Is Wenger’s player contract handling incompetent?

By Rocky the King

Could the Alexis Sanchez stalemate have been avoided?

Arsenal are on tour, enjoying the Australian delights, a world away from last season’s problems at home. The Arsenal propaganda machine is in overdrive hoping to paper over the cracks of division among the fan base. Yet the recent number of high quality players who appear to be close to or in the final year of their contract is baffling, the latest being Oxlade-Chamberlain who is allegedly a target for Liverpool. Renewing contracts is a very essential part of club governance. Without a very good grip on these vital legal documents, then future club investments may be affected. Arsenal had a proud history of good transfer dealings. Arsenal used to regularly break English transfer records in acquiring the best players. This was thanks to the ownership of the club by true fans.

Fast forward to the modern day transfer dealings and contract management. The Bosman ruling drove a coach and horses through club management of contracts. The European legal system took a dim view of any restraint on the freedom to seek or change employment. It allowed players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid. This occurred in 1995 a year before Wenger’s arrival at Highbury from Japan. All European clubs were now placed on notice to ensure that they had efficient and robust player contract management systems to avoid losing valuable player assets.

One of the benefits of having David Dein and Ken Friar at the club dealing with player contracts, was that post Bosman, Arsenal appeared to ahead of the game. Contracts were regularly updated. Ken Friar took over the player contract management in the interim following the exit of David Dein in 2007. It was some months on before Arsène Wenger assumed full responsibility for all player transfers and contract management. Arsène Wenger has been lauded as being a shrewd contract negotiator and getting extra value for money in player sales, recall the sale of Nicolas Anelka for £23 million having been bought for £0.5 million some 3 seasons earlier? Figures were bounded around, showing the net positive costs for Wenger’s transfer dealings in 2012. It is interesting to now hear the “silence” about Wenger’s net transfer dealing costs, I wonder if the figures on this pdf obtained from the website TransferLeague.co.uk might have something to do with this.

When a player gets released, or is allowed to leave on a free transfer, the player can benefit greatly in cash terms with his next club. This is a well-known arrangement that basically rewards the player for having saved the next club loads of cash which would otherwise have been spent on a transfer fee. This gives a pernicious incentive for players to run down their contracts to the final year so that the Bosman rule applies. Sometimes the reverse occurs when players re-sign in the final year during transfer speculation in order to support the home club. Either way there is much to be gained or lost in player contract handling. If a club loses valuable players under Bosman, then either the club process is flawed or those managing it are incompetent. Clubs are a business after all, so to knowingly lose valuable assets cannot ensure continued profitability.

Fast forward to this summer, we have the ridiculous spectacle of the club’s best players in an astonishing position of power holding the club to ransom. “Either pay my wage demands or I’ll leave on a free by refusing to sign a new contract.” One cannot understand what motivates the players who do this, but as free agents in the final year of their contracts, who can blame them if they are allowed to be able to demand the highest possible wages and agents’ fees. So is the failure to update player contracts incompetent, or due to player power? For a player to have value, they have to have performances on the field that attracts new suitors. No playing time, or sitting on the bench will lower the possible future transfer fee accordingly, herein lies the way that clubs can regain control over player contracts.

It will be at the end of August when Gooners will be able to reflect upon the activity of Arsenal in the transfer market. A club with ambition will not sell to its rivals. Alex Ferguson would never have sold a Manchester United player of real value to his rivals. Pity that Wenger didn’t follow this practice when it came to Robin van Persie. It is rumoured that Arsène Wenger has been told by Stan Kroenke that in order to have his continued support, he needs to win the Premier League or Champions League in the next two seasons. I can see no prospect of this happening if we allow our best players to leave on a Bosman, or be sold to our direct rivals.

