Love or loathe Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal have embarrassed themselves again

Charlie Eccleshare
The Telegraph
Aaron Ramsey will leave Arsenal for free in the summer - AFP
Aaron Ramsey will leave Arsenal for free in the summer - AFP

For any clubs looking for a bargain in the next few years, here's a tip: head to the AC Milan page on the website transfermarkt, see who'll be out of contract in the early 2020s and let the good times roll. 

Because if new chief executive Ivan Gazidis approaches contract renewals in the same way he did at Arsenal, there will be plenty of cheap deals to be had. 

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Take Aaron Ramsey, the latest example of Arsenal somehow contriving to lose a valuable asset for nothing. 

First of all, a quick recap on how we got to the stage. Ramsey, who is 27 and whose contract expires next summer, was a favourite of Gazidis. Still operating as chief executive in the summer, Gazidis believed that Ramsey merited a lucrative new contract and an offer was made. 

Then, with Gazidis having left for Milan in September, the club's senior management team decided - in consultation with head coach Unai Emery - that Ramsey was not deserving of the bumper new deal and the offer was withdrawn

<span><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/374478/" data-ylk="slk:Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain">Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain</a> is one of the numerous Arsenal players who entered the final year of their contracts in recent times</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the numerous Arsenal players who entered the final year of their contracts in recent times Credit: Getty Images

Until late October, Ramsey had not been informed why the situation had changed - as indicated by his shrug-of-the-shoulders celebration after scoring at Fulham. Then came a meeting and an explanation, and then of course the violent social media debate. Ramsey in or out? It was almost like the good old Arsene Wenger days. 

But whether Arsenal should spend big in the immediate term to keep Ramsey masks the wider point, which is how was it allowed to get to this stage?

Debating the minutiae of a possible Ramsey deal when he's in the last year of his contract is a bit like bemoaning conceding a last-minute equaliser after missing seven open goals earlier in the match. 

The more pertinent questions are: How was yet another key player allowed to enter the final year of his contract? Why was a decision not taken on Ramsey in the summer when Arsenal could have commanded a transfer fee? Above all, what sort of business tosses away a £50m-asset for free?

Arsenal, lest we forget, are attempting to compete financially with clubs run by Russian billionaire oligarchs and sovereign states. To stand a chance, they need to be shrewder and savvier than their rivals.  

Instead, the opposite has tended to be the case, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez two other examples of high-value players running down their contracts and depriving Arsenal of major transfer fees. It has become such common malpractice at the Emirates that it is practically forgotten that Jack Wilshere left for free in the summer when his contract expired. 

As a consequence of this mismanagement, Arsenal receive far less in transfer fees than their big six rivals. Since the summer of 2014, Arsenal have brought in just £161m, compared with £494m (Chelsea), £442m (Liverpool), £240m (Manchester City), £225m (Tottenham) and £211m (Manchester United). 

Gazidis' successor Raul Sanllehi has identified these contractual clangers as a key area to address, and the hope for Arsenal fans is that the Ramsey situation is a legacy of the previous regime and the uncertainty surrounding Wenger's future. 

As Sanllehi pointed out, tying players down to long-term contracts is hardly a radical idea. "I don’t think I am inventing the wheel," he said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph. "Anybody could agree on that."

Sanllehi's ability to deliver on that promise will define Arsenal's ability to compete for the biggest prizes in the Emery era. 

In the meantime, they should start planning a contract offer for Gianluigi Donnarumma for the summer of 2021. 

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