Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal and contracts

After months of negotiating, speculation and general bullshitery, it was announced last week that Aaron Ramsey will leave Arsenal on a free transfer next summer.

While the majority of Arsenal fans are disappointed to be losing a player of great ability, who has been with the club since he was a teenager, it came as no great shock when said announcement was made.

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Various reports over the last few weeks had stated that Arsenal had withdrawn the offer that was on the imaginary negotiation table, with numerous reasons for this being reported, from Unai Emery not rating Ramsey, to Ramsey reportedly wanting to be on the same wage as the likes of Mesut Özil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

While we are currently unsure of the exact reason for Ramsey’s impending departure, it continues a worry trend of Arsenal allowing big name player’s to let their contracts run into their final year.

In the summer of 2017 Arsenal allowed Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to enter the final year of their contracts, cut to 15 months later and only Özil remains at the club.

So why is it that Arsenal continuously have contract problems with players, they say they are putting an end to it, but is that really the case and what about Ramsey, where will he move to next after over a decade in North London.

A changing Arsenal?

While Arsenal’s midfield has gone through a revamp over the last 15 months, it is nothing compared to what has gone on at managerial level. Goalkeeping coach, fitness coach, physios and first team coaches and even the kit man have all left the club.

These men served the club for decades, but due to the departure of Arsene Wenger they were all deemed surplus to requirements and new coaches and more importantly new ideas were brought in, as the dawning of a new era began at Arsenal.

All this change in the structure of the club has been welcomed by the supporters and has also done away with the security that many players felt when Wenger was in charge.

For example, Mesut Özil, who for so long was mollycoddled by Wenger has had a fire lit under him, after Unai Emery dropped the German earlier in the season he has been in a rich vein of form.

Therefore, it is likely to assume that if Wenger was still in charge at Arsenal today that he would have tied Ramsey, who was one of his personal favourites, down to a long term contract over the summer.

It is also likely to assume that Ramsey would have signed the contract, as he has never made any loud noises about leaving the club and has a sense of loyalty that is all too often missing in the modern game.

Upon Unai Emery’s arrival he stated that he hoped to tie Ramsey down to a long term contact as soon as possible. As the summer months progressed and negotiations continued it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Ramsey signed a new contract.

Then Ramsey’s agent began dropping hints over the future of the Welsh international on Twitter and it was becoming increasingly unlikely that Ramsey would remain at the Emirates.

Emery has been quite forthright over the situation, stating that he has no input on the contract talks, but he respects whatever the clubs decision is, while his stance on no longer playing favourites has been refreshing to see, it has seen a one time favourite of fans and management reduced to a bit part player, and for a club like Arsenal, that is quite the change.

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Cleaning up the boardroom

So in the space of a few months Ramsey has gone from favourite to exile, no longer a guaranteed starter the supposed pivot of the Arsenal midfield has seen his role at the club reduced to that of a substitute as Arsenal look to the future without him.

But why is this, as previously mentioned managerial level has undergone massive changes and the same can also be said about board level.

While boardroom reshufflings shouldn’t matter to the success of a team, in modern football all of these things are intrinsically linked, whether we like it or not.

Over the past few months, Arsenal have for the first time in their history, gone from being a club where fans held shares in the club, to having one owner who controls everything.

With Stan “the man” Kroenke now the sole owner of Arsenal and Ivan Gazidis departing for AC Milan, money for transfers will become scarcer and head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and director of football Raul Sanllehi have been tasked with bringing the glory days back to Arsenal on a budget, compared to the spending power of Man City and Liverpool, this will be quite a task.

One thing Sanllehi is quite keen to put an end to is this policy of letting contracts run down into their final year. In an interview with the Telegraph two weeks ago, Sanllehi announced that this policy of players entering the final year of their contract won’t happen anymore.

While it seems like a final decision on Aaron Ramsey has been made, there are still three more players whose contracts are up at the end of the season.

It will be interesting to see when and what decisions are made about the futures of Petr Cech, Danny Welbeck and Nacho Monreal whose contracts also run out next summer, if Sanllehi is serious about putting an end to these ongoing contract farces then he will need to move fast.

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What next for Ramsey?

So as things stand, Aaron Ramsey will no longer be an Arsenal player from next season, Ramsey will be 28 this time next year and will be in the midst of the peak years of his career, therefore he will be looking to push on and show Arsenal why they were wrong to let him go.

But where could Ramsey go, in the past he has spoken about wanting to play in one of the top European leagues during his career and this could be his chance to do so.

In the past Barcelona have shown interest in Ramsey, and if they were to express interest again Ramsey should jump at the chance to ply his trade at the Nou Camp.

While a move to a big European club would be a dream move for Ramsey and for Arsenal fans who would hate to see him join a rival team, it may not be his first destination as family life may make it unrealistic.

Ramsey’s wife Colleen recently gave birth to twins, the arrival of twins, plus the couple’s eldest child Sonny, may very well tempt Ramsey to stay in England for the time being.

But where could he go, Liverpool seem to have a plethora of midfielders, the same goes for City and United are always one defeat away from implosion.

Right now remaining in London would seem the most sensible option, Ramsey would fit into the current goings on at Chelsea or could he remain in North London and join Spurs as the ultimate middle finger to Arsenal management.

While Tottenham are likely to suffer from the same contract failings that Arsenal have over the next few years, they would jump at the chance to take Ramsey from Arsenal and gain a small manner of revenge for the signing of Sol Campbell all those years ago.

Both Arsenal and Ramsey have learned a lot over this whole negotiation process and whatever happens between now and 30 June 2019, it will be fascinating to see what Ramsey’s next move is.

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Evan Coughlan
Evan Coughlan

I bloody love football

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