So valuing Alexis Sanchez at £90 million is not good business if he goes to Manchester City and wins next season’s Premier League title. Sanchez’s move to Bayern Munich has been stalled by the excessive price tag. So do we pay Sanchez £400,000 a week for his signature, or let him go to Manchester City for £90 million? My argument is that this situation should never have been allowed to happen in the first place, and clearly Arsène Wenger’s handling of player contracts could be described as incompetent. Wenger’s net dealings currently stand at minus £209.67 million, which underlines still further why in this brave new world of inflated transfer fees and wages, it is vital not to allow prized assets to leave on a Bosman.


13th July 2017 09:31:00


Comments and Reaction

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Bard  10:07am 13th Jul 2017

Good article Rocky although none of it should come as a surprise. The massive gap between the fantasy and reality of Arsene is a true wonder to behold. His incompetence has been on show for many years but people still hold onto this fantasy of a manager at the top of his game. When was the last gem he uncovered ? Which players have significantly improved under him ? When was the last time we seriously competed for a trophy ? His latest missive about values v winning are laughable, more like a justification for failure. You are right the end of the transfer window will more than look like a car crash on the playing side and the financial front. As other have suggested fear not he wont make it till the end of his contract. - Post No. 108373

Exeter Ex  11:03am 13th Jul 2017

In response to Ron's comment at the bottom of the last article - your comment implies Wenger thinks rationally about what's in the best interests of the club. I don't think he looks beyond his own perceived self-interest. He has told us himself he is terrified of old age and retirement. That's why he doesn't talk in terms of sporting objectives he could be measured by but these vague 'values'. Every season he can declare himself a success because he has kept to these 'values' that only exist in his head. He cannot fail. This is the self-protective bubble of a man who wants to go on forever. As for Kroenke, he simply sees the big picture of the franchise still in profit so keeps Wenger running it for him. It's the perfect storm. - Post No. 108374

Ham  11:31am 13th Jul 2017

Perfect summing up, Exeter. - Post No. 108375

Yes its Ron  11:43am 13th Jul 2017

Exeter - yes, i see that and his ideals have always got in the way of being pragmatic. I think AW thinks he thinks rationally and like all of us, while he feathers his nest i think he does aspire to do whats best for the Club, by his own definition of that and perspective. Youre right though, AFC black and white 'sporting' objectives have long since been subsumed beneath his idealism. Theres room for such idealism in many walks of and activities in life in my view and without it, everything of any value is stripped bare to the detriment of whatever it is. The trouble with AW its seemed to me for quite some years is that hard ideals have long since perhaps morphed into woolly romanticism rather than the ideals he speaks of. Wenger is an intellectual and hes brought that into his management to too great an extent than what football, football Clubs and players can cope with. Therein lies the flaw in the end product of his work i think. The so called project youth stage was an identifiable example of this i think. Its onset was dressed up as being needed due to cash limitations and to a degree that was true, but it was only half the story really. The other half was maybe AWs romanticism. Hes a complex but clever guy. Its why theres so much endless debate and discussion over him and Arsenal FC. It doesn't do us much good silverware wise on the pitch hitherto this last 12 yrs, but its sure keeps AFC on the back pages doesn't it. Rocky - players hold nearly all the power now. Clubs are nigh on impotent in contract issues. - Post No. 108376

Bard  11:58am 13th Jul 2017

Not sure I buy that Ron. I think its another of those myth and reality issues. You cant be that bright if you spend all your waking hours watching football. He certainly doesnt seem to have very little self awareness. His much lauded philosophical bleatings are a way of defending himself against loss.Its the 'although we lost we played better football' argument. Im sure he is a nice bloke away from football but that is beside the point. - Post No. 108377

Yes its Ron  12:12pm 13th Jul 2017

Hi Bard - due respect to you as with Exeter too. We ll never know, without knowing the man will we? Hes an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum, clouded by mystery! Hes for sure a massive departure from yr average football Coach and i reckon it why the brighter ones respect him and in some ways are in awe of him and the crude urchins like Mourinho detest him. AW seems though to revel in being reviled by some and admired by others. Its a game to him i suspect as much as its about managing a football Club. - Post No. 108378

