The excellent form of both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil this season has inevitably set the balling rolling – and fingers typing – on the drawn out ‘will they, won’t they’ contractual saga.
It’s not a new one for most Arsenal fans but there is a subtle difference this time around, in that there is actually some optimism that we may be able to keep hold of both of our world class talents.
We have seen so many of our biggest stars run down contracts and leave over the years, with most citing a desire to win trophies as their reason for doing so. In reality, I suspect a lack of financial firepower on the club’s part has been more to do with the bargain.
Ashley Cole was probably the first player in the exodus era – followed by the likes of Mathieu Flamini, Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri, and Emmanual Adebayor, to name but a handful.
In the past, the constraints of funding the stadium move kept the wage structure anchored at a certain level, meaning players would often look elsewhere for that extra £30,000 a week.
In 2016, however, Arsenal are as well placed almost any other club to offer top talents the money they desire. And, make no mistake, keeping hold of both the Chilean and the German will require a great deal of cash. Both men have just 18 months left on their current deals.
On rare occasions, Arsene Wenger has shown himself happy to pay the mega money, if he believes the expenditure is justified and, on this occasion, I’m sure he knows just how important it is that the club keeps hold of our crown jewels.
To that end, I don’t think that money will be an issue. Besides, Arsenal recently tied Hector Bellerin down to a new deal, with a hefty increase in his wage, so the intent and the capital is undoubtedly there.
Really and truly, the decision as to whether both players stay will come down to whether they want to. This time around, the desire to win trophies, or the desire for more money, can’t be used as excuses in the same way they have been trotted out in the past.
The decision will ultimately come down to whether they like their team mates, the lifestyle in London, the setup at Arsenal, and the Premier League.
Of course, they will need to be paid whatever they demand, and they will also need to be confident of the long-term prospect of winning the biggest trophies, but whether they believe there is one move left in their careers, one final shot at a club like Barcelona or Real Madrid, will ultimately determine whether they sign a contract extension.
Asked about the issue in his pre-Stoke press conference, Wenger said: “They have 18 months left on their contracts and they are completely committed to doing well as long as they are here. Beyond that, we’ll try to extend their contracts but I cannot make that the subject in every press conference because it’s a normal part of every renewal when you renegotiate. The less you talk about it, the better it is.”
I’m confident that the club is prepared to ‘pay them whatever they ask’ – as so many fans have demanded – but what the club can’t necessarily control is the minds of the players. If they really want to stay, they will, but if they are holding out for some overtures from Spain, no amount of money or bonus payment will likely change that.
To that end, we as fans should be pretty sanguine about the whole affair. Ultimately, the power in these deals lies with the players and only they really know whether they want to commit their future to Arsenal.
If nothing else, and for the first time in a long time, we can confidently say that Ivan Gazidis won’t be quibbling over the odd £5,000.