Just when we thought that the Aaron Ramsey story of ‘will he or won’t he leave the Club’ had been flogged to death, flickers of new life have appeared since he scored ‘that goal at Fulham’, leading me to believe that it needs a bit more flogging and that is exactly what I intend to do.
Ramsey’s contract ends in the summer and he will be a free agent to leave at that point but he can sign a pre-contract with another European team in January. (I think) Obviously if he leaves for free in the summer, the club will miss out on a lucrative transfer fee from any potential sale. Conversely, if he is sold in January, he may miss out on a hefty signing on fee.
There are people who have criticised both the player and the club over how things have been handled. In the player’s case the criticism has been levelled for not wanting to show more loyalty to the club that has nurtured him from a raw talent to the highly rated player that he is today and, as such, Ramsey should show more willing to sign an extension to his present contract. In the club’s case, of course, the criticism is for allowing Ramsey’s contract to have run down as far as it has.
As this has unfolded I have found myself asking what could or should the player or the club have done differently and I have struggled to find an alternative. In the case of Ramsey, I completely respect his right to stay at Arsenal for as long as his contract lasts and not a minute longer and as it draws to a close I also respect his right to seek the best offer that might be out there before committing to Arsenal, and that clearly is what he is doing right now.
In the club’s case, the criticism has been for allowing Ramsey’s contract to run down to the last year, meaning that the club should have got him to sign an extension earlier. Now for the life of me I cannot see how anyone can force a footballer to sign a contract when the person does not want to do so. By way of solution, there have been two suggestions put forward as to how the club should have acted differently. The first is that the club should have offered much more, much earlier: rumours have it that Ramsey wanted his wages to match Özil, we have no proof of that but then again if it is true why shouldn’t he, or at least, why shouldn’t he try?
The second is that the club should have threatened to leave him on the bench for six months, or some such Draconian action, unless he made a decision. This suggestion is so impractical that it borders on infantile; the negative effect it would have on the other players not to mention steering other potential signings away would be profound to say the least. Most other players at the club, certainly the young ones will (or certainly would) like to envisage themselves in the same situation as Ramsey and that is, as their contracts near an end they will be in demand – having options as to where their career may take them. If that strongarm tactic of threatening to be sent to the stands is attempted on one player, it follows that other players would believe that it would be tried with them. Who in their right mind would want to work in that environment when you have other choices and how would that endear the world’s elite footballers to the Home of Football? There would only be one loser in this scenario and that would be the club. Or perhaps two losers – you and me, also, missing out on viewing the players that the club should be attracting.
The same people who criticise the club have pointed to other clubs’ success in stopping players run down their contracts. This to me is like comparing apples with oranges. In Man City’s case when a player nears the end of his contract he knows that no-one else out there can match the wages that City can pay and therefore there is no point in shopping around for a potential higher wage because it will never happen, the player is in the situation of take it or leave it and most of them take it.
Some of the same people point to Tottenham as being more comparable and sing their praises as how they have managed to tie their talent down long before they reach the dangerous area we are in with Ramsey right now. This is true up to a point; they have managed to get Kane and Alli to sign extensions and, at first sight it does looks like Tottenham have been more savvy.
But if we drill down a bit, other things appear. Firstly, there is only Kane and Alli that any other top club would fight over, so apart from increasing their wages the enticement/caveat that must have been explained to Kane (for example), is that if you leave for City (again for example) you will be fighting for your place and that might affect the upward trajectory that you’re currently enjoying at Tottenham. The same is true if you join United and even if you wanted to go back to the club you dreamed about playing for as a child, you will still have to vie for a starting berth with Aubameyang and Lacazette, whereas if you stay at Tottenham you will remain top dog. The opposite is the case with Ramsey; he is vying with Özil for prime pitch real estate.
In the last few months pretty much everything in the Ramsey case has followed the increasingly well-trodden path taken previously by Sanchez and Özil. Both refused to sign a new contract, this generated headlines that served as advertisement to the fact that they would listen to offers from other clubs. Sanchez and Ozil were pampered by Arsenal in an attempt to get them to stay; that’s to say, both players always played whenever and wherever they wanted; the same was true of Ramsey – until something totally different happened, Arsenal withdrew the offer of a four year contract – a brilliant piece of business in my opinion. Ramsey will continue as before following the usual path but, by withdrawing the contract offer, the Club are saying to other clubs that we are prepared to let him go and thereby letting potential suitors know that there will be no resistance from Arsenal if someone wants to buy him in January.
In brief, Arsenal have removed the obstacle of the four year contract and by doing so are making it easier for other clubs to believe that they can sign Ramsey which, in turn, increases the possibility of getting something from him, by way of a transfer fee, in January.
The other advantage of withdrawing the contract offer is that it frees up Emery to pick Ramsey as and when he wants rather than having to pander to him in an attempt to entice him to stay. A big part of me wants him to re-sign but another part of me really wants to hasten the time when Emery has all the players and the team that he sees in his mind’s eye. Is Ramsey part of that? I don’t know. It should be interesting to see how this one pans out.
Please feel free to disagree with anything up there, in fact, the more the better.