Sunrise. Sunset. Drop a rock and it falls. Death. Taxes. There are a few certainties in this life, in both the natural world and the one we contrive for ourselves. In the contrived world of sport, there is always a Predictable Arsene Wenger Player Not Leaving quote to fall back on in times of uncertainty.
Today, it’s about Alexis and Mesut. As we all know, they’re out of contract after next season, which in the painfully capitalist world of European soccer, means that this summer is a time to either re-sign them or sell them, so they don’t walk away next summer for free.
Arsene Wenger, as we also know, is a man who believes one’s word is one’s bond. You sign a contract, you honor that contract, from the moment you sign it until the moment it expires. You saw that a lot in the most recent Wenger contract saga, when every time he was asked, he said “I’m under contract and I will honor that contract”. In his world, that’s iron clad, and I will admit that’s a very honorable way to be.
Today, Arsene was inevitably asked about the future of his two superstars, and as part of the chat, he said this:
This summer, first of all, they will stay at the club and hopefully we can extend their contract.
Well, that’s a bit of stating the obvious without actually saying anything, isn’t it? I mean, they’re under contract so they can’t go without being sent, and of course there’s hope that Arsenal can extend their contracts. This is the ultimate Arsene non-answer. But wait! There’s more!
I’m always surprised by that question because when you sign a contract somewhere you commit to give your best until the last day of the contract. I would say why should they not give their best. The interest of any footballer is to play football and well.
First of all, Arsene, you’ve been a manager for almost 30 years now. That question can’t surprise you. Second, when it comes to players, who have a much shorter window of time to maximize their earnings in their careers, that whole “they’re players here until their contract is up” doesn’t really work, because they’re not - they’re players at a club until they don’t want to be, at which point they leave. That’s the way the game is now.
So while there are words like “Alexis”, “Özil”, and “contract” in this story, really, it’s basically the same old same old - Arsenal want to keep the players but Arsene isn’t saying whether they can or will. All he’s saying is what he always says - players should play out their contracts. Which, sure, but again, that’s not the way the game works now for players of this level, and he knows that as well as anyone.
This may be just another example of jockeying for bargaining position, or it may be the truth; either way, Arsene is picking up right where he left off.