By Sir Hardly Anyone
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In the media, there is always a lot of debate about how Arsenal regularly lets players’ contracts run down, and how stupid this is. (And it is interesting that it is not just something we are seeing this season. It crops up every season). Although no comparative figures are normally given, the suggestion is often made that this is an Arsenal problem, and other clubs are not so stupid or feeble in their administration.
So I thought it might be worth comparing Arsenal with other clubs that have players coming to an end of the contract and also see what is being done as a result.
For as we know there are both advantages and disadvantages in having players tied down to long-term contracts.
The advantage of a long-term contract is obvious: the club has the player and the player can’t leave without the club’s agreement. What’s more, the club can on occasion make a profit out of selling a player on a contract through the transfer fee – so the club has a choice.
On the other hand, when a contract comes to an end a player is able to start negotiating with another club from the end of the transfer window before his contract ends – which normally means from February onward for a move in the summer. And having a player’s contract come to an end obviously means that an unwanted player doesn’t have to be paid anymore.
Occasionally of course something odd can happen as with Willian, who left Arsenal by mutual agreement, with no transfer fee or compensation to the player for the loss of his £5.2m a year contract.
Willian and his agent were then highly critical of Arsenal saying that there was no plan or project – although we have seen one FA Cup triumph, a cutting of the yellow card total almost in half, and a move from 8th to 5th in the league, something that Manchester United, West Ham and Leicester City (three clubs tipped for success at the start of the season) would have most certainly welcomed.
So Arsenal ended the season with three out of contract players, Mohamed Elneny, Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah. As we know Mo Elneny has signed a new contract, and we are told Eddie is still negotiating. Lacazette (who will be 31 in a couple of days) is leaving.
Now for the rest. How many players do the other clubs in the league have out of contract now the season is over? Clubs with a higher number than Arsenal are in bold.
- Aston Villa: 1
- Brentford: 2
- Brighton: 3
- Burnley: 9
- Chelsea: 3
- Crystal Palace: 8
- Everton: 5
- Leeds United: 1
- Leicester City: 2
- Liverpool: 4
- Manchester City: 2
- Manchester United: 6 (and perhaps it is worth quoting who those are, in case it is thought that these are a bunch of youth players no one has heard of. They are: Edinson Cavani, Lee Grant, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba.)
- Newcastle United: 1
- Norwich City: 1
- Southampton: 5
- Tottenham Hotspur: 0
- Watford: 3
- Wolverhampton Wanderers: 4
So eight of the other 19 clubs in the Premier League this season have more players with contracts at an end than Arsenal do. Three have the same number and eight have fewer players with contracts at an end. Arsenal are not the total idiots, unable to sort out any administrative matters, and unable to retain their best players.
Tottenham may well be congratulating themselves on losing no one on a free at the end of the contract – or of course, they might well have a few players they would like to move on but are tied into longer contracts – I can’t really say. But then, last season, they only had 20 players in their first-team squad who were over 21 and thus needed to be counted in the 25.
Comparing the clubs on this basis Arsenal only had 16 registered players over the age of 21 who thus needed to be counted. Among those who don’t get counted are the likes of Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Tavares, and of course Saliba. This in part is why we had only four players in the squad who were homegrown: Holding, Nketiah, Ramsdale, and White. Two of the squad regulars who were under 21 were also homegrown.
I think overall, the administration has done well. We’re not stuck with players we don’t want, and we have a very young squad who next season will be that bit better. Not a bad way to look toward the transfer window. Although the media will be full of cries of disaster, when (as seems likely) we actually only sign two players, rather than the half dozen the critics demand.
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