Arsenal are good at a great many things. The table has shown that Arsenal aren’t that good at football, at least relative to their aspirations, recently, but they remain a club that players want to play for, an organization that tries to do the right thing by its players as much as possible, and a destination for some of the top talent in the game.
Where they sometimes struggle, though, is in keeping that top talent. In a pattern that goes back to Robin van Persie, if not further, Arsenal have gotten in the very bad habit of letting the contracts of some of their more elite players enter their final seasons, thus depriving the club of a great deal of leverage as contracts of players they really should be trying to keep enter the final stages of a contract. When January of that final year hits, of course, said players can sign a pre-contract agreement with any non-English team. It also destroys much of their domestic transfer value because, in most cases, a team will wait out the final six months of a player’s contract and then get them for no transfer fee in the summer rather than pay a transfer fee.
I’m not sure how Arsenal got in that habit - was it Wenger’s faith that a player would just want to stay no matter what? Was it just laziness on the part of the board? A combination of both? Any way it happened, though, it happened more often than most of us would have liked, and reports today indicate that the Arsenal executive team had that same sentiment.
Raul Sanllehi said today that, as a matter of policy, Arsenal should not let contracts go into their last year:
“In general, I do believe that a player’s contract should never go to the last year, as a policy,” said Sanllehi. “But I don’t think I am inventing the wheel. Anybody could agree on that.”
On that, he’s correct - Arsenal were particularly bad at retaining players in their final season, and I’m glad to hear that be acknowledged as a shortcoming. It remains to be seen how easily corrected that is, but it’s good to hear that they’re willing to get better. Sanllehi also said something that shows just how far in advance he likes to operate, when asked about a “normal” (in a league where contracts are kinda meaningless for big players, the word normal absolutely deserves the quotes) five-year contract cycle:
“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.”
I don’t think this is a magic bullet that will, for instance, make Aaron Ramsey want to re-sign with the club after having his offer pulled back. But I do like the thought process here and hopefully it will prevent more Aaron Ramsey scenarios from happening in the future, which is an outcome I think we can all get behind.