Except there is a sudden change of hearts before the first of January 2018, the duo of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez will be free to sign a pre-contact agreements with football clubs desirous of their services for the next football season.
It would amount to a humongous financial loss for Arsenal should the two players be allowed to see out their contracts and move to other club for free. In today’s hyper-inflated transfer market, players of their caliber now attract fees well over the million pounds mark.
The news that Ozil and Sanchez were foot dragging to put pen to paper for a new deal in Arsenal was making the round while the season was still on last years. Many Gunners’ fans felt it was only matter of time before Arsene Wenger talked them into singing a new deal. But much later, the statements coming from both players’ agent shocked people into the realization that they were irrevocably committed to their decision to leave the club on the expiration of their contracts.
One does not need to rack his head too hard to know why both players are no longer keen to be in the employ of the prestigious London club. They, like few other players in the club, have since lost hope in the Arsenal project under the direction of Wenger. They have seen all-too-clearly the limited aspirations of the club season after season.
An indication of the level of players’ disillusionment with the state of affairs in Arsenal came into the light at the beginning of the season when Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain ditched the Gunners for Liverpool, despite the fact that Arsenal had offered him an improved contract, which was better than what he eventually settled for at Liverpool where is not even sure of being starter.
To show the extent to which Arsenal’s players have become disillusioned with Wenger tight-purse management of the club, it necessary to recall the circumstances that preceded Alexis Sanchez moving to Arsenal four seasons ago. Then he refused to move to Liverpool, who wanted cash plus him (Sanchez) in exchange for Luis Suarez moving to Barcelona. The Chilean mid-fielder saw the Gunners as a better proposition than the Merseyside club, which could hardly qualify for the champions League on regular basis.
Much has changed since Sanchez made that move to Arsenal four years ago. It is true that the Gunners have won two FA Cups since he came to the club, but their performances in both the domestic league and in European competition have not undergone any remarkable improvement. Little wonder the stars in their team – Ozil and Sanchez – are seeking for fresher challenges elsewhere. Then again, for the first time in many years, the club’s fans initiated a campaign to force the management to sack Wenger, whom they see as the problem of their club.
Some people have accused Ozil and Sanchez as being mercenary, but one can easily identify with their resolve to leave the club on the completion of their contracts. These same critics are aware that footballers have a very short career and the pressure is always on them to achieve all they can before age dulls their vitality.
Speaking on the issue of age as it concerns Ozil and Sanchez, both players are in their late twenties – the age usually seen as the prime period of footballers’ development. It is evident that this is the last time they can sign another bumper contract spanning up to five years, and there is the additional benefit of them pocketing huge transfer fees from the next clubs that would sign them. In the light of these considerations their current contract stand-off with the club is understandable.
As it stands at the moment, Wenger does not hold the advantage in this contract standoff with Ozil and Sanchez – it slipped away two seasons ago. The French tactician is left with very few options; while he is opposed to selling the duo to other Premier league rivals; he equally has been unable to exchange them with like-for-like players from clubs interested in signing them. This was the case when he tried to broker an exchange dealwith Manchester City – involving swapping Sanchez with Raheem Sterling, a move which was reportedly rejected by City.
Then there is the option of selling the want-away players to football clubs abroad, but the snag in that move is that the players would rather remain at the club till the end of the season than move to another league they do not fancy.
Wenger’s last move, when it dawned on him that he no longer had the advantage in the contract negotiation, was to keep the players for the last year of their contract, hoping their involvement would enable the club win the league or the Europa league Cup. That gamble has not turned out to be a very cleverly calculated one. Not even the most fanatical follower of Arsenal can bet his money on the club winning the league. And even if they eventually won the Europa league, the fact that Sanchez and Ozil would leave the club for free would still be a very bitter pill for them to swallow.
The positions Ozil and Sanchez have taken in respect of contract renewal with the club is setting a wrong precedence. And if there is no fundamental overhauling of how Arsenal are managed: other players would play the same hand in the near future.
Arsene Wenger is an excellent manager but he needs to change his general outlook on how modern football is managed. And until Arsenal are ready to flex their financial muscles in players’ acquisition with other big-spenders in the football market: they will remain an unattractive destination for most elite players in the world.