06 March 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Recent Contract Extensions

Rosicky, recipient of a very well-deserved extension
(CC Licence / Wikimedia)
Jessica: It's always exciting to hear that one of our beloved Gunners has extended his contract with the Arsenal, and this week we've already been lucky enough to hear of two new contract deals for a couple of our favorite legends– Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky– as well as talks of two others who look set to follow in their teammates' footsteps. Mertesacker has stepped in as our valiant captain in the absence of Arteta and Vermaelen this season, establishing himself as an indispensable member of the squad in his position in the center of the defense. The importance of Rosicky– now in his eighth season with the Arsenal– is perhaps less well known (or at the very least less recognized), but as we saw against Sunderland he is capable of playing some absolutely sublime football. Sam, what do you make of our recent spike in contract extension activity? How important do you feel that these extensions will be not only for our future success, but also for our morale going into the final stretch of this season?

Sam: First, I'm very pleased that Super Tom has signed a new deal. I've always been a fan of his. Unfortunately for him, the first half of his Arsenal career was injury-filled, but in recent years he's been contributing some big goals in important games. It always seems like he steps up at a key moment, whether that's in a North London derby or coming in for an injured player.

For the BFG, it's welcome reward for a year of strong performances. When Per guest joined the club, he was derided by other fans and pundits for being too slow, but his partnership with Koscielny has become one of best in the league. Tying that partnership down for their peak years is going to be key, as it will not only allow the midfield to play with the security of knowing they're covered, but will also factor highly into Szczesny's growth between the posts (he's still only 23!).

So now those extensions are complete, who should be next? I guess we'd better talk about Bacary Sagna...

Jessica: Due to my own personal biases I'd probably go out on a limb and say that the little Spanish maestro Santi Cazorla should be next up and that he should sign some outrageous deal that allows us to keep him pretty much forever. If we take this out of the picture and assume that Santi will most likely sign a contract within the coming weeks that will secure his future as a Gunner until 2017, it seems quite evident that the Bacary Sagna situation is the most pressing and needs to be sorted out ASAP. 

There have been reports recently stating that Sagna, who has provided some of the most consistent levels of performance since joining the Arsenal in 2007, has told teammates that he will be leaving this summer rather than accepting a deal that would keep him in London until 2017 (ESPN.co.uk, Sun on Sunday). It would truly be tragic to see the Frenchman go; he's the one guy who has always made me think to myself, "Dang, I would never want to go into a tackle vs. Sagna." He's just so solid, consistent, and hard-working. Do you see any way of luring him into staying? Is there any hope at all? Would winning a trophy this year be too little too late?

Sam: I'm actually on the fence regarding Sagna. While I think he's good defensively, I haven't really been that impressed with his attacking forays this season. His crossing isn't as good as many people will have you believe, though that isn't my main issue. That would be cost; from everything I hear, Sagna is after a 3-year contract at a high wage. I don't know if winning anything will keep him at the Emirates. This is likely to be the last major contact Sagna signs, so who could really blame him for chasing the money? Arsenal's typical approach of one-year deals for players over a certain age doesn't offer Bac any security, or a healthy pay check before retirement.

At the end of those 3 years (were he to get them) he would be 34, most likely in decline, and playing him for three seasons would block the development of any potential replacement. Don't get me wrong, I'd welcome a 1 or 2 year deal at a reasonable price. But if he insisted on three years at a high wage? I'd lean towards letting him go, signing another right back and letting that player develop alongside our other young guys.  Controversial opinion? Plus, interesting little trend from recent seasons: the Gunners have often announced extensions in a bunch, so Sagna not being part of this week's news could be meaningful...

Turning to other players, we already know that Lukasz Fabianski will be leaving at the end of his contract, which leaves one more player on an expiring deal: Nicklas Bendtner. Where do you stand on extending him? It must be unlikely, right?

Where does Sagna's future lie?
(CC Licence / Wikimedia)
Jessica: While I really do love Sagna's consistency, hard work, and diligence in the defense, I agree with you with respect to his attacking forays: they have by no means been awe-inspiring this season, or in seasons past for that matter. I guess I've just gotten used to the fact that most of our creative attack is inspired by the likes of Gibbo and Nacho running down the left flank, and that our attack from the right consists in nothing more than Sagna crossing and occasionally sending in a brilliant ball that lands perfectly at the feet of his fellow Frenchman, Giroud. With the development of a new right back also in mind your opinion seems really valid; Sagna's presence in the squad may hinder said development, so a shorter contract for the aging defender would perhaps be the best option (at least for the Arsenal). 

Oh, King Bendtner. Where do we even begin?... I've heard rumors that Real Madrid and Barcelona are already in contract talks with the Dane, yeah? To be perfectly honest I could care less if Bendtner stays or leaves, but it looks very unlikely that he will stay on past this summer. It appears as though he's now fallen behind Olivier and 21-year-old Yaya Sanogo in Arsene's pecking order, and who can really blame him for wanting to see some time on the pitch? Now the real question to close up shop is will our #FreeSuarez movement on twitter lead to the King's replacement? I think it's very clear that we need another forward, but should that our main priority this summer? Where should we begin to look, what positions should we be looking for? I want a trophy!

Sam: It seems that we've been trying to get the Great Dane out of the Club for several years now, so his contract expiring looks like the perfect way to get that done. Nick himself reckons that he's been "made into a psycopath". My main interest in his situation is what club ends up signing him? Crystal Palace were close last year, though I imagine this season has put nearly every English club off the idea of having him in their squad.

As fun as the #FreeSuarez movement is, I see it as just that: fun. Last year was Arsenal's chance to sign him; if they really wanted him, they should have gone to £50m Now? I would expect Liverpool to demand a world record fee. In terms of strengthening the squad, the Gunners obviously need a keeper with Fab leaving and Viviano's loan ending. Arsène should be scouting right backs, because even if Sagna stays, Carl Jenkinson is just not good enough for The Arsenal. Finally, there is a definite need for a striker. For all of Olivier Giroud's strengths and good performances, he's not really going to strike fear in to top opposition defenses - the Bayerns and they Man City's of the world - nor does he look like a 25-goal a season striker; you know, the kind that wins you league titles.

Let's leave this column focusing on the positive, though. Two very well-deserved deals for Mertesacker and Rosicky, which I'm sure every fan is happy about. And, just as I was writing this conclusion, some more contract rumors have surfaced. I'll leave it to you, Jess...

Jessica: With the intent of ending on the most positive note possible, not only is Aaron Ramsey back in training this week, but the Telegraph is also reporting that our Wales international phenom is on the verge of joining the BFG and Super Tom as the latest player to sign a new long-term deal securing his future in North London. Rambo is on the verge of becoming Arsenal's second highest paid player with a new and improved £100,000-a-week deal, his second contract update in less than a year and a half. This new deal is evidence of just how important the Welshman is to our success, and I'm sure I speak for all of us in saying that this would be well deserved and that Gooners everywhere are very much looking forward to Rambo's return to the side.

Sam: If the rumors are true, then it is indeed well-deserved and very good news. That's as good a point as any to wrap it up. Here's hoping for an win in the cup this weekend, and, as ever, COYG.

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