The owning, coaching, and playing of modern professional sports is not for people of modest means. At least not the “owning” part - coaches and players may start out as people of said modest means, but as they succeed, they get less and less modestly meaned and more and more well-compensated for their work. This is just a fact; I don’t judge a player for making a ton of money at all. Careers are short, make what you can.
The issue with that at a team level, of course, is that teams have budgets; European soccer has no salary cap, but teams, particularly teams that are as well run as Arsenal, have budgets they need to stay within if they want to continue to be well run.
Arsenal have several elite players, and two of them - Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez - are less than two years away from the end of their already-lucrative contracts. Arsenal, of course, will want to re-sign both, but in order to do so, Arsene believes that Arsenal must first prove their worth as a football team:
“I think these kind of players, they can raise a little bit above the financial aspect of the game because they are not poor and they have to look really on the football side,” he told press on Tuesday ahead of the Champions League clash with Ludogorets.
“Do the club meet their needs on the football front? If ‘yes’ then a Premier League club can find an agreement with the players.”
He makes a good point; at the level where Özil and Sanchez earn right now, it’s not about the dollar amount they make as money - they already have more than they’ll ever need - but about the dollar amount of a new contract as a relative ranking among their peer players on similarly-sized teams.
That, of course, is where the tricky bit comes in, because if Arsenal are the one team in that group of similarly-sized teams that don’t win trophies, a player with ambitions - almost any player - will go to another team, make better money, and win more things.
That, as annoying as it is, is the fact of the modern game, and Arsenal, as much as we like to wrap the club in soft-focus light and wax rhapsodic about how wonderful of a club it is, are not exempt from that - if a player like Özil doesn’t think he can meet his ambitions at Arsenal, he’ll go somewhere that he can.
And again, Arsene actually gets this:
“I blame nobody. If you were a player, you would try the same. You try to earn as much as you can. Honestly, my whole life I fight to get the players paid as much as I can. I want as well to be responsible, to pay them the money you can afford to pay. They have to feel that you meet their needs at the club and they get paid for it.”
Trophies are not why I am a fan of any team, in any sport - I’m more of a journey guy than a destination guy. But trophies are, inarguably, important to players, and if money’s not a deciding factor (at least as far as “I need a good salary to feed my family” goes), the chance to win things almost invariably is.
This year, Arsenal are off to a strong start, and are poised to Win Things; whether that will be enough to seal the deal and keep the Özils and Sanchezes in house remains to be seen, but playing well is the best assurance.