Yes its Ron  13:13pm 13th Jul 2017

Rocky - i doubt a Coach even sees a players contract these days. They're done via Agents lawyers and clubs lawyers. If a player doesn't want to renew mid way through, he cant be compelled to. I also doubt the 400K is true. For me, if its true, id sell him to anybody for 90 million. Hes 29 and arguably his best yrs have been given to AFC already plus I dont think MC will win the title with or without him.I think Guardiola s going to fall flat on his face there. Could be wrong. As far as Utd not selling peak performing players to rivals goes, their players earn mega salaries anyway plus MU are operating in a different stratosphere to Arsenal as a Club. Any player there is small fry compared to what the Club is. they can lose any player by and large and still prevail. AFC and similar level Clubs cant. For me, one man doesn't make a team though losing one can affect a team for a while i agree. If i was a Club being held to ransom by the likes of Sanchez, he d be gone before he could blink. Players pass through briefly on their career journey these days. No player is too much of a loss in the greater scheme of things. Sanchez is a quality PL player, Messi he isnt, hes far from it. - Post No. 108379

Moscow Gooner  15:22pm 13th Jul 2017

There was some comment from AW reported yesterday to the effect that ´trophies are not so important, what you stand for is the critical thing´. No idea what this means - or what we as a club (are we even still a football club any more?) stand for any longer, apart from being a business that takes delight in fleecing its ´customers´. Can anyone translate? Perhaps we ´stand for´creating a suitably large wealth fund for the Wenger clan to enjoy over the coming decades? - Post No. 108380

Rocky the King  15:36pm 13th Jul 2017

I have to agree with all of the sentiment being expressed today. Arsenal Football Club is hopelessly divided. Watching their pre-season tour, it would seem that even the players do not seem themselves as the Arsenal. Their efforts are about using Arsenal for their next big move. Arsène Wenger has destroyed any credibility of this club, no-one takes either him or our ambitions seriously. His lies are legendary, his stubbornness reminds me of Donald Trump, who will never accept either the blame or responsibility for his actions. he is close to either being deluded or demented or possibly both who knows. What is clear, is that until Stan Kroenke leaves the club and perhaps Dankgote the Nigerian Billionaire buys the club, there will be no one willing to stand up to Wenger and his blatant failings. Wenger is an embarrassment, it has become quite sad now. He will never win the premier league let alone the Champions League. It is quite sad, the damage being done to the club will only be seen as he enters his final season, and by then it will be too late... - Post No. 108381

Exeter Ex  15:43pm 13th Jul 2017

Ron, I even think it's gone beyond ideals or romanticism with Wenger now. It's sheer self-protection from a man who has no other life (truly pathetic for such a wealthy man who could do anything). He won't even say 'we must finish top 4 next season absolute minimum', he deliberately stays as vague as he can - that's the entire purpose of the 'values' talk. No standards are set by Kroenke and he doesn't want to set any for himself, nor accept any standard from outside. He just wants his little AFC empire. Any intellectuality or complexity he had has narrowed down to that, it seems to me. He's a dumb football fan's idea of a clever person - and boy are the AKBs dumb. - Post No. 108382

Moscow Gooner  16:12pm 13th Jul 2017

Incidentally what cretin (a marketing guy I guess) decided that we should play in black in Sydney? 80,000 fans have waited 40 years to watch Arsenal play there and we throw in a bunch of kids - and fail to turn out in our traditional colours. A perfect commentary on the Wenger/Kroneke conglomerate that has replaced Arsenal Football Club. This club doesn´t deserve its global fan base. - Post No. 108383

Seven Kings Gooner1  16:25pm 13th Jul 2017

I think we all know why players are being left to their last year of contracts - it's simply money. If you upgrade a players contract half way through his current one, in theory you are spending money that you need not. With AOC I think Wenger is hoping that a couple of clubs will start a bidding war and he can re coup some of his outgoings. Wenger can play foot loose with players because he is under no pressure to win a big trophy and Stan likes his cash looked after - it's why Mr Wenger is still at Arsenal. - Post No. 108384

