Gooooood morning world. Today is a good day. Arsenal tied down their core of English players to long term deals. Well, 5 of them at least.
Now, first thing’s first. Tying young players down to long term contracts is a good thing. You never know what’s going to happen with upstarts. They could explode onto an upward curve and become the next Cesc Fabregas. They could meander along and end up like Alex Song, incredibly landing a move to Barcelona. Or they could join the ‘not good enough’ pile like Senderos, Merida and Aliadiere.
Being a good player when you’re young does not mean you’ll be a good player when you’re older.
So these are my thoughts on this situation. If you disagree, tell me why, but don’t cloud your judgement because these players are British and extremely likeable. Don’t steam in with ‘all you do is moan’ because plenty of things we moan about at the start come to fruition. Like, say, having British players… which, as someone pointed out was a xenophobic chat a year ago, now Arsene is preaching it, it’s genius
He’s looking at passports now eh?
(and as someone said on Twitter yesterday, on cold nights in Bradford, we’ll be much bett… ahh… right).
Long term BIG deals
Players rarely sign on for less money. In fact, they never do if they’re Premiership players. Word on the street is Jack has taken £85k p/w, Rambo £60k, Chambo and Gibbs £52k p/w with Jenkinson on the £30k p/w.
That’s £15million a year we’ve just spent on new deals (which counts as investment in the squad for loan stipulation purposes).
Now, again, put aside your love for English media hype. Who has delivered anything of note out of those players? None of them. Not even Jack Wilshere if you’re brutal. I’d say, bar the superstar of the pack, they’re all being paid well above their stations here.
Jack Wilshere for me is a slightly different story. He sits in the English Cesc role for me. He’s clearly got bundles of raw talent. He’ll make it. At worst, he’ll be a very,very good England player. At best, well, who knows where his talent could take him. Essentially, you’re paying him on future appearances because you can be almost certain he’ll deliver them.
Kieran Gibbs has looked pretty good this season. His crossing has been excellent and in the main, he’s been a bit of a shining light in defence when he’s managed to string a set of games together. However, his fitness is questionable and he’s half a season into his break through season. Since 2007, he’s never managed more than 20 games a year. For me, that’s a worry. He has problems fitness wise, and we’ve just tied him down to a long term deal. This could work out. Clichy had the same issues, but surely you’ve got to tie something into that deal around performance? Otherwise haven’t we just opened ourselves up to another Diaby situation?
Jenkinson. Well, again, he’s looked solid in parts this season. Is he the answer long term to our right back position? I still can’t quite make up my mind. One minute he’s dazzling, the next he’s falling over himself against Swansea. Both players have potential, both are part of a terrible defence. £30k a week isn’t going to kill us as a club, but what rankles me is that as soon as a player has 10 good games we’re slapping a new deal on the table. No work goes into more money when you’re at the lower levels at Arsenal.
Alex Chamberlain is a player who I took a stinging amount of abuse over when I said he wasn’t the answer to our problems two years ago. Since his arrival, he’s offered nothing more than a good performance against Milan. Has he got potential? Absolutely. Is he delivering? No. He is anonymous in most games. Compare his impact to that of Sterling at Liverpool and you’ll see what I mean. He’s been the same for two years. He started 15 games last year and he’s started 8 this year. His goals and assists aren’t impressive nor has his contribution been. That’s not to say it won’t be going forward. That’s just to say… how the hell have we sanctioned a massive pay rise off the back of that?
Aaron Ramsey. Now here’s a player who could spark a debate on any North London street corner. I like him. I think he gets a rough ride from the crowd… but generally in the main, it’s totally deserved. He’s not really improved since he came back from injury, if anything, he’s regressed. He holds onto the ball too long, he runs into the back of players, he still has the youthful ignorance with his passing and he’s not decisive. He has something though, somewhere within him to become a good player. Much in the same way Senderos did. Now, arguably, he’s been our worst performer consistently over the past two seasons (of the regular starters). Now, I’m not saying I’d want to see the back of him, but what I am saying is I’d rather him not be given at £3million a year contract. What does that say about us as a club? We’ve just given an under performer a massive pay hike. We’ve rewarded mediocrity with a massive deal. What does this say to players underneath him? Because please don’t tell me professional footballers watch him and see something else.
Now we can all debate the merits of the above players until we’re red white and away kit blue in the face. That’s what we do, we’re football fans. My position on it is this… if you pay the average players massive money on long term deals, you can’t afford to pay the best players the best money when the average players make the leap. Our wage bill last year was nearly on par with City’s from the year before. We only have one person at the club on plus £100k… the manager. What does that tell you about our wage structure? We give ourselves no wiggle room when it comes to great players because Wenger is obsessed with buying love, where a manager like Ferguson puts people on aspirational wages. If you want to make it, work for it, prove yourself over a season or two, then we’ll talk big money.
The way Arsenal work is like a Government agency. You get paid according to length of duty. It’s not based on merits really. You’re just put up to a certain bracket when the time is right… and we all know how efficient the public sector are.
I also think it’s worth noting that we’ve been here before. I remember when Djourou, Nik Bendtner, Denilson and Carlos Vela were all young and all loaded with potential. We still have all of them!
Now, I think there’s a slight difference with foreign players and English players. If you play your cards right with young English players, you tend to have more loyalty. The English are ignorant lazy creatures when it comes to certain things. We have our friends in a certain place, so the thought of moving somewhere else isn’t appealing. We don’t do ‘other languages’ because it’s hard work. Also, we like playing football, regardless of cash, unless we’re called Wayne Bridge. If these players weren’t being played, they look like the sort of characters who’d go elsewhere.
So, to sum up, I’m pleased we’ve signed a group of players with bag loads of potential to long term deals. I’m pleased we have an English spine to the team. My main worry out of all this is we haven’t learned lessons of the past 5 years. We’re still trying to buy love at the beginning of players career journey’s, forgetting that you skint yourself out doing that, forcing the end of the journey to be played out at more wage efficient clubs. I say wage efficient, because the simple fact is you can have elite player salaries at a club that can afford a £160million wage bill. It just depends how you want to structure things.
A case study for this is Theo Walcott. He wants £100k a week, because he’s used to getting payrises for doing very little. The baseline for his salary has always been set higher than his ability. How can we give him stick for wanting £100k a week when Ramsey just managed to bag £60k a week? Big salaries for players starting out stores up problems for the future. We’ve seen that played out enough times over the past few seasons.
Wenger hasn’t changed. This is a massive gamble for him. Let’s see how it pans out, I pray it’s for the good, otherwise that potentially iconic picture above could look like the one below.
P.S. Champions League draw. What are the odds it’s NOT Barcelona? Low I’d imagine. Also, the West Ham game has been cancelled. Good times.