Ever since, and to a degree before the departure of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have been in a sorry state. Consecutive failures to quality for Europe’s top-tier competition as well as questionable moves in the transfer market have left fans a tad miffed as to where the club look to be heading. Those problems have only been compounded by issues with contracts that stretch back years.
One of the major points to raise about the current contractual situation is one that harks back to the time when Arsene Wenger was in charge. Whilst Mesut Ozil’s £350,000 per week deal has been finally ended, thanks to his move to Fenerbahce, there are still instances where ageing players have been handed big contracts. One such instance was a transfer sanctioned under the stewardship of Mikel Arteta, whose acquisition of Willian resulted in the Brazilian winger being handed a ludicrous £190,000 a week deal. In comparison with his contemporaries on the wing, such as Bukayo Saka and increasingly Nicolas Pepe, Willian hasn’t lived up to his exorbitant wages.
The contract situation for the club’s elder statesmen hasn’t just been thanks to new signings, but also with players who have been long servants. Both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are on the same kind of money as Willian and have passed the peak of their respective careers. At the same time, Aaron Ramsey was let go from the club as the latest in a long run of Arsenal players being either released or sold as a result of contract issues or expiry. Most of these, somewhat as expected, took place during the reign of Wenger. Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna and Cesc Fabregas all left because of contract issues.
The club’s problems with contracts, as well as the way it has been run for the best part of a decade and a half, has done Arsenal no favours. The move from Stan Kroenke to gain full ownership of the club some three years ago has been detrimental to the club’s successes; indeed, in an article from the time, he was quoted as saying that he didn’t purchase Arsenal to win trophies. This mentality hasn’t helped the club in the slightest, as it has meant that Kroenke and co. have been pretty much silent since that full ownership change, even with the loss of backroom staff and the dreadful European Super League move that quickly fell.
Combine these problematic ills with the departure of Wenger and the rapid modernisation of the club’s technical structure in a timeframe of three years and it has currently caused the Gunners to go into a period of decline. This has been characterised by a period of not just stagnation but decline, and that is also reflected in the odds for Arsenal to qualify for Europe through the Premier League. The Gunners are considered as rank outsiders to finish in the Premier League’s top six, being handed odds of 66/1, putting them on the same footing as Aston Villa.
For Arsenal to get out of the rut they look to be stuck in, the club needs to stop throwing money at players that don’t deserve it, or on unsustainable deals. The Willian contract especially characterises both of those instances and considering the crop of young talent that the club is bringing through with Balogun, Saka, Smith-Rowe, Azeez and others, the millions every month that are being wasted on so-called elder statesmen could easily be spent elsewhere.
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