Arsenal are second in the league, unbeaten since opening day (except the EFL Cup), and have just won their Champions League group whilst scoring 18 goals in the process.
They’ve scored nine goals away from home in the last week alone. Arsenal are flying at the moment, and what is everyone worrying about at the moment?
It is truly bizarre that no matter how well a team may be playing at any given time, we’ll always find something to be pessimistic about. Our ability to find the smallest fly in the world’s largest bowl of soup is uncanny, yet here we are, worrying about something that both sides involved in have no reason to sort out any time soon.
Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez both have 18 months left to run on their respective contracts. Is it ideal for Arsenal to have their two best players under contract for only another year and a half? Of course not. But is there any reason that either side should move to change this situation? Right now, the answer is most definitely no.
Firstly, look at it from the players’ perspective. They are two widely respected footballers playing in a top league, in one of the best cities in the world, and for a manager who they highly respect. But they are also hugely underpaid in relative terms to those of an equal status in the footballing world. We can argue forever over who is better between Paul Pogba and Özil, but it’s patently obvious that Özil deserves to be paid more than half what Pogba is getting.
But whilst their ability to leverage a favourable deal for themselves is considerable at the moment, that ability will only become greater as long as Arsenal are playing well and they are at the heart of that success. It’s notable that almost everyone who slated Özil over the last couple of years is now saying that Arsenal need to break the bank to keep him. Yes, I’m looking at you, Neil Ashton. (PS: I’d post a link to him saying this, but it’s in the Sun, and I don’t want to be the reason why you have to delete your browsing history.)
Even if either of them got injured, they would still command a huge fee and would receive a massive contract from someone like Bayern Munich or Juventus. Remember, Arsenal got £25m for Robin van Persie, a player with a far inferior injury record to either Özil or Alexis. So, there really is no compunction for either of them to sign a new deal at Arsenal, unless that deal was simply too good to turn down.
Of course, that’s exactly what fans want Arsenal to do. They don’t want to worry about the possibility of seeing either of the club’s best players leaving, never mind both of them. They would be more than happy to pay whatever it takes to keep their favourite players at the club, but they also don’t have to worry about finding the extra money to pay them. Yes, Arsenal are cash rich, but can they afford to pay two players £300k a week? No.
And that’s why Arsenal can’t simply cave in to any and all demands made by their best players, because they simply can’t afford to. Say, for example, that Arsenal give both Özil and Alexis a four-year contract extension, at £300,000 a week, plus £10m each in signing-on fees and bonuses that can be paid throughout the contract. With both players currently on £140,000 a week, that would mean an additional outlay of around £90m over the next four years.
Again, both players would certainly deserve such a contract, but it’s in Arsenal’s best interests to pay them as little as possible, for two reasons. Firstly, even if Arsenal manage to get both of their superstars to sign for £220-£230,000 a week instead of £300,000 a week, that saving in money might be the difference between being able to sign someone like Lucas Perez, and not. You can be assured that this will be pointed out to the players too.
Secondly, whilst Özil and Alexis would no doubt be delighted with a £300,000 a week salary, how do you think that this news would go down in the dressing room? Their teammates will be delighted, not only because their own hopes for success are helped by having Özil and Alexis around, but that when it comes to their own contract negotiations, they will hope to be treated in a similar fashion. We all saw what happened with Theo Walcott when Özil was on £140,000 a week, imagine what Alex Iwobi will ask for if Özil is on £300,000 a week? Or Aaron Ramsey? Or Shkodran Mustafi? Arsenal not only have to worry about having enough money to help build a squad around Özil and Alexis, but also to pay those who they want to keep around, too.
So, should Arsenal fans be worried about the lack of official word from the club about resigning Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez? No. In fact, all the recent press speculation over rival clubs being interested in signing both of them should be encouraging, as it clearly shows that an agent is trying to create some leverage for his client by showing that other clubs are interested in signing him. There would be no need to do this if there wasn’t any interest in negotiating a new deal in the first place, as all Alexis would have to do to alert the world of his availability to signed would be to tell everyone that he wasn’t signing a new deal, just like Robin van Persie did.
Arsenal have three contract situations that need sorting out: Özil, Alexis and Arsene Wenger. If Wenger says he’s staying, then there’s a far greater chance of the players staying too. But the opposite is also true, and all three of them know it. So nobody’s going to say anything for now, and just play football. The rest can be sorted out later.
Fans may want an early resolution to all of this, but there is simply no reason for anyone involved to get the ball rolling at the moment. All we can do is keep winning football matches. That’s plenty enough to worry about.