Success on the pitch will dictate future of Gunners star trio, says Arsene Wenger
The questions on Tuesday for Arsene Wenger were almost identical to six years ago, when he faced a similarly defining round of contract negotiations with his star players, but his expectation of a different outcome is clear.
For Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, it is easy now to look at Mesut Ozil, Hector Bellerin and Alexis Sanchez. Three key players who would challenge to start in just about any other team in the world, of whom two are moving towards the final year of their contract and one is sought after by their home-town club of Barcelona.
Wenger does not need any reminding of what happened previously. Fabregas returned to Catalonia and the economic reality of Van Persie and Nasri’s refusal to sign a new deal meant that they were also eventually sold before entering the last year of their contracts.
That represented the disintegration of a team that were arguably again ready to challenge for the Premier League title and, as negotiations continue with Ozil, Sanchez and Bellerin, a huge looming challenge for Arsenal is to make it different this time.
Ozil and Sanchez are both currently on around £140,000-a-week and will be offered deals approaching £200,000 but, according to Wenger, it is Arsenal’s on-field progress that will prove decisive.
“I think these kind of players can raise a little bit above the financial aspect of the game because they are not poor and they have to look really on the football side,” he said.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
“Do the club meet their needs on the football front and if 'yes' then a Premier League club can find an agreement with the players.”
Arsenal are certainly now in a stronger position both on and off the pitch. Their squad has an experience and depth that was ultimately lacking in the Fabregas era while their financial firepower has been enhanced significantly since 2014 following a wave of new commercial deals that are no longer tied to funding the construction of the Emirates.
Arsenal, then, can get closer to what Europe’s absolute elite might offer although Wenger stressed that there would be a ceiling. “We still keep the values we have and we pay what we can afford,” he said.
“We have a scale of wages but it has become a bit more individual. It has always been difficult to keep the good players. They are wanted by other clubs and it’s normal they try to get the maximum out of their negotiations because they have 10 years to play at the top level if all goes well. My whole life I fight to get the players paid as much as I can.
“Basically when they sign a contract for four years, they sign for two because of the simple fact that just to keep the value of the player you have to extend the contract.”