Arsenal Play Contract Poker


Today we have a guest post from @foreverheady

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em 
Know when to fold ’em 
Know when to walk away 
And know when to run…

I don’t know much about Contract Law, and like most people have no idea about the details of anyone’s exact terms of employment. I’m even a little hazy about my own, to be honest. However, I have been hearing a lot about contracts recently, and as there seem to be a large number of Contract Experts who follow The Arsenal, either as fans or journalists, I thought I’d add a few thoughts of my own.

The first and obvious point is that most contracts are a two-way agreement between employer and employee, or for the sake of this piece, between club and player. The club decides how much, and for how long, it is willing to pay for the services of the player. In return the player decides whether he agrees with that valuation, whether he likes the thought of playing for that club, and whether he wants to tie himself to that situation for the next few years. Footballers can sign their first contract at 16, and if they are lucky with injury can expect to stay playing until they are about 33. Most players would expect to play for several teams, with the best players hoping to end up at the most successful and highest-paying clubs for the last several years of their career. Further down the food chain less successful players will tumble down the leagues, eventually finding their age-related level. The best accounts I have read of what it is like to play in those lower reaches are the two fine books by Gary Nelson, Left Foot Forward and Left Foot in the Grave.  If you haven’t read them I urge you to. The whole business is a cut-throat cattle market where everyone has his price and only a few make it properly big. Players need agents to look after their interests, because the clubs are utterly cold and callous when it comes to assessing worth – and very few players enjoy careers untarnished by injury.

Indeed, it is probably the spectre of injury that gives each contract its finesse, and which causes players and clubs to either hold or fold. Much is made at the moment of Alexis, Mesut and The Ox and their current contractual situations, but few commentators point out that while running down a contract is financially worthwhile for a player, it also carries considerable risk. Any player in the last year of their contract will know they are only a leg-break away from kissing goodbye to millions of pounds, a ligament-tear to the end of career. Those 3, 4 or 5 year contracts promise a significant safety-net: without them wet Tuesday nights at Stoke become even more fraught. For our two superstars they can probably afford the risk: they are towards the end of their careers, they have World Cups ahead of them, and they have almost certainly amassed significant fortunes already. They can make their choices now for football reasons and for where they feel happiest – and for how they imagine their club careers ending. It is tempting for me to think that Alexis will be off next year, and that Mesut will stay, but I only think that because that is the way the media narrative, a narrative largely controlled by the players agents, has chosen to portray the situations. As with most things in life, I haven’t really got a clue.

But for the Ox it is very different. He has the world at his feet, but has yet to really establish himself. He has had his injuries, and his all-action style of play suggest he might pick up a few more. I doubt he would want to gamble a whole season without the guarantee of more pay days ahead. A decent offer from Arsenal would probably tempt him. But for Arsenal, how much do they want to commit to a player who is still all about promise and who has his erratic moments? A new contract worth £150, 000 a week for the next four years? A bargain if he turns into the world-beater he has suggested he might be, but a profligate waste of money if in two years’ time he is just another fringe player who is hard to sell to another club because they can’t afford his wages. £60 million from Chelsea might look attractive, but what if he is the next Bale after all?

And so when anyone talks about contracts to be extended, and who should be signed, and who should be sold – and for how much, and for how long, I would simply ask this. What would you do in the case of each player? How would you value Alex Iwobi, or Reiss Nelson? How much would you gamble on them actually becoming the stars they might be? What would you do with the Ox? Or Aaron Ramsey? Or Holding or Chambers? And if you were any of those players, what balance would you strike between ambition and security? And if you’ll forgive me a Kenneth Williams moment, all I know is that it’s a lot harder than it looks from the outside. To play the off-field game you need nerves of steel and a razor-sharp mind – which is why the club I love and support is lucky to have the finest poker-player of them all


33 comments on “Arsenal Play Contract Poker

  1. What an edifying piece by Heady.
    I will try to read the books he’s recommended.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Gabriel currently in valencia, looks like his transfer out is almost done.


  3. reports in spain suggest that a loan deal with an obligation to buy is nearing for Lucas Perez to Deportivo


  4. Great work FH. Brings up many interesting questions, and begs one, which could be, how far will this all go, and will we go with it?
    And to me, youre dead-right about AW, he deals with the baying mob pretty well. Must be a question of upbringing?
    The more AFTV demands, the more I hope the club digs it heels in and does it their way.
    Thanks again. Cheers!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Wenger is playing a different game this season.