Yes its Ron  17:35pm 13th Jul 2017

MG - The colours used in those circs and the use of kids seems small in the grand scheme of things doesn't it, but i agree with you, its small but massive in defining what modern day football has become and how AFC so called precious traditions are being sacrificed on the alter of cash gains every single day. It leaves a bad feeling. The kits are so atrocious too! Rocky - true mate, the ownership changing is the main vehicle for change there. It doesnt look likely any time soon does it. Theres been no pressure put on SK and it shd have been as i see it. Sadly, i agree too that AFC is a half way house now. Lacazettes joined us hoping to make a mark to get him then to a Euro giant i guess. Exeter - yr probably closer to the truth than me. Putting pure football aside, AW and his personality and the Club being dovetailed into and seemingly subservient to it really interests me as to how its happened and how its status quo is preserved. From a footie/socio view (if there is such a concept) its fascinating i think. On a much smaller plane of course, its like historians asking how a few Nazi no marks, crooks and nut jobs beguiled an intelligent developed nation like Germany and held sway for 12 years without challenge. Well, its incredible how AW and his backroom have survived a cull in N7. The answer is of course that they brilliantly cloaked their aims and intentions (or lack of them) in such a way that people were duped. AW has duped all of us. Lets face it, many of us took years to rail against things didnt we. I think whats happened to AFC is truly unique for a supposed biggish footie Club. It ll maybe never occur again. SKG - sound comment there, as ever. - Post No. 108385

equalizer  19:52pm 13th Jul 2017

Incompetent would be allowing one valuable player run down his contract. Allowing Sanchez, Ozil, Ox, and if I'm not mistaken, Ramsay and Szczesny, is nothing short of gross ncompetence. The recent appointment of Team Sky chief Huss Fahmy to handle contract negotiations within the squad is an admission of such and hopefully is the start of Wenger being relieved of his self appointed duties. Now that the autocrat is costing Arsenal financially the owner is acting upon it. - Post No. 108386

Paulward  20:36pm 13th Jul 2017

Can't disagree too much Rocky, although Ferguson did sell Tevez to Man City for 47 mill in 2009. The fact that our head coach is also more or less in charge of contract and transfer matters is quite simply a disgrace, and not a situation that exists at any other top club in Europe. - Post No. 108387

CORNISH GOONER  20:56pm 13th Jul 2017

Yes Rocky, it's inefficient, bad business. The only way to assess L'Arse, in my view, is as a business model. Even on that score it fails because it isn't lean & mean like the truly successful ones. None of it's revenue streams work to their maximum & it is top heavy with overpaid, unproductive executives - headed by an old guy who cannot now "cut the mustard". No proper FTSE Company would accept this & nor would their shareholders. The "but he's clever guy, an intellectual" argument doesn't work with me, there are plenty of others in public life who would better qualify. He is also definitely not a likeable guy but lacks the necessary ruthlessness to achieve continual success. I seriously doubt the current set up would look financially healthy were the current flood of cash into the PL to dry up. Never forget that our Stan grew rich by hanging on to others coat tails - he is also highly over-rated as a businessman! - Post No. 108388

CORNISH GOONER  21:10pm 13th Jul 2017

Just had a lovely thought. Wouldn't it have been great if the odious Mike Ashley had purchased AFC & not Stanley? Just imagine Arthur having to match him, pint for pint dahn the pub & then doing some projectile vomiting! Pretty sure he would not have fought for that contract renewal. - Post No. 108389

mbg  21:18pm 13th Jul 2017

Is his contract handling in incompetent ? The old past it weasel himself is incompetent, he's that incompetent he's probably incontinent, but there again he does love to control everything. wenger out. - Post No. 108390

