Money is a theme to which we will return this week, but it reared its’ head this morning in salaries. I’m not going all economic on you; we’ve got an army of accountants in the fanbase while others prefer to rely on the faded Universite de Strasbourg certificate hanging wonkily on the wall behind the manager’s desk.
The reality is Arsenal entered a new realm when Mesut Ozil signed a new deal. It outstrips the manager’s current contract by £3½m per annum on the lowest quoted figures I’ve seen.
Whether anyone’s salary is value for money is a matter of opinion. At Arsenal, the board freely admit they don’t set the manager targets, so assessments are subjective all the way down the line.
But this is where we must decide whether we’re a big club or just playing at being one. It’s a moment where we must put our money where our mouth is.
Quite a few contracts expiring in the next eighteen months. Only one – Santi Cazorla – is down to ethics. Injuries ravaged his career recently and as they have done in the past, the club extended his deal so that the player received medical treatment, etc.
There was a hint of selfishness too. Arsenal knew Cazorla was an integral part of the starting line-up and hoped he would be again. At the very least, a strong member of the squad. Including him in the Europa League for the knockout stage is a positive sign but such are the disappointments previously suffered, I’ll believe Santi is back when he’s on the pitch.
When he comes back, there’s another renewal to deal with and like Jack Wilshere, there’s a suggestion of a ruthlessness about the club’s approach to talks. Injuries become a negotiating tool to peg back wage expectation.
It’s a Rich Man’s World
Aaron Ramsey with the match ball from Saturday’s drubbing tucked safely in the ‘man cave’ is the name in the frame. New terms were offered to the Welshman and rejected at the height of the Sanchez and Ozil fiascos.
A marmite player, Ramsey is sure to hold out for more money than was initially offered, in light of the 215% pay rise secured by Ozil. The Welsh international is an interesting case; he remembers the failed socialist wage structure which left Arsene as the highest-paid by some distance. Pointedly, he will remember the gap between the top and bottom earners in the squad wasn’t that great.
It still wasn’t particularly big until Ozil put pen to paper; now it’s huge. I’m not before you say otherwise, suggesting Ramsey wants parity nor that he thinks he deserves it.
What he will believe is that he is worth not far short of Ozil’s wage. That’s a subjective value, in cash and percentage terms. However, it’s clear Arsenal won’t get his signature from much less than doubling his reported current £110k per week.
It’s worth remembering that footballers’ wages are divisive. Typically, the sums reported are maximum contract values, inclusive of bonuses; it’s why the word ‘worth’ frequently precedes wages quoted.
However, we want them to earn their ‘worth’ since it means Arsenal are successful, but that’s the only time you feel you’re getting your money’s worth.
PEA is reportedly on £180k per week but if the club offers similar to Ramsey, where does Jack Wilshere fit into all this? Would he accept the strictures of a ‘pay as you play’ deal in this new economic world? Much less one on a reduced salary?
Arsenal is a club which must grow up; fast.
Back to Life, Back to Reality
The new world extends beyond the spreadsheets of payroll and contracts. Huss Fahmy joined and was so far on the back foot that he was horizontal. Now, with the ‘big two’ resolved one way or the other, there’s a sense that Arsenal can make up for lost time.
Wilshere is the more immediate issue. Jack walks this summer and as much as losing a £30m player for nothing would hurt, losing a homegrown player is a bigger issue.
It’s why I won’t be surprised if at least two of the summer’s signings fit that bracket – Butland to replace Ospina? – and partly explains the club’s pursuit of Jonny Evans, albeit driven by a knockdown price.
Several others, such as Welbz, will find the new economics harsh. If Jack is on a ‘pay as you play’, Welbeck is another who requires the same strictures without necessarily much financial benefit. I can see his Arsenal career quickly heading in the same direction as Theo’s.
Contract talk feeds a growing sense of momentum in terms of rebuilding. Cech, Koscielny and Monreal are at the point where diminishing returns are felt with the goalkeeper at the lowest ebb and Nacho the peak. But that downward slide is going to happen to all over the next few seasons.
There are three over-30s to replace while there’s natural wastage in the squad – Welbeck, Elneny – as well as upgrades – Mustafi, Ospina, Xhaka. Will we address these in one summer? I somehow doubt it.
It’s a brave new world, we’ll start all over again, as the soldier in the War of the Worlds musical put it. We have a lot in common with that character; he was a dreamer with an unrealistic target as well. The question is who suffers the near-fatal dose of cynicism first.