Arsenal: Contract plans mean nothing without addressing the past

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal prepare to kick off during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium on April 21, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal prepare to kick off during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium on April 21, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) /
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Arsenal plan to begin contract discussions with Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck. But plans mean nothing without addressing the problems of the past. Talking has never been their problem; closing the deal has.

Arsenal have, justifiably, face intense criticism for their handling of players’ contracts. From an inability to efficient and proactive in renewing deals to the overpaying of average members of the squad who offer little more than depth when injuries strike, it is fair to say that the Gunners do not excel when it comes to their players and their contracts.

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These issues, although they have undermined the progress of the club for many years, came to the fore last summer. With both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil entering the final 12 months of their respective deals, the prominent expectation of struggles in the window was fulfilled; although Arsenal were able to hold onto both players, at what cost was the decision made?

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Arsene Wenger himself admitted that the decision not to sell Sanchez when he had the chance on transfer deadline day was an expensive one. But all the frenzy and panic need not have happened had they been convicted, quick in thought and action, and efficient in their contract discussions with Sanchez, and Ozil and a number of other players, including Wojciech Szczesny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who departed as a result.

But now, according to a report in ESPN, Arsenal are commencing contract talks with Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey to attempt to avoid the mistakes of the past. Both Welbeck’s and Ramsey’s contracts expire in the summer of 2019, two years from now. Although it is already late to let a contract run down to even that extent – Paul Merson once stated that his contract was never allowed to dip below two years remaining while at Highbury – it is a sign that lessons, finally, may be being learned.

Ramsey and Welbeck have been key components of the team for several seasons, particularly when fit, and it would represent a step in the right direction if the club could secure their futures beyond 2019.

However, although the news is unquestionably positive and implies a more purposeful and intending Arsenal board and management, it is difficult to be hopeful about a deal ever being completed before the official announcement is made. Unfortunately, we have been here before.

Contract talks with players have been initiated in the past, only to falter at one stage or another, quite often over the direction of the club, as with Robin van Persie, their standing in the squad, as with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or with wages, as with Samir Nasri.

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Ramsey and Welbeck may not be the true stars of the squad. But that does not mean that they lack value and importance. They are still key pieces of the jigsaw and ensuring that they remain with the club for the long-term is important. This news is hopeful but let’s just see if it actually leads to anything before getting too excited.