    He knows one reason for his unpopularity were the RVP and Ashley Cole situations, so he will try to resist the Sanchez to Man City, Oz to Chelsea deals.

    This squad he has got together now have the beginnings of the feeling of hardened winners.

    The players he has seem to enjoy playing together and the two additions so far maybe all that’s coming. Hopefully they will prove to be a deadly finisher and a rock at the back.

    Wenger is thinking he can do something big in the 2017/18 season with this lot.
    The media will be all over him, criticizing him for not tying players to new deals.

    He will fend off the media like he usually does even in the middle of the disastrous collapse in February/March.
    Hopefully there will be more silverware come May and then the squad will either stay or go, player by player.

    He could get £100 million tomorrow for Sanchez and the Ox if the media is to be believed. But then will Lemar and whoever be as good as those two?

    Wenger is thinking about letting contracts run out. He won’t have to spend time, money and energy on getting in new players.

    At the end of the season Sanchez stays at Arsenal, gets a signing on fee and £300,000 a week or he goes to Man City and gets a bigger signing on fee and £400,000 a week. Either way Arsenal have had one of the best players in the world for an extra season.

    Next season will be thought about next summer. Wenger is always looking for players at other clubs who are out of contract.

    Probably Sanchez will go to Man City and the Oc to Chelsea at the end of the season whatever happens but Wenger won’t get the blame later like he did for RVP and A Cole.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. keeping ox for the rest of the season is logical. he will be the back up for bellerin and also help to ease kola in on the left wing back. by the time he leaves next season, the impact wont be felt as many expected especially if iwobi continues on the upwards and nelson as well. i like the ox but i’m firstly an arsenal fan. so if he doesnt want to sign after everything arsenal have done for him, i say to hell with him!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I see Arsenal.com have listed Cohen Bramall, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock as first team players.

    Oddly we don’t have a 3rd goalie listed, only Cech and Ospina. Matt Macey the most likely to get the nod, but if we are in trouble with squad size, then Ryan Huddart might get in and Macey sent of loan.


  8. A very fine piece of writing there FH

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a good piece, informed, balanced, cogent.

    Clearly you have no future in mainstream football bloggery

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Good post

    Liked by 2 people

    Currently at Celtic bought from Genoa (I personally missed that he was sold), was signed in one of the big Hoover ups by Man City but never played for them.
    Been keeping an eye on him.
    I would be interested in anyones thoughts and opinion on him.


  12. Arsenal women have signed Sweden right back Jessica Samuelsson. England midfielder fara williams has left for Reading.



  13. Mertesacker and Mustafi have both been included in the arsenal squad that have traveled to Stoke for the game tomorrow.


  14. Alexis took a full part in training again today, but I don’t know if he has made the squad for Stoke game.


  15. Very informative post FH. You shone the light on some of the “fine print” I never even thought of before, nevermind the contract “experts” parading around on twitter these last few hours, demanding to have a word with the suits at the Emirates.

    Good comments too. #5 comment from Osaka Alan’s @ 6:47pm stand out for me especially, and compliments your post greatly.

    Top stuff! *likes* all around.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I know I would never play poker with Mr Wenger.
    which other manager would play a raw rookie over your No 1 center forward against one of the top teams in world football .
    The mad thing it nearly paid off.
    The bloke would have my shirt.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. very astute post FH, personally I would be craping myself now if I were the board however remember what ol red nose said about Arsene he wouldn’t play poker with him and I suspect he doesn’t blink. The dutch judas with the little boy inside of him was only good for one more season and while people were saying we gifted manure the league the reality was we probably wouldn’t have been near 1st place even with him so we did well out of the deal. I would like Sanchez to sign a new deal mainly because we could then sell him in a years time for a massive amount. The Ox is a different story, I really want him to stay as I believe not only does he give us speed and the fact he takes the last player on but also because I think he will end up playing CM.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Are these two of the most uncool cool guys around
    I just like the both of them so much

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Sad to see Gabriel go but he highlights the problem for a club like Arsenal when it comes to new signings. He was very nearly very good but in the end wasn’t able to make that final step up. At times it looked as if he might, but it didn’t quite happen. And as with goalkeepers, it is much harder to defend if you only have a couple of attacks each game.to cope with and also find yourself a little exposed. If he is half as nice and genuine as he seemed to be I wish him the best of all luck.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I also feel sad to see Gabriel go. His battle with the Costa will not be forgotten! I liked that even though injured he really celebrated with the rest of the lads in the FAC final aftermath.
    I always thought he really looks like Neo Rauch.