Arseneknewbest  7:36am 14th Jul 2017

Taking the long view, wengo's continuing mismanagement of the club and the possible domino effect of losing all of the club's so-called talent in the next month or so will surely hasten his eventual departure. Heck, we might be saying "au revoir" now in 2025 instead of 2027. Cornish - Thanks. Brilliant imagery of wengo entering ashley's world of "power drinking" funded by fans on lower incomes. Synchronised spewing of lager (and carrots of course) mixed with meaningless drivel coated ectoplasm about club values shot like water cannons into a nearby fireplace. Arsene and Ashley - Two of the biggest w*nkers in modern football - they deserve each other. - Post No. 108391

John F  8:43am 14th Jul 2017

I read yesterday a report on the Aussie game that Wenger played Lacazette as a left winger and despite his goal the author did not think it was his right position. He can't do it again can he? and let Lacazette join the long list of players shipped out wide by Arsene knows best and have his confidence destroyed in the process.I can never trust Wenger to do the right thing.As Ramsey with a broken toe played as a left winger against Utd away has proved, he is never a game away from a stupid decision. - Post No. 108392

The Man From UNCLE  8:54am 14th Jul 2017

Totally off topic, and shoot me down in flames if you must, but on a whim I got tickets for the Saturday of the Emirates Cup for me and one of my boys - it'll be his first trip. Any ideas what to look out for? I know about the food and drink embargo. - Post No. 108393

John F  9:18am 14th Jul 2017

Hi Man from Uncle the Mexican wave there is bound to be one.The Emirates cup has it's critics but it is great for kids and has a family atmosphere.The problem I had was underestimating how long it would take us to catch the tube back to Kings Cross. It was nearly an hour long queue to get on to Arsenal tube station and I nearly missed the train back home.I think this explains the empty seats appearing ten minutes from the end of games.Hope he has a great day. - Post No. 108394

Moscow Gooner  15:51pm 14th Jul 2017

UNCLE - I just hope the Emirates Cup won´t put him off Arsenal (and live football) for life. ´Family atmosphere´is a kind way to put it - ´tourist day out´, with football as an incidental, is another way to describe it. Going to baseball at the Camden Yards to see the Orioles in a fairly meaningless end of season game was for me a similar experience. All about the popcorn and the hot dogs.... - Post No. 108402

Yes its Ron  16:37pm 14th Jul 2017

Only ever did the Emirates Cup once, back in 08 time. Its not nice. Its like a giant creche, kids, nappies, spilt pop everywhere and loads of bored Mothers who really dont want to be there and football thats about as competitive as two grannies farting at each other. In brief, i wdt go again if they paid me to go. - Post No. 108403

Moscow Gooner  19:15pm 14th Jul 2017

The most interesting thing about the Emirates Cup the year I went was the torrential rain that blew into the East Stand at one point early in the game. About 5,000 (soaked) fans gave up on the Mexican Wave, packed up and went home... Reminded me of Portman Road, opening day of the season in about 1979(?): mass pitch invasion before kick off and then once that had been cleared up, a tropical storm which resulted in a 20 minute delay to kick off! And we lost 1-0... - Post No. 108409

GTG  14:26pm 18th Jul 2017

This summer has the potential to be a bigger shower than the previous one and I really didn't think that was possible. As usual the club has dithered over Lemar... Monaco have since sold other players and are now playing hardball. That deal is dead in the water. There are still no mentions of a midfielder to replace the crocked Cazorla, which should be the no.1 priority. Then theres the contract situations of Sanchez, Ox and Ozil... they are no nearer to being sorted. There is hardly any noise regarding Wilshere or Jenko. Are they staying or going? Somehow the a deal for Debuchy has managed to undo itself. I honestly don't think Wenger has got the stomach to sort this lot out and do whats necessary to get us into a position to compete next year. For someone who works 24 hours a day he don't half allow a complete mess to roll on and on. - Post No. 108459

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

15th January 2018

Being muscled off the ball by Bournemouth is like being mugged by your grandma

Online Ed: Another poor Arsenal display on the road just another signpost as we near the end of the Wenger era