Arsenal really dropped the ball on Aaron Ramsey‘s contract. Then again, that is not something new for fans of the north London club. Supporters can think back to previous seasons when similar situations forced the Gunners to sell their star players in order to avoid losing them for free. Names such as Alexis Sanchez, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri come to mind.
Now, in Ramsey, a star player really is leaving for free. How likely is it for this situation to happen again?
Arsenal’s Contracts Beyond 2019: Gunners Turning a New Leaf
Danny Welbeck will also see his contract expire, however, he has not penned a new contract anywhere else. Two fullbacks, Nacho Monreal and Stephan Lichtsteiner, may possibly leave. The Swiss’ departure is very likely, while the club have the option of extending the Spaniard for another season.
Finally, Carl Jenkinson will at long last see his contract at his boyhood club expire. That is a total of six names. While at face value seeing six players leave in one summer is shocking, most of these losses can be justified somewhat.
Jenkinson, for example, has never really looked like a top-six fullback. Lichtsteiner simply doesn’t have the legs for the Premier League anymore and Welbeck spends almost as much time on the pitch as he does recovering from injury.
However, losing Aaron Ramsey for free really can’t be justified. Will a similar situation play out come summer 2020?
The short answer is no. Of all Arsenal’s contracts beyond 2019, just two are set to expire in the summer of 2020. The first is club captain Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman fought back bravely from injury this season to play some of his best football in years.
However, at age 33, he is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Plus, he has already publically speculated that his current contract will be his last at Emirates Stadium.
While he is probably the club’s second-best fit centre-back right now, behind Sokratis Papastathopoulos, these mitigating factors make his imminent departure very bearable. That’s not to mention promising young defenders at the club who are ready to take the next step such as Konstantinos Mavropanos and Rob Holding.
The only other Arsenal contract expiring in 2020 is that of David Ospina, currently on loan at Napoli. The Colombian was a reliable backup to Petr Cech for a few seasons, but he never really looked in danger of becoming Arsenal’s goalkeeper of the future.
Losing both of these players, even on free transfers, would be very tolerable. If the club can recoup some transfer fees from them, then even better.
Looking two years into the future, we begin to see some big names. Five players will see their deals expire in 2021: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi.
Four of these players are already 30 years old, with Mustafi currently 26. While every player is different, 30 is a sort of wall after which players’ abilities begin to decline, especially with attackers.
Since this window is still two years away, there is no use in speculating just who would potentially add quality with an extended stay at Arsenal out of this group. However, it is safe to say that at least one or two of these names would be moved along by 2021, if not sooner.
In fact, head of football Raul Sanllehi told the Telegraph in October 2018,
“In general, I do believe that a player’s contract should never go to the last year, as a policy. But I don’t think I am inventing the wheel. Anybody could agree on that. Normally, the contracts of the players are for five years. You need to have a clear idea of what you want to do with that player when he is in the third year, at the latest.”
So, theoretically, the Arsenal board should already have a plan for even this last group of players.
One pattern which has emerged from studying Arsenal’s contracts beyond 2019 is that of age. Just one player whose contract expires between 2019 and 2021 is under the age of 27, Mustafi. And he still has two years remaining on his deal, meaning the club could potentially get decent money for him.
The truly promising young players at the club all have contracts extending beyond 2021. For example, Matteo Guendouzi and Alex Iwobi are both tied down until 2022. Meanwhile, Lucas Torreira, Hector Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Holding and Mavropanos are under terms until 2023. None of those players are older than 24 at the time of writing.
If the Gunners can mount a title challenge in the next few years, these are the players who will contribute the most. Seeing that none are in danger of leaving for free in the next two years is a comfort.
Aaron Ramsey is certainly an important player for Arsenal. However, most other players whose contracts are expiring imminently are not nearly as important to the squad.
Of the eight players whose deals expire either this summer or next, just two have featured in the past two matches, against Manchester United and Stade Rennes respectively. They are Koscielny and Monreal, both are 33.
No doubt both will see their importance to the squad decline next season (should both stay). Meanwhile, at least four of the players whose contracts expire in 2021 are important parts of the first team squad.
The Time is Now
Raul Sanllehi needs to act on his words. While it is too late to rectify the Ramsey situation, it can be avoided in the future. The Arsenal board needs to decide which players to keep and which to sell and they must do it quickly.
Arsenal can’t continue on as a club which doesn’t know when to let go. They have left millions on the table by stubbornly refusing to sell when the selling is good. They have a chance now to put things right in the future, and hopefully, rebuild Arsenal into title contenders.
Contract information taken from Transfermarkt.
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