday I did a piece on how important I thought it was that Santi was given a few more years at Arsenal, given his impact on the team, and the result was pretty much universal for all Gooner’s that they wanted him to stay and the club should do what’s needed.
I don’t know if it’s because news is a little light on the ground at the moment, on account of the tedious international break that we’re slowly meandering in to, but last night I saw another piece in the Standard, which was based on an article in Germany in which Big Per has his turn to talk contracts.
I wonder if the same unanimous response to some thoughts on the BFG, will be met with the same universal acceptance?
I suspect not. I think it’s probably due to a few factors. Firstly, he’s a defender and I think amongst football fans in general, is that defenders aren’t as difficult to find as more offensive-minded players. The very nature of a role as a defender is to be a blockage. You can be a technically shaky footballer, but if your positioning is good and you’ve got an eye for a tackle, you can make it. Scoring goals is one of the hardest things to do in football, and it’s natural that players in those positions are viewed as ‘sexier’, footballistically speaking. So I wonder if the position he’s playing in makes him a little more of a divisive player amongst the fans.
His style as well, has led to many fretting about his position in the team, because he’s hardly the sleek, all-action, dominating player that Koscielny is, is he?
As a result of his partner in defence over these last few years, Arsenal fans have made natural comparisons and I think, somewhat unfairly. Koscielny is one of the top two or three defenders in the world. He sets a very high benchmark and as a result, making comparisons to him with Big Per is always going to show his attributes in an unfavourable light in comparison to the Frenchman.
Yet he has been an excellent defender for us. He has played a key part in stabilising a team that suffered humiliation like the 8-2 at Old Trafford and whilst he still has the odd mistake in him – think Costa at home last season – by and large he has been a tremendous asset for Arsenal football club.
On and off the pitch too. You hear many of the players talking about how he leads the team and is a key personality in the dressing room. Arsène said as much is the summer too, calling him a ‘heavyweight‘ and it’s clear the manager views him as an important part of the team. At a time in which Arsenal are frequently labelled as a team without many ‘leaders’, having somebody like Big Per around the dressing room is essential.
So should he be given a new deal? I think so. It’s a tricky one for the manager I’ll admit, because he has two young defenders in Holding and Chambers who I think he’d love to move up the pecking order, but with Koscielny, Mustafi and Gabriel all more senior, Big Per makes up a fourth and that doesn’t really give those young players a quick route in to the first XI. Big Per is 32 and in the autumn of his top-level playing career too, so I suspect we’d only be looking at another couple of years out of him at the max.
So what does Arsène do? Does he sign him up for a couple of years and accept that unless Chambers and Holding can force his hand, keep playing the BFG? Or does he say thank you for the music to our giant German and roll the dice with one – or both – of the two younger players next season?
Of course there is the question about whether Arsène will be the guy to make that decision at all, given his own contract situation, which possibly complicates things too. Is that influencing players at the moment? Do some of them what to see what a possible next managers plans are before committing?
I suspect it only has a minor impact, but it will affect how much game time these younger players get, which at Santi and Big Per’s age probably plays a major factor. They’re both millionaires, have had good careers, so now probably just want to get as many minutes as possible. Whilst Santi is staking a claim at the moment and doing it well, Big Per’s injury doesn’t allow him to do the same, instead reduced to seeing Mustafi grow game-by-game and forge a partnership that could see Mertesacker reduced to a cup game captain.
But regardless of that, I’d still give him a deal for a couple of years if I had any say. You can’t put a price on experience and leadership and having someone like him around, who can also contribute towards the playing side of the team, is invaluable in my opinion. Plus, let’s not forget that the BFG has never been blessed with pace, so it’s not as if his number is up if his pace goes, because he never had any in the first place.
What do you think? Would you keep Big Per on board for another year or two?