Aaron Ramsey’s game-changing impact on Sunday’s north London derby adds much credence to the view that the decision not to offer him a new contract should be revisited.
Frankly, even before the 4-2 victory over Tottenham, I held the view that letting such a talented squad member leave for nothing was short-sighted and a little odd.
Offering new deals to players simply because of time served or in recognition of past deeds is wrong, but retaining Ramsey falls into neither of those categories. Yes, he has been a Gunner for 10 years and, yes, he has achieved great things with the club (not least two match-winning contributions in cup finals), but it’s not as if his well has long since run dry.
He has been a leading figure in our midfield for five years, has consistently scored goals, created chances, and registered assists.
Even as his contract wrangles became public earlier this season, he continued to lace up his boots without a fuss, continued to score goals, and continued to help his side win matches. So far, he has managed a goal (and what a goal that was) and six assists.
There aren’t many in the squad who can boast numbers like that at this stage of the season and that doesn’t take into account the fact that the Welshman has started from the bench on a number of occasions.
Clearly, there is money left in his bank. With simple modifications to his game and careful use, he could enjoy another four seasons at the highest level.
And, alongside his contributions off the pitch, Ramsey is, in effect, the grandfather of the house – that is to say he has served longer at Arsenal than any other player in the squad.
As we look to bring Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock, Matteo Guendouzi and Emile Smith-Rowe into the first-team fold, the wealth of experience Ramsey possesses would prove invaluable.
As well as a good footballer, he comes across as a model professional. He has overcome real adversity and shone, he has won trophies, he has competed on an international level, done battle in the Champions League, taken derbies in his stride. He has a great deal to offer, more than so than almost any other Arsenal squad member.
If you still doubted his ability and his desire, you need have looked no further than the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Where Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mhikitaryan were indecisive and inefficient, Ramsey was assured and knew how to make his moments count. Those find margins make all the difference in big games and lord knows he has played in enough of them.
It’s worth bearing in mind that nobody knows quite what offer was on the table for Ramsey earlier this season. The numbers might have simply been too big for Arsenal to stomach and, if that’s the case, so be it.
I’m all for paying a bit more for an exceptional talent but we have to live within our means and we have to be wise about where we spend our money.
If it eventually transpires that the contract offer was torpedoed because the budget simply wouldn’t allow it, I’ll rest assured, but, until then, we are left to question the club’s motives for pulling the deal so suddenly.
I hope, with the dust a little more settled, Unai Emery and his team might take another look at the situation and decide that money could be better saved elsewhere in this squad and invested in retaining a genuinely important member of the squad.
It may yet be too late, with Ramsey’s pride too pricked to consider a fresh contract offer, but, for me, the effort should be made.
Loyalty and long service are rare enough these days and if we can’t recognise the value in that, together with someone who is a genuine game-changer, then we can’t be surprised when players show little in return.