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Arsenal's contract situation shows Arsene Wenger needs support

Monday 27th March 2017
Arsenal have a host of players whose contracts expire in the summer of 2018. Their organisational issues show that Arsene Wenger needs support.
For those who have the pleasure of watching Jeff Stelling and the boys on Soccer Saturday, you will have come across the rather hapless pundit that is Paul Merson. Renowned for his ridiculous predictions and horrific pronunciations, Merson is far from a polished analyst. However, sometimes, he does say something poignant.

Earlier this season, when discussing the state of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez's quickly expiring contracts, Merson stated something that peaked my interest. He revealed that, during his time at Arsenal, his contract was never allowed to dip below two years remaining, claiming that talks were often ongoing as the club looked to secure his long-term future. It is a worrying story when contrasted to the state of soon-to-be-expiring deals that currently pervade the playing squad.

Here is a list of all of the players whose deals expire in the summer of 2018:

Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny, Santi Cazorla, Kieran Gibbs, Per Mertesacker, Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo.

Now, many of these players may be lesser members of the squad. Some are out on loan this season and some will be replaced this summer. However, there are also a number of key contributors whose deals are far more precarious than an organisation as professional as Arsenal should allow them to be. Contrast that to Merson's claims that his contract was never allowed to see the light at the end of the Arsenal tunnel, and it is certainly a concerning fact to consider.

Unlike most modern clubs which are run by a panel of directors in association with the manager, Arsenal is wholly shaped in the image of Arsene Wenger. He has a detailed and significant influence on every decision that is made, from the tactics on the pitch to the time the cleaners are allowed in London Colney. He is also the man that drives the contract talks with the players; contract talks that are woefully unsuccessful.

Early in his tenure, though, it was not Wenger who was tasked with player recruitment and subsequent retention. That was a task that David Dein mastered.

The vice-chairman was instrumental in hiring Wenger in 1996 and proceeded to play a major role in allowing Wenger to adapt to the challenges of managing a club as well-regarded and well-known as Arsenal. While Wenger focused his time and energy on revolutionising the training methods, the squad's fitness and the on-pitch approach, Dein micro-managed many of the behind-the-scenes demands. It is no coincidence that since his unceremonious departure in 2007, Arsenal have failed to replicate the same success, both on the pitch and off it, that they enjoyed early in Wenger's tenure.

Wenger himself is also managing under the cloud of a contract that expires at the end of the season. Amid the vociferous debate between large factions of the fanbase regarding his future, this is not a piece to use Arsenal's dire contract situations to support the 'Wenger Out' campaign. Rather, it is simply highlighting that Wenger needs help. Without it, Arsenal are facing a mass exodus.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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