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Why are Arsenal so passive when it comes to the issue of renewing contracts for their top talents?

The way people write about footballers as free agents one might think that the only club that ever has players running down their contracts is Arsenal.

Danny Welbeck, Nacho Monreal, Petr Cech, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Aaron Ramsey are all currently doing just that, and as you may have noticed Arsenal’s management are being hammered in some sections of the media for gross incompetence at such a state of affairs.

But what is interesting is that none of the articles I have seen which are critical of Arsenal have compared the Arsenal end-of-contract list with that of other clubs in the same position.

Chelsea for example have eight such players with an estimated transfer value of £90m, including Kovacic, Fabregas, Luiz, Giroud and Cahill. Many others are in the same position. Five players with their contracts up has in fact become the norm.

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What should be remembered here is that running down the contract might appear great news for a player who believes he will be able to command a higher wage because there is no transfer fee, but it also comes with a risk – as Danny Welbeck has sadly shown.

Which club will want to buy Danny in the summer, especially if as seems likely, he won’t be up and playing by then? Ramsey of course is in the same position – running his contract down means he is just one insane tackle away from no salary at all.

In effect the transfer market is in a state of transition. For at the top end there seems no limit to how much the richest clubs will pay to get the man they want.

This is something encouraged not just by the fact that the richest clubs have no effective limit on how much money they can afford, but by the failure for whatever reason, of Uefa to stop Manchester City and other teams elsewhere paying whatever it takes to bring in the top players.

But the downside of this that players and their agents, confident of their value, will push for more and more money, knowing that if the contract runs down, they will eventually be able to walk away and get far more. (And I’d bet a pound to a penny that no agent warns his player of the danger of this ploy should the player get injured).

So when we consider Ramsey, and wonder what sort of incompetence there is at Arsenal that allows such a player to reach the end of his contract, we have to remember that if the player is willing to face the risk of serious injury in the last months of his contract (which could lead to clubs being hesitant to sign him) there is little any club can do to hold onto the player apart from pay insane salaries – which have to be paid no matter what the player’s form of future injury record.

Of course some clubs can offer a new contract at more and more money, but a club like Arsenal, which as far as we can understand things is being told by its owner to live within its means (and which in the last financial year is said to have made a loss by not being in the Champions League), simply can’t afford the ever higher salary settlements.


But there is another point to this. Consider two of Arsenal’s transfers last summer: Guendouzi and Torreira. Guendouzi cost 7 million euros. Torreira around 30 million euros.

Both appear to be great deals and the players are on long term contracts at commensurate salaries.

Next consider Maitland-Niles, now firmly in the first team squad, and Reiss Nelson, kicking up a storm in Germany on his one year loan. Both coming up (as so many others have) through the ranks and costing nothing in transfers. Consider then how much it cost Arsenal in Santi Cazorla’s salary through the long injury years.

My point here is that the departure of Ramsey and any of the other players who are out of contract this year, can’t be judged in isolation.

First, if a player does not want to sign, there is nothing that can force him. Second, if his wage demands are getting higher and higher and/or (as may be the case with Ramsey) he does not really fit into the manager’s thoughts for the future, in this climate it can be a good decision to let the player go.

Third, not every player remains at the top forever. Consider again the case of Alexis Sanchez and how Arsenal were pilloried in some quarters for letting him leave. Did Manchester United really get the best out of that deal?

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His market value is quoted at around 55 million euros at the moment – at one point at the start of 2018 it was quoted at 70 million euros. But according to Eurosport his salary (and these were apparently also the demands he made at Arsenal as well as being the pay he gets now at Man U) were £391,000 a week (over £20m a year) basic, plus £75,000 for every game he plays in, plus an annual “signing on” fee of £1.1m

If the question is asked, who got the better deal out of that, Arsenal in letting him go and saving the money, or Manchester United in paying no transfer fee but having to pay that salary, I would say Arsenal.

If we look at the players away from Arsenal who are going to be available on a free this summer the list includes, Jan Vertonghen, Phil Jones, Toby Alderweireld, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Vincent kompany, James Milner, Moussa Dembele… This is not just an Arsenal thing – it is happening across football.

And it is always worth remembering that Arsenal, like all other clubs, can only register 25 players over the age of 21 each season.

Things might change a little as some players reflect on Danny Welbeck’s situation, especially if it turns out that Danny cannot play at the highest level again, but generally speaking greed normally wins the day.

But that doesn’t mean Arsenal have to be part of it.

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