    Heres his last game.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. i’ve just watched metz vs monaco and my fear has been confirmed, lemar is a VERY good player. now i’ll be pissed if we dont get him! he is such a good player that i cant find any fault in his game. but unlike what many are saying or want us to believe, he is not a striker or out and out winger but a VERY creative midfielder. i’ll really like to see him in our shirt.


  22. sad to see gabriel go, injury and more so the language barrier done for him, he really struggled to learn English.


  23. Gabriel has joined Valencia for an undisclosed fee.

    The Sao Paulo-born defender made a total of 64 appearances for us, following his arrival from Villarreal in January 2015.

    For many supporters, his finest performance in an Arsenal shirt came in last season’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City, when his aerial dominance and tough tackling helped put us on our way to the final.

    We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia.

    This deal is subject to the completion of regulatory processes.

    Read more at https://www.arsenal.com/news/gabriel-joins-valencia#Ssoqs3H8eukVX5oZ.99

    Read more at https://www.arsenal.com/news/gabriel-joins-valencia#vzQrgotwFcAso8bM.99


  24. anyone see Paul Merson’s latest stand up routine, its a real corker, its all based on his inability to understand why Arsene Wenger did not sign 36 year old Gareth Barry from Everton this week
    I really feel the drug prevention groups are missing a trick by not having him front and center as an example of the perils of drug abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Deportivo La Coruna coach Pepe Mel has revealed that his president has promised that Lucas Perez will re-sign with the club next week


  26. Good luck to Gabriel, put in some decent performances, seemed to like the back three,
    Clearly a decent player who deserves to play. Goes away having won silverware.
    Hope we don’t regret letting him go, assume this means Chambers staying or someone coming in, or else we will surely be too thin in that area?


  27. you know all those expert fans who complain that AFC do not shoot enough from outside the box, well last week in the first round of BPL fixtures there was a grand total of 99 shots taken from outside the box, and they resulted in 1 goal, one out of ninety nine, sounds like the expert fans know about as much about tactics as we always thought they did.


  28. An interesting article in The Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/sport/jonathan-walters-interview-mum-died-and-the-next-day-i-just-went-back-to-school-vb38vpr2j
    Waters not really one of my favorites but this certainly changed my views on him. Even as he ends with “Arsenal are the worst losers” (is that a bad thing I wonder?) he comes across as a really sensible grown up.


  29. Good post FH

    Great example is Diaby. I saw endless crap in the last few years of his Arsenal career about how giving him a long term contract was proof about this or that bad quality- stupid, too loyal, pay too much in wages for people we can’t use, etc- in the club.

    Nearly all of them portrayed it as a case of us throwing away money on a player everyone knew would never get over his injury problems. Most of them also seemed to be under the impression that as his injury problems deepened we should have cut our losses and sold or released him.

    Yet, he had signed the contract in question around the age of 24, with an injury record which had improved in the year or two beforehand.

    Only a fool wouldn’t have given him a good, long term contract at that stage. A host of other clubs would have if we hadn’t and, of course, if he’d gone and succeeded (i.e. not been wrecked by injuries), we’d have been battered for it by all and sundry.

    Long story short- many of the fiercest critics of our actions, i.e. the amateur experts, are either too thick to understand the basics or wilfully ignore them to advance their aims.

    I used to ask them at the time what sort of contract they would give Wilshere and more importantly what his injury record was going to be in the years to come. There was a reluctance to answer that one.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Ed

    The Merson Barry thing is extra funny to me because Xhaka reminds me of- hear me out!- a prime Barry

    Reminds me- physique, edge to game, toughness, speed, good passer, quality left foot- but is clearly better than, and I think Barry has been a fine player over the years.

    So we have a guy better than Barry at his best, but no doubt Merson doesn’t rate him.


  31. New post up


  32. uk/edition/sport/jonathan-walters-interview-mum-died-and-the-next-day-i-just-went-back-to-school-vb38vpr2j” rel=”nofollow”>https://www. Sad to see Gabriel go but he highlights the problem for a club like Arsenal when it comes to new signings.


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