Last week three players – Francis Coquelin, Olivier Giroud, and Laurent Koscielny, all signed new contracts with the club. Arsene Wenger spoke about the need for stability, and I think everyone understands why that’s important.
Yesterday, there were reports that the club have agreed to take up the one year option on Per Mertesacker’s contract, despite the fact the German has yet to play this season after picking up a serious knee injury last June.
I can see the sense of this. He’s club captain, a ‘dressing room leader’ as Arsene Wenger likes to call them, well respected by the other players and, in my opinion, still a player more than capable of making a contribution. Worries about him getting older don’t really stack up as much as they might with other players.
When Theo Walcott’s pace goes, for example, then you’ve lost one of his key assets. When pace was never really your thing, then it’s not something you have to particularly worry about it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that in Rob Holding and Calum Chambers – who is impressing at Middlesbrough this season – we have young centre-halves with promise and potential who could learn from a man with over 100 caps for Germany.
Also, having Mertesacker’s experience in the squad might allow for Holding to go on loan next season, play some games, and develop more rapidly than he might playing EFL Cup and making the odd substitute appearance for us. With Mustafi and Gabriel also around to play alongside Laurent Koscielny, I don’t see the harm in having that depth.
It is the start of a period when Arsenal need to tie down players to new deals. We’ve put together a list of when Arsenal player contracts expire, sortable by year, and based on those ending this year and next, here are my predictions as to who will stay or not.
Yaya Sanogo – 2017: Curiously mentioned by Arsene Wenger the other day when he spoke about the amount of striking options we have, it’d be astonishing if he stayed beyond the end of this deal. He’s going to be 24 this month, he’s made 20 appearances in 4 years, it was a cheap gamble that didn’t come off.
Per Mertesacker – 2017 : See above.
Santi Cazorla – 2017: Like Mertesacker there’s an option to extend for a year, and the manager has said he’s inclined to take it up. Ordinarily this would be a no-brainer, he’s just such a wonderful player to watch, but two surgeries at 32 on a chronic Achilles problem would give you pause for thought. I think we’ll give him the chance, but if the medical prognosis is bad it may well mean his time is up, which would be a real shame.
Prediction: Stay (depending on medical advice)
Mesut Ozil – 2018: A lot has been written so there’s not much to add to it all, but I think he’ll commit to a new deal.
Alexis Sanchez – 2018: I’m a bit conflicted about this one. I don’t know if my gut feeling that he’ll go is because I want him to stay so much, or if it’s down to him being the kind of semi-nomadic player he seems to be. He strikes me as the kind of guy who wants to experience new things, and leaving us wouldn’t necessarily be because he thinks we’re terrible, but because there’ll be huge money on offer elsewhere, this is just his job, and he’d like to try something else somewhere else.
Prediction: Sad depart (very much hoping I’m wrong)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 2018: He’s heading towards the final 12 months of his current contract, and there hasn’t been much about talks between his people and the club. Maybe it’s all hush-hush, maybe Arsenal are seeing if he can build on what has been an improved first half of the season. If he can do that, considering the faith shown in him by Arsene Wenger and his relatively young age, I’d be surprised if he were allowed to go when he’s beginning to realise his potential.
Prediction: Stay (just).
Jack Wilshere – 2018: My feeling when he decided to go last summer was that it was the first step out the door on a permanent basis, and I still think that’s the case. For all the justifications from a fitness point of view, I felt it was a decision made in haste because of the England issue, and I expected a bit more fight from him in an Arsenal shirt. My suspicion is that the manager probably did too.
Wojciech Szczesny – 2018: Sent to Rome for two seasons running, I spoke last week about why I’d like him to come back. He also said recently that his future is in Arsene Wenger’s hands, suggesting he’s open to a return. I have a feeling David Ospina will want to go this summer, meaning we need experienced foil for Petr Cech, and he would fit the bill for me.
Prediction: Crafty stay.
Kieran Gibbs – 2018: Over the last 12 months Arsenal have been looking at lots of left-backs. Kieran Tierney at Celtic, Ben Chilwell at Leicester, Brazilian Douglas Santos, Lorient’s Raphael Guerreiro – who moved to Borussia Dortmund in the summer – and Swiss international Ricardo Rodriguez. The eldest of them is just 23, which indicates a desire to bring in somebody in the long-term. I was slightly surprised he stayed last summer, but I think he’ll go at the end of this season.
Joel Campbell – 2018: Currently on loan at Sporting Lisbon, where’s scored 4 goals this season, it’s hard to see any way back for him. Wenger never really seemed convinced, and we’ll more than likely cash in at the end of the season.
Mathieu Debuchy – 2018: He will go.
Prediction: Departy O’Toole.
Of course I could be completely wrong about many of these. Often circumstances can dictate what happens – e.g – a player picks up an injury that precludes a sale, or a transfer becomes available that changes the manager’s mind, but right now that’s what I think.
Feel free to discuss in the arses today, there’ll be more from me tomorrow. And if you haven’t had a chance to listen to this week’s Arsecast Extra, check it out below.