It’s far from the most glamorous part of football but it may well be one of the most important parts. Getting a club’s players tied down to lengthy contracts is now becoming one of the most integral parts of football management. Some teams find tremendous success in this while others are failing miserable. Arsenal are a prime example of the latter and it’s hindering the club both on and off the pitch. Several key players are out of contract at the end of the season and it’s stopping the Gunners from completing their business the way it should be done.
It’s rare for football fans to get excited about contract renewals. A big player renewing when it looked unlikely may cause some glee but nothing on the same scale as a new signing. Instead, renewing contracts is more of an expectation. Teams just should always have their players signed down to good deals. It provides stability and there’s just a sense of the club securing its assets, that way, if a player wants to leave then all the power is with the team he’s contracted to for the next several years. The selling club has a bigger impact on price or can choose to pull the plug on any deal and threaten the player with four years in the reserves.
“Technically, what should happen really is club to club,” said famous super agent Jon Smith in an exclusive interview with Betway. Smith argues that the preparation for the bigger deals usually starts “three to four months” before the transfer window is even open. That’s how things should happen. The two clubs discuss the possibility, agents get involved, and everything is completed above board with the player finally signing on the dotted line once everyone is happy.
However, things are rarely that straight forward, especially for a club like Arsenal. The Gunners are currently in the middle of a situation they’re more than familiar with: a key player refusing to sign a new contract with other clubs circling. Robin Van Persie is the obvious example of this after the Dutchman completed his move to Manchester United back in 2012 just a year before his Arsenal contract was set to expire.
Now, the Gunners have a massive list of key players who are out of contract next season and another lengthy batch the season after. Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez are the big names whose respective deals expire next summer. Both have been linked with moves away with the club and while Özil has hinted at signing a new deal, the Gunners look resigned to losing Alexis Sanchez for nothing next summer.
It’s a mess of Arsenal’s own making. Why didn’t the club offer Sanchez a new deal after his stop-start second season? Why wasn’t Özil offered the same thing during one of his many poor runs of form? They’re two of the club’s best players and now their respective agents have all the bargaining power they want when entering negotiations with the club. Should the Gunners lose both stars next summer then what is to stop other players from doing the same? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere could follow suit in 2018 with Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Petr Cech free to do the same the year after. In all, the Gunners have 14 senior players whose deals all expire in the next 24 months.
It’s not a secret. The Arsenal players’ agents know it and rival teams will be aware of it too. Clubs will know of Arsenal’s desperation to sign potentially half a dozen players in the coming years if the likes of Sanchez and Özil do leave. Arsenal can’t risk slipping down the Premier League table and any further into mediocrity so they’ll have to spend big to avoid it. It’s a lot harder to spend big when players you aren’t recouping any money from player sales.
There’s no doubt this uncertainty will bubble over onto the field if it hasn’t started already. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil may act in the most professional manner expected but if they’ve signed pre-contract agreements with another club then there’s no chance they’ll be as committed to the Gunners as they usually would be. Just look at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance in the defeat to Liverpool. Why pick up an injury between the months of January and June in an Arsenal shirt and risk losing a potentially massive sign-on fee with a Premier League rival? Fellow Arsenal players must be affected by this.
It’s a bafflingly naive situation which Arsenal Football Club has found itself in. If you can’t get your best players to commit to the club then why should anyone else? Fans only have to look at the current situation with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to see the power a squad player has over Arsenal right now. Just imagine how much worse it could get in the coming years if the Gunners fail to tie down the team’s key players to long-term contracts as soon